INDIANAPOLIS (WLS) — A new COVID-19 mass vaccination is opening in Gary, as Indiana lifted its mask mandate Tuesday.
The advisory from Gov. Eric Holcomb allows municipalities to make their own rules on where and when Hoosiers will have to mask up. It went into effect at midnight Tuesday.
“I am appreciative that he lets the local authorities make their own decisions, but I think it sends a mixed message to people that we are at the end,” Gary Health commissioner Roland Walker said.
Right now, Walker said he is keeping a close eye on the rising number of COVID-19 cases, adding that he’s seen two large spikes in the past few weeks.
“We are at the 25-yard line and I would not want to spike the ball at the 25-yard line,” Walker said.
Holcomb’s amended mask advisory will still require masks in schools and state-owned buildings, as well as at COVID testing and vaccine sites.
The city of Gary, like several other communities, has decided to keep its mask mandate in place for the foreseeable future.
“(We’re) relaxing some of the restrictions on capacity at restaurants and bars, but leaving the mask mandate,” Walker said.
Also in Gary, a new mass COVID vaccination site is opening Wednesday at Roosevelt High School.
Holcomb will attend a kickoff event for the site at 10 a.m. Tuesday. The clinic is scheduled to stay open for eight weeks.
The site will become a major source of vaccinations for Indiana residents, capable of 3,000 shots a day and 21,000 a week.
Initially they will use the Pfizer vaccine which requires two doses, and for the last two weeks of the eight-week program they will use the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which has just one dose.
Government officials said Gary’s diverse population makes it attractive in their effort to reach areas hard-hit by COVID-19. They said 1 million people live within a 30-minute drive of the high school, and nearly two-thirds are African American or Hispanic.
COVID-19 killed nearly 13,000 people in Indiana over the past year.
Gov. Holcomb is sticking by his decision to lift the statewide mask mandate despite concerns from health experts about more contagious coronavirus variants and a request from President Joe Biden for states to keep such rules in place.
Indiana public health officials announced 762 new COVID-19 cases and 1 additional death on Monday.
Overall, 12,668 Indiana residents have died from COVID-19 and 691,625 have contracted it since the start of the pandemic.
Health officials say the latest recorded seven-day positive COVID-19 test rate in the state is 4.3%. Health officials say there have been more than 9 million tests administered.
Indiana lawmakers vote to boost their power over emergencies
Indiana legislators have voted to give themselves more authority to intervene during emergencies declared by the governor.
The votes on Monday in the House and Senate will to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, who has questioned whether the proposal is allowed under the state constitution and said last week he would veto it.
Holcomb has faced criticism from some conservatives over coronavirus restrictions he’s imposed by executive order over the past year.
Republican legislative leaders praise the governor’s actions during the pandemic but say the bill is meant to allow the input of lawmakers during extended emergency situations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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