CLARK COUNTY, In. (WAVE) - In less than a week, on April 6, the mask mandate in Indiana will drop to a mask advisory. Meantime, state health officials are cautioning people to not ease up on being careful with the virus, especially with COVID-19 variants around.
According to CDC data, Indiana has reported 137 cases of the B.1.1.7. variant, also known as the United Kingdom variant.
Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said the state’s close proximity to Michigan, which has the second highest reported number of the United Kingdom variant in the nation, is concerning.
“We have said before we are in a race between the vaccine and the variants,” Box said during a COVID-19 update press conference Wednesday. “Unfortunately right now the variants are picking up steam.”
Box said most of the cases in Michigan were among the younger population. She urged all Hoosiers who are eligible to get the vaccine to do so.
The state’s positivity rate has increased a bit over the past week, now sitting at 4%. Box said COVID-19 hospitalizations have also increased a bit. Daily COVID hospitalizations are still the lowest they have been in months, but Box said those have increased slightly, too.
“Cases are increasing in parts of the state that again serves as a reminder that we cannot throw caution to the wind and behave as if the pandemic is over,” Box said. “We want the pendulum to swing back in a positive direction so we can prevent hospitalizations and save lives.”
Clark County Health Officer Dr. Eric Yazel said he feels good about where the county is at right now: in the yellow, sitting at a 5% positivity rate.
“That’s some of the lowest we’ve seen this entire time which is really exciting,” Yazel said.
He said the county has approached the pandemic as a “community cooperation,” education and recommendation versus fines and mandates. He said with the changes coming next week, he is urging people to stay cautious.
“Just because it’s not a mandate doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear a mask. Especially when you’re going to encounter large crowds or things like that,” he said. “Again, we have tried to put an emphasis on personal responsibility: know your own risk factors.”
Yazel said those who are high risk who have not been vaccinated, wear a mask if you plan to be in a crowd.
Clark County will follow the state’s recommendations to open bars and restaurants at full capacity, recommending social distancing, and dropping the mask mandate for the mask advisory starting April 6.
Yazel says he’ll keep a close eye on all of the data this month, knowing spring break and Easter gatherings are happening this week and this weekend.
“We’ll be watching to see the next couple weeks to see if we see an increase in our cases,” Yazel told WAVE 3 News. “If we don’t, I think that’s a sign we’re getting closer to that herd immunity status to be honest with you and that’s really, really exciting.”