INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana will remain in Stage 4.5 of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s Back On Track Indiana plan until at least Aug. 27, the governor said Thursday.

The announcement came as the Indiana State Department of Health announced 970 more Hoosiers infected with the novel coronavirus.

“This virus will take what we give it, so it is incumbent upon us to be on our best behavior, practicing physical distancing, good hygiene and masking up,” Holcomb said after announcing the extension.

Holcomb said local governments may impose more restrictive guidelines than what he’s proposed.

According to a press release from the Governor’s office, Holcomb has used data to drive his decisions since the state’s first case of the novel coronavirus in early March and he continues to do so. He said the state will continue to monitor and respond to these four guiding principles:

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients statewide has decreased for 14 days

The state retains its surge capacity for critical care beds and ventilators

The state retains its ability to test all Hoosiers who are COVID-19 symptomatic as well as health care workers, first responders, and frontline employees

Health officials have systems in place to contact all individuals who test positive for COVID-19 and expand contact tracing

The executive order also extends the moratorium on evictions from rental properties and the prohibition on filing foreclosures through Aug. 14.

Holcomb also said that, following consultation with the Indiana State Department of Health and the Indiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the mandatory mask order for schools has been modified to allow students to remove masks for classroom instruction when they are able to maintain at least three to six feet of distance between students.

On Thursday, the health department reported 970 additional Hoosiers diagnosed with COVID-19, for a total of 65,253 Indiana residents known to have the novel coronavirus.

A total of 2,746 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, an increase of 13 over the previous day. Another 200 probable deaths have been reported based on clinical diagnoses in patients for whom no positive test is on record.

Also as of Thursday, nearly 42 percent of ICU beds and nearly 84 percent of ventilators are available across the state.

According to the La Porte County Health Department, there were 14 new COVID-19 cases reported in La Porte County on Thursday. This includes 586 public cases, 195 Westville Correctional Center cases, and 8 Indiana State Prison cases. This brings the county’s total to 789 cases and 29 deaths since the pandemic began.

Nine of the new cases were from Michigan City, while the other 5 were from La Porte. Of those diagnosed, 8 were Black, 2 were white, 3 were Hispanic and 1 was unknown. Nine were female, and 5 male.

To date, tests for 735,848 unique individuals have been reported to ISDH, up from 724,238 on Wednesday.

Also on Thursday, Holcomb announced the state government capital complex will begin to open to the public on Aug. 17. Hoosiers who need assistance may continue to schedule appointments with agencies in Indianapolis and throughout the state. Many offices, such as the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, are open without an appointment needed.

Details and guidance will be updated at BackOnTrack.in.gov.

The Governor also signed an executive order extending the public health emergency an additional 30 days.

Both executive orders can be found at https://www. in.gov/gov/2384.htm

To find testing locations around the state, visit www.coronavirus.in.gov and click on the COVID-19 testing information link.

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