Back on Track

Gov. Eric Holcomb unveiled his new “Back on Track Indiana” program, a step-by-step process for reopening Indiana to business after more than a month of operating under a stay-at-home order.

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana is halfway home toward a mostly normal resumption of life amid coronavirus as most of the state enters Stage 3 of its five-step plan, with more recreational activities getting reopened in this phase.

While shop, restaurant and gathering sizes are all allowed the scale up, one of the biggest changes in Stage 3 comes for fitness centers, parks and campgrounds getting a green light to reopen.

Most of Indiana is advancing to Stage 3 today in the “Back on Track” five-step gradual reopening of the state. Following the end of Indiana’s stay-at-home order on May 1 — a period that was retroactively classified as Stage 1 — Gov. Eric Holcomb presented the Back on Track plan as a gradual reopening for the state.

The state is monitoring four metrics — new hospitalizations, intensive care unit and ventilator capacity, testing capability and contact tracing capacity — as the main indicators as to whether the state can continue advancing along the plan.

So far, things have looked pretty good even as most people started heading back to work in Stage 2 and had more public contact with one another.

Hospitalizations have continued to decline, medical capacity is good and testing and contact tracing efforts have expanded.

New cases have been fairly stable around 600 new per day and daily deaths are holding around 30-40 per day on average. State officials have said completely stamping out cases and deaths isn’t possible, but the goal is to hold them as low as possible while allowing the economy to restart.

“We have earned the ability to continue to move forward,” Holcomb said last week when announcing the state would advance another step. “People by and large have been paying attention to social distancing and wearing masks. Those things have made a difference.”

So here’s what will change as Indiana enters Stage 3 today:

Guidelines for all Hoosiers

After being warned to continue staying home as much as possible, Hoosiers 65 and older are now getting a little more leeway to venture out.

That being said, older Hoosiers will still want to take a lot of precautions, as they’re far more likely to have serious complications or die if they contract COVID-19.

The state continues to encourage people who can work from home to continue doing so, if possible, which helps limit the number of contacts people have at work.

And, as gathering sizes were stepped up in Stage 2 to up to 25 people, they increase again in Stage 3, clearing the way for gatherings of up to 100 people.

Manufacturing, industrial, construction and offices

Not much has changed here from Stage 2, with the state continuing to encourage safe workplace practices and limiting exposure as much as possible.

Industrial employers must meet Indiana Operational Safety and Health Administration rules and comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for social distancing and safe workplaces.

Office workers are advised to continue working from home if possible, while employers are asked to continue bringing back people in small waves. Workers should be screened for health and social distancing should be maintained in the building whenever possible.

State and local government

Governments can continue opening back up at their own pace.

State offices will continue to have limited access to the public, but additional employees will be returning to their offices. County and local governments can set their return pace and public libraries may reopen to the public as districts see fit.

Employees should be screened for health and social distancing should be maintained as much as possible.

Retails, malls and commercial businesses

While initially allowed to reopen to business in Stage 2, shops can now boost their capacity a little more in Stage 3.

Previously limited at 50% capacity, retail businesses and other commercial locations can increase to 75% of their normal capacity. Mall common areas have bumped up to 50% use.

The state highly recommends employees and customers wear face masks while inside. Employees should be screened for health and social distancing inside stores and among workers should be maintained.

Healthcare

Nursing homes will continue to be completely shut to the public.

Long-term care facility outbreaks have been one of the biggest problems for the state during the stay-at-home time, as outbreaks can be extremely serious due to the amount of high-risk patients among older residents.

Congregate settings for seniors like senior centers, adult day cares other places where older Hoosier gather should remain closed through May 31, but further guidance will be decided at a later time.

Restaurants, bars with food, bars and nightclubs

The state offers no changes between Stage 2 and Stage 3 for eateries, so expect restaurants to operate mostly the same as they did prior to today.

Dining rooms can be open, but only at 50% of their normal capacity. Side-by-side bar seating remains closed and no live entertainment is allowed for the time being.

Due to the restrictions, many restaurants had chosen not to reopen their dining rooms in Stage 2 and were waiting for the situation to improve more or for capacity to increase more to make the change economical for the risk.

Employees should be screened for health and workers must wear face coverings while serving patrons.

Restaurants can consult the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association for more information, if needed.

Bars — those that primarily serve drinks without a notable kitchen — and nightclubs remain closed for now.

Personal services

Barbers, hair salon, nail salons and other personal services will continue operating much the same in Stage 3 as they did before.

Services should be rendered by appointment only, with work stations separated enough to maintain distance between customers. Employees and customers must both continue to wear masks while doing haircuts or other services.

Gyms, fitness centers, playgrounds and campgrounds

Welcome to Stage 3 and welcome back physical activity. Stage 3 is the time for these recreation facilities to reopen after being shut up until this point.

Gyms and fitness centers can reopen with restrictions. Employees must be screened for health and must wear face masks while on the job.

Class sizes and equipment should be spaces out to maintain distancing as much as possible. Workout equipment should be cleaned after each use. Fitnesses classes can resume, but sizes should be limited to maintain distancing between participants.

Playground were originally slated to reopen in Stage 3, but the state made an alteration of the plan and pushed opening of those outdoor recreation facilities to Stage 4, so kids will need to entertain themselves off the equipment for the time being.

Day camps and overnight camps can also resume as of June 1, although they comply with CDC best practices on how to operate safely.

Lastly, campgrounds can reopen with social distancing guidelines in place and sanitation precautions taken in common areas like shower facilities, bathrooms and other shared spaces.

Boating is still allowed and beaches and shorelines continue to be open, with distancing guidelines in practice.

Theaters

Ready for a movie on the big screen instead of streaming on your TV? Well, you’ll still have to wait a little while longer unless you’re going to head out in your care.

Drive-in theaters, which were allowed to open in Stage 2, can continue, but indoor movie theaters are still not on the reopening list. They were originally scheduled to reopen in Stage 3 at 50% capacity, but the state made a decision to keep theaters closed for now.

So if you’re waiting to take in a summer blockbuster, you’ll have to wait until at least June.

What’s not open

As Indiana enters Stage 3, the only things still not open are larger entertainment venues.

Tourist attractions, zoos, cultural sites and other facilities that draw big crowds are still on the closed list until gathering sizes get a little bigger.

Festivals and fairs are also on the no list for the time being and most events on the schedule for June have likely already been canceled locally. Organizers of some local events have already started calling off events for July, too, citing either coronavirus concerns or issues with fundraising or concerns over gatherings.

Assuming that COVID-19 numbers continue to look good for Indiana, the next step up to Stage 4 could occur as soon as June 14. Stage 5, the last step, is possible for July 4 if things stay on track.

For more information about Indiana’s Back on Track plan, visit backontrack.in.gov.

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