Holcomb and Box July 15

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and Dr. Kris Box, Indiana State Health Commissioner, speak in Indianapolis on July 15, 2020.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Indiana once again is delaying its COVID-19 reopening plan, waiting to move to the final phase as new cases and hospitalizations rise.

Gov. Eric Holcomb and his top health official, Dr. Kris Box, announced Wednesday that Indiana will stay in “Stage 4.5” until at least Aug. 1, the second time they’ve pushed back a goal of entering “Stage 5” by July 4.

“It’s a very volatile environment out there, not just in our state but surrounding our state, around the country, around the world,” Holcomb said.

The continued delay means that bars, restaurant dining rooms and entertainment venues can’t return to full capacity. They're now operating at 50-75% of their pre-COVID-19 limit.

Box cited a second straight week with an increase of new cases of the coronavirus-caused illness, including more than 4,300 new infections in the past week, compared with about 3,000 during the same period a month ago. And while testing capacity is increasing, wait times for test results have begun to lag, she said.

The state health department reported 700 new cases Wednesday, with a seven-day average for new daily infections at 619. That's the highest since 628 on May 8, according to state data.

Box said the seven-day average of positive COVID-19 tests – a metric that adjusts for increases or decreases in testing – was 7.1% on July 11, up from 6.3% on July 4. It was also up from a low of 4.2% on June 18.

There were 10 newly confirmed deaths, taking the state’s reported total to 2,592. Another 193 people are believed to have died from COVID-19.  

While deaths are declining in Indiana and are well below the single-day high of 50 on April 22, Box said, “any death is a terrible loss for a family and it’s something that we all want to continue to prevent.”

Hospitals, including their intensive care units, still have enough capacity to handle patients, Box said. More than 35% of ICU beds and nearly 84% of ventilators are available, she said.

There were 881 Hoosier COVID-19 patients in state hospitals as of Tuesday. That's up from 767 on Monday but lower than levels of past months. Still, those numbers are rising.

“We’ve also seen the daily admissions bounce back up,” Box said. “I want these increases to be a cautionary tale to every Hoosier to take steps to slow these numbers so that we can safely reopen our state.”

Box urged people to continue practicing social distancing, wearing masks in public, staying home if sick and practicing good personal hygiene, such as hand-washing. She urged people who are waiting on COVID-19 test results to stay away from others until they know the findings.

Holcomb said he has no plans to order a statewide mask mandate, such as the one Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear imposed last week. He said that could change but, for now, he is deferring to local leaders to make those decisions.

This story may be updated.

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