Indiana's COVID-19 public health emergency over | Government and Politics | nwitimes.com – The Times of Northwest Indiana

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Gov. Eric Holcomb signs an executive order declaring a state public health emergency March 6, 2020 after an adult male in Indianapolis tested positive for COVID-19. That order, renewed for 23 consecutive months throughout the pandemic, is set to finally end Saturday after the General Assembly agreed Thursday in House Bill 1001 to insert its few remaining provisions into state law.
After 728 days, or two days shy of exactly two years, Indiana no longer is operating under a governor-declared statewide public health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gov. Eric Holcomb on Thursday signed into law House Enrolled Act 1001, which includes the components the Republican said needed to be written into statute for him to immediately terminate his executive order identifying the coronavirus as an ongoing threat to the health of Hoosiers, and bring to a close an unprecedented period in the state’s history.
Among other provisions, the new law enables Indiana to still receive enhanced health care and food assistance funding from the federal government, and authorizes voluntary administration of the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 5 to 11.
Lawmakers also are advancing a separate proposal allowing out-of-state medical personnel to continue working at Indiana health facilities.
“This version of House Bill 1001 will allow Indiana’s current public health emergency to expire in a way that ensures Governor Holcomb and the Hoosier people still get the help they need to end COVID-19,” said House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne.
Holcomb first declared a COVID-19 emergency March 6, 2020, after an Indianapolis man tested positive for the coronavirus at Community Hospital North in Indianapolis following travel to Boston for a biotech conference — an event researchers later determined was responsible for spreading the virus to at least 333,000 people worldwide.
Holcomb’s initial executive order did little more than designate the Indiana Department of Health as the lead state agency for responding to the pandemic.
That soon would change as COVID-19 quickly spread across the Hoosier State, ravaging nursing home residents, filling hospital beds, and straining access to supplies of all kinds ranging from personal protective equipment to toilet paper.
On March 16, 2020, Holcomb shut down in-person dining and drinking at Indiana restaurants and bars, closed the state’s 13 casinos, ordered hospitals and health clinics to cancel all elective surgery procedures, and advised against public gatherings of more than 50 people.
Indiana schools were ordered closed on March 19, 2020, though nearly all previously decided on their own to shut down to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19.
Then, on March 24, 2020, Holcomb dropped the hammer: All Hoosiers, except “essential” workers, were required to remain in their homes at all times for at least two weeks, unless they were venturing out for food or medicine, or to aid relatives or friends in need of assistance.
“We are going to throw everything back at repelling COVID-19 that we have, and that calls us all to the same place,” Holcomb said at the time. “Hunker down, Hoosiers — make sure we get through this as fast as possible.”
In fact, it took much longer than two weeks for the governor to unwind his unprecedented stay-at-home order.
The initial statewide limitations finally expired Sept. 26, 2020, only to be replaced by new, county-option restrictions that continued through the 2020-21 holiday surge of COVID-19 infections and intermittently thereafter.
A statewide requirement for Hoosiers to wear face masks in public places, or anywhere they could not maintain at least six feet of distance from non-family members, also was in place from July 27, 2020, to April 6, 2021, and many county health officers continued the mask mandate even longer.
Over time, Hoosiers grew increasingly sick of COVID-19 mandates and few restrictions were in effect when the delta and omicron variants socked mostly unvaccinated individuals in the second half of 2021 and into 2022.
Through it all, Indiana’s COVID-19 case count, hospitalizations, and deaths ticked ever upward.
As of Thursday, more than 1.6 million Hoosiers have tested positive for COVID-19 and the virus has killed nearly 23,000 Indiana residents, according to the Indiana Department of Health.
Crown Point’s Main Street, normally busy with traffic and customers grabbing coffee and breakfast, is empty just before 9 a.m. on Wednesday. It was the first day of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s new stay-at-home order to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
The largely deserted scene by the Old Courthouse in Crown Point on Wednesday morning, as Hoosiers stay home amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Central Park Plaza Valparaiso is seen empty Wednesday morning as Hoosiers stay home amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Lake County Government Center in Crown Point. Usually bustling with cars a people at this time. Largely deserted at the main building, just before 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Downtown Chesterton is deserted Wednesday as residents stay home amid the coronavirus pandemic Wednesday.
Downtown Valparaiso is shown empty Wednesday morning as Hoosiers stay home amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Normally packed with cars during the morning rush, traffic was very light Wednesday morning on U.S. 30 in Schererville.
Downtown Valparaiso is shown empty Wednesday morning as Hoosiers stay home amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Valplayso in Valparaiso is shown closed on Wednesday morning amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Westchester Public Library in Chesterton is shown Wednesday morning as Hoosiers hunker down amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Downtown Crown Point resembled a ghost town Wednesday morning on Main Street, with open parking spaces and streets that are usually teeming with traffic.
A drive-thru lane at the Starbucks on Calumet Avenue in Munster is blocked by a traffic cone as the entire business has been closed down in the face of COVID-19.
The Starbucks on Calumet Avenue in Munster has closed entirely, even the drive thru, in the face of COVID-19.
Hobart’s Main Street near Fourth Street, looking north, sits nearly empty Wednesday during the first day of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s order to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 in Indiana.
Downtown Gary’s Broadway Avenue, looking north from near 15th Avenue, Wednesday during the first day of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s Stay-At-Home order to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the state of Indiana.
Lake Station City Hall parking lot sat empty Wednesday during the first day of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s order to help slow the spread of the COVID-19.
Indiana University Northwest in Gary is shown nearly deserted Wednesday in the wake of an Indiana stay-at-home order.
Downtown Gary’s Broadway Avenue, looking south from Fifth Avenue, sits nearly empty Wednesday during the first day of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s order to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 in Indiana.
Downtown Highland looks like a ghost town on Highway Avenue Wednesday.
The parking lot at Shops on Main in Schererville is eerily empty Wednesday.
Normally full of vehicles and shoppers, the Shops on Main in Schererville is eerily empty Wednesday.
The folks at Growlers, in Highland, are hoping to welcome back customers on March 30.
Postal carrier Robert Cavazos, a resident of Griffith, delivers mail in Highland. He is one of the “essential” workers who was out and about Wednesday.
Best Buy customers at the Highland Grove Shopping Center in Highland must order online and pickup at the store’s entrance. A very small selection of items are available outside. Nobody other than employees is allowed inside.
Best Buy customers at the Highland Grove Shopping Center in Highland must order online and pickup at the store’s entrance. A very small selection of items are available outside. Nobody other than employees is allowed inside.
The St. Michael the Archangel Church marquee displays a message of prayer for health care workers amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Best Buy customers in Hobart must order online and pickup at the store’s entrance. Nobody other than employees is allowed inside.
Businesses are closed and the parking lot is empty at Boulevard Square in Schererville Wednesday.
Crown Point Wendy’s manager Scott Finley posts the restaurant’s drive-thru hours on the marquee on Wednesday, the first day of Indiana’s shutdown. Hoosiers still can leave their homes during the next two weeks to address the health and safety of themselves or their families; to purchase groceries, medical supplies, carryout food or other urgently needed goods; to participate in outdoor recreation at least 6 feet away from others; or to take care of a family member or friend in another household.
Southlake Mall’s parking lot sits empty Wednesday in the wake of COVID-19.
The Lake County Government Center is closed to the public with only essential workers reporting for work.
A passenger-less bus does its route at the Lake County Government Center.
Closed for the foreseeable future, movie posters have been removed from the Hobart AMC Showplace theaters.
Southlake Mall’s parking lot is nearly empty of cars.
Office Depot in Hobart, like other stores, offers curbside pickup.
Stores at Shops on Main in Schererville remain closed.
Office Depot in Hobart, like other stores, offers curbside pickup.
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Chief Political Reporter
Dan has reported on Indiana state government for The Times since 2009. He also covers casinos, campaigns and corruption.
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Gov. Eric Holcomb signs an executive order declaring a state public health emergency March 6, 2020 after an adult male in Indianapolis tested positive for COVID-19. That order, renewed for 23 consecutive months throughout the pandemic, is set to finally end Saturday after the General Assembly agreed Thursday in House Bill 1001 to insert its few remaining provisions into state law.
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