INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Gov. Eric Holcomb and other state officials defended brick-and-mortar school
re-openings Wednesday despite mounting reports of students and education
staff testing positive for the coronavirus since returning to school
With no state
mandates for if or how schools should reopen - or benchmarks for what would
require them to shut back down as confirmed cases of the virus increase -
the Republican governor re-emphasized “confidence” in local leaders to
decide what’s best for their districts.
Dr. Kristina Box,
the state health commissioner, added that she “continue(s) to believe that
our schools can safely reopen.” She cited improved testing and hospital
capacity as helpful safeguards, along with wearing masks, hand-washing and
social distancing. She also stressed the importance of staying home when
sick or awaiting test results, noting that the best way to prevent a spread
is “for everyone to do their part and know when to stay home.”
“Having a case of
COVID at a school should not be a cause for panic or a reason to close. It’s
a reason to take action to prevent an outbreak,” Box said. “But this does
not mean that our schools will be free of COVID.”
When it comes to
transparency about positive coronavirus cases within schools, Box said she
supports releasing data in a dashboard format, similar to what the state
does for nursing homes. She wouldn’t commit to releasing that information,
however, due to concerns about violating privacy laws.
After two former
Indiana lieutenant governors called for Holcomb to expand mail-in voting as
the coronavirus pandemic continues, the governor also maintained Wednesday
that in-person voting for the November election is safe.
“Folks need to
understand that it is safe to vote,” he said. “There are a lot of people out
and about ... they’re doing it safely, and we can vote safely in person, as
claims that pressure from President Donald Trump or concerns about voter
fraud are holding him back from expanding voting options.
said that before deciding otherwise, he wants to make sure that local
election offices can handle the increased volume of mail-in ballots they
would receive and that election results would not be delayed if all Hoosiers
are given the option to vote by mail for the General Election. He added that
he’s also waiting for a federal judge to issue an opinion on a lawsuit filed
in April, which argues that the state’s election law allowing some - but not
all - registered voters to vote by mail violates the Constitution. He
anticipates the decision will come down around Labor Day.
LATEST VIRUS SPREAD
Box said there has
been a slight increase in COVID-19 patients needing ventilators and ICU beds
and the state continues to see hospitalizations increase.
Last week, Holcomb
announced that statewide limits including crowd sizes for restaurants, bars
and public events would remain in effect until Aug. 27 to encourage
compliance with safety measures amid continued concerns about recent growth
in the state’s COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. The governor lifted the
state’s stay-at-home order and began easing business restrictions in early
May, but he’s delayed the final lifting of crowd limits for the past month.