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Holcomb extends public health emergency

Last updated on May 29, 2021

Gov. Eric Holcomb said Friday he’s extending the statewide public health emergency for a 15th time, through June 30, while at the same time lifting the mask requirement in state buildings, with some exceptions.

The announcement came the same week the legal dispute over the governor’s powers heated, with Attorney General Todd Rokita telling the court that by challenging a bill that allows the Indiana Legislature to have a say during a statewide emergency, Holcomb is trying to exercise powers that he doesn’t have under the Indiana Constitution.

Holcomb said Friday the continuation of the public health emergency allows more people who normally wouldn’t be able to administer a vaccine to administer COVID-19 vaccinations. He also said continuing the emergency will allow the state “to continue to receive pandemic emergency funds for programs such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.”

When contacted by The Center Square on Friday, Donald Rainwater, the Libertarian Party candidate for governor in 2020, said the announcement is “a clear indication that this has all along been a money grab for the governor and the Indiana General Assembly … to use the pandemic as an excuse to get more taxpayer money to spend from the federal government.”

Rainwater said the emergency is over in Indiana and elsewhere.

Holcomb also issued an executive order Friday that rescinds the mask mandate in state buildings, with some exceptions. When the statewide mask mandate was lifted in early April, the mask requirement was kept in place for all state buildings. As of Tuesday, people entering state buildings will not have to wear a mask, with the exception of state prisons, state hospitals, the Indiana Veterans Home and the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy.

Masks also still will be required inside COVID-19 testing and vaccination clinics.

The mask requirement will continue for K-12 schools in the state through June 30 for children who may be attending summer school. The governor said it will be left up to local school boards to determine whether children in K-12 schools must continue to wear masks into July and beyond.

Holcomb first announced the statewide public health emergency March 6, 2020, as a result of COVID-19, and under this emergency, he has issued dozens of executive orders, including a stay-at-home order issued in March 2020 and the statewide mask mandate, which began in late July 2020.

In addition to lifting the mask requirement for people in most state buildings, Holcomb is ordering state employees back to work in state buildings.

Holcomb said Thursday senior staff in state agencies must return to their offices by June 7, and other employees should be spending at least half of their time at the office by June 21 and return to full-time by July 6.

Most state employees have not been at their regular workplaces since March 23, 2020, when the governor issued the stay-at-home order.

Holcomb told state employees in an email this week that working remotely is not an “optimal way” to serve residents of the state.

This article was originally posted on Holcomb extends public health emergency

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