The permitted capacity in restaurants, bars and music venues will be increased on March 1st.
Mayor Joe Hogsett and Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Health Department, said the county is going in the right direction.
“We have made some extraordinary gains from our COVID-19 efforts,” Caine said during the February 25 press conference.
Starting next week, the capacity of bars, gyms and music venues will be increased to 50% and the capacity of indoor restaurants to 75% as long as social distancing is practiced. The curfew at midnight will also be raised to 2 a.m.
“There remains a great responsibility for people to wear masks … social distancing, and we encourage owners to be very, very careful with customers who do not abuse the opportunity for these hotel owners and hotel managers to pursue their own economic well-being to improve. Said Hogsett.
Caine used two criteria – positivity rates and the number of new cases each day – to make suggestions for the city’s reopening plans. As of December 2020, Marion County had a 16% positivity rate. Currently that number has dropped to 3.8%.
While the county’s daily number of cases at 109 cases per day is above what Caine would like to see, she said that’s a significant improvement over December, when Marion County averaged nearly 1,000 new cases per day.
“We’re doing a fantastic job with our positivity rates,” said Caine. “We’re still high on the cases, but we’re making remarkable progress.”
The number of Marion County’s residents dying from COVID-19 is also falling, with no more than one to two deaths a day.
To ensure this trend continues, the city has partnered with the Marion County Health Department to launch the COVID Community Ambassadors program. This will be a neighborhood-level campaign to “build awareness and confidence in the COVID vaccine,” Hogsett said. Residents can sign up at indy.gov/covid and sign a pledge to get involved by either helping others sign up for a vaccination, giving a home neighbor a ride to get their vaccine, or simply by providing information share about the vaccine on social media.
Caine’s goal is to vaccinate 80 percent of Marion County’s residents. This is the number that health professionals believe is necessary to return to a pre-pandemic lifestyle. The city will also host two webinars on Facebook Live to share information about the ambassador program. The first session in English will take place on March 3rd at 6pm, the second in Spanish on March 4th at 6pm.
Despite the city’s initiatives, there are some community concerns about the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament, which will allow 25% capacity spectators. When asked if the event will be a “reverse spring break” as visitors from other states visit and increase the number of cases in the city, Hogsett said he was not concerned but would listen to the data.
“During this pandemic, we were guided by science and data,” Hogsett said. “We rely on Dr. Caine and her team enable us to make data-driven decisions, and this time it’s no different. … We will remain vigilant during this change and will continue to trust the health department and follow their recommendations. “
Caine hopes to make a decision by the end of this week to see if it is safe for schools to revert to fully face-to-face learning as opposed to a hybrid model. She said data shows that school-age children are less prone to contracting and spreading the virus.
Call Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.