Starting on September 26, Indiana will move into its final Stage 5 of reopening — a phase that includes allowing restaurants and bars to serve at full capacity — Gov. Eric Holcomb announced today.
Face masks will still be required, but as part of the previously announced Stage 5 guidelines, other kinds of restrictions will be noticeably loosened. Per WTHR, there will no longer be size limitations on gatherings and events under 500 people; restaurants, bars, nightclubs, stores, and other indoor and outdoor venues can open at full capacity; senior centers and meal sites can reopen according to Family and Social Services Administration guidelines; gyms and fitness facilities can resume normal operations; and nursing homes and assisted living facilities must allow visitation opportunities. Holcomb said that Stage 5 guidelines would be updated with new changes by Thursday, IndyStar reports.
There are some stipulations attached to the restaurant and bar reopening guidelines: customers must be seated, for instance, and social distancing must still be observed. But it’s difficult to square these requirements with the blanket blessing to open at full capacity. How will a bar with customers occupying all seats maintain six feet of distance between patrons? And while masks are proven to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, one hallmark of restaurants and bars is that people, by necessity of the nature of these establishments, remove their masks for long periods of time to eat and drink. Unmasked diners seated indoors at full capacity sounds like, to be frank, a disaster in the making — which might explain why other states have not yet charged full speed ahead to reopening at full capacity.
It’s unclear what will happen if cases spike after Indiana moves into Stage 5 of reopening. Earlier this summer, Holcomb declined to proceed with Stage 5 after cases increased, and instead created a new midway Stage 4.5, which the state has been stuck at since July.
Indiana has confirmed a total of 113,337 positive COVID-19 cases and 3,305 deaths, according to Indiana State Department of Health numbers (a New York Times database puts the reported cases and deaths at 115,578 and 3,530, respectively). The state’s seven-day positivity rate is 3.9 percent, a number that Holcomb cited as a sign of improvement when announcing the move into Stage 5 of reopening. Across the U.S., there are more than 6.9 million reported cases, and more than 201,000 people have died since March.