Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb on Thursday extended his public health emergency order through the end of August as coronavirus cases in the state continue to increase.
The emergency order, which was set to expire July 31, does not include a mask mandate or place limits on the size of gatherings. Holcomb lifted both of those mandates in April.
The number of counties in the state approaching the highest risk category for spread of the virus has nearly quadrupled to 15 over the past week.
Indiana’s color-coded coronavirus map ranks counties as blue – the lowest risk – yellow, orange or red. While no counties are in the red category, the number of counties listed as orange has gone from four to 15.
The metrics are based on the number of new COVID-19 positive tests per 100,000 residents and the seven-day positivity rate.
A county in the orange category is found to have between 100 and 199 new cases in a week per 100,000 residents and a positivity rate of between 10 and 15 percent.
Of Indiana’s 92 counties, 29 are coded as blue, with fewer than 10 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past week. The remaining 48 are listed as yellow, with between 10 and 99 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past week.
State health officials said tests show that 92% of new cases this month are due to the delta variant, which spreads more easily and faster than previous versions of the coronavirus.
“If this isn’t persuasive to get vaccinated, I don’t know what could be,” Holcomb said at a news conference. “It’s not hard to understand. Vaccines work. Look at the numbers. Look at the cases. Look at the hospitalization rates. Look at the deaths. It’s overwhelmingly the unvaccinated.”
Just 50% of Indiana’s eligible population — those age 12 and up — is fully vaccinated. The weekly number of Hoosiers getting vaccinated has been on the decline since reaching a peak in April.
Holcomb said he would leave decisions about mask mandates or other restrictions to local health officials.
The governor’s decision comes at a time when Holcomb, a Republican, is engaged in a legal battle with the Republican-led General Assembly, which in April overrode his veto and passed a new law allowing legislators to call themselves into special session during a public health emergency.
To date, Indiana has reported nearly 770,000 cases of coronavirus and 13,570 deaths.
This article was originally posted on Indiana governor extends public health emergency order