INDIANAPOLIS — "This virus and the threat it poses to our city, state, and country is massive," said Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett Thursday evening.
Hogsett was speaking at a news conference that included other city and Marion County officials. The mayor said he had directed the Marion County Health Department to close all public schools within the county, as well as mayoral-sponsored charter schools.
The closures, which are the result of the coronavirus pandemic, mean all public school districts in Marion County will be closed this Friday through April 5. The charter schools can remain open Friday but must be closed by Monday.
The closures, coupled with the previously-scheduled spring break periods, will shut down schools for three weeks.
"This decision is made in conversation with all public school superintendents in Marion County, who agree it's time to take this necessary step out of an abundance of caution," said Virginina Caine, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of the Marion County Public Health Department. "We must take every opportunity to protect our children from any potential exposure to COVID-19 and reduce the possibility of further spread in our community."
Besides the school closures, Mayor Hogsett Thursday announced restrictions on all non-essential gatherings of more than 250 people in Indianapolis, effective for 30-days. "I want to be clear that these restrictions will have serious impacts on commerce, social events, and functions planned long in advance or held every year," said the mayor. "To those who argue these policies will be disruptive, my answer is simple: they better be."
Hogsett said the virus poses a massive threat. "Left unchecked, it has the potential to wreak untold damage to our families and the very social safety net that protects our most vulnerable residents," he said.
The city's plans came a short time after Governor Eric Holcomb also announced a 30-day ban on all non-essential gatherings of more than 250 people in the state.
Hogsett pledged to continue to serve meals to Indianapolis students as “essential government services.”
He also allowed the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department to use discretion to serve summons instead of arrests for nonviolent misdemeanors.
"These days won't be easy and there are unfortunately more difficult days ahead," Hogsett said. "I am confident we are up to the challenge."