INDIANAPOLIS — Coronavirus restrictions were lifted in Marion County for all of a few hours Monday evening but were quickly put back in place in a vote at an Indianapolis city-county council meeting later that night.
Restrictions were rendered null and void Monday afternoon when the state legislature voted to override Gov. Eric Holcomb’s veto of a bill that puts the final decision on health orders under an emergency in the hands of local elected leaders and out of the hands of local health leaders.
Keeping with the new law, known as Senate Bill 5 in the legislature, the Indy city-county council had already planned to meet Monday night and voted to reinstate Marion County local COVID restrictions.
“The council is made up of some amazingly smart individuals,” said councilor Maggie Lewis (D). “However, when I check our current roster, there are no medical doctors that serve on the Indianapolis city-county council. Therefore I think it’s up to us as leaders of this community to get behind Dr. Caine.”
Marion County Health Director Dr. Virginia Caine said she was grateful to the council “for taking swift action” to ratify the health orders that she had put in place before the SB5 became law.
A county-wide mask mandate for both indoor and outdoor activities remains in place and there are also capacity restrictions in place from many establishments throughout the county.
The vote was along party lines in the council with all 19 Democrats voting in favor of re-imposing restrictions and all five Republicans voting against.
Councilor Joshua Bain (R) proposed that the health director should have to prove to the council why restrictions should be in place and that the health orders should be voted on for renewal every month or so.
“You’d have to continually come and prove to the elected leaders of Marion County that we should continue to have these restrictions in place that’s something I think we could talk about,” Bain said. “But unfortunately, hear all we are doing is rubber-stamping what we have been doing.”
“I am thankful that my colleagues voted to continue standing firmly behind Dr. Caine’s leadership and her commitment to making local public health decisions based on science and data,” said council president Vop Osili (D). “As we have done since the virus arrived in Indiana, the Council will continue to work together for the best interests of our community.”
As of now, all of Marion County’s restrictions that were in place before the SB5 was passed are still in effect.
Elsewhere, restrictions are no longer in place that were more strict than the state’s orders. St. Joseph County’s mask mandate was due to expire May 27th, but the new law has killed the mandate early.
St. Joseph County deputy health director Dr. Mark Fox is hoping county commissioners will vote to reinstate the mandate for it’s final two weeks, saying that he feels it’s still important that it remain in effect.
A mask mandate was also still in place in Monroe County that was set to expire May 28th. It’s also not clear if county leaders will vote to reauthorize that mandate there.
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