INDIANAPOLIS (CBS/AP) — Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Tuesday that he plans to lift the statewide mask mandate and remaining COVID-19 business restrictions in two weeks.

Holcomb, a Republican, said in speech late Tuesday that the state’s steep declines in coronavirus hospitalization and deaths rates along with the growing number of people fully vaccinated justify the steps starting April 6.

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Holcomb said he hoped the state was seeing the “tail end of this pandemic” that has killed nearly 13,000 over the past year.

Holcomb announced that effective Tuesday, April 6, the mask mandate will be replaced by a mask advisory – but face coverings will remain mandatory in state buildings and facilities and in vaccination and COVID testing facilities. Mask rules will also be in place in K-12 schools in Indiana through the end of the school year.

The governor said local officials would still have the authority to impose tougher restrictions in response to COVID-19 cases in their communities. He urged residents to continue wearing masks.

In addition, Holcomb announced that as of Tuesday, April 6, all decisions about venue capacity will be handed to local officials. The state Department of Health will continue to provide county metrics and information about whether cases are increasing – but only as guidelines.

Customers in restaurants, bars, and nightclubs will no longer be required to be seated, but six feet of spacing between tables and other seating – and spacing between non-household parties – will still be recommended.

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The governor also advised that social distancing is still recommended, and all businesses should keep a COVID response plan.

Holcomb has faced public pressure and from conservative state lawmakers to ease restrictions, especially after governors in Texas and other states have done so recently.

But some health experts worry it is premature to lift the statewide restrictions.

“We put a lot of restrictions in place last year, there was some initial hesitation by some parts of the population to comply with some of those orders,” said Brian Dixon, an epidemiologist at Indiana University’s Fairbanks School of Public Health. “And then what we saw in the fall is that rates went up, they skyrocketed because people were not following precautions.”

Holcomb’s announcement came the same day that Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady warned that COVID numbers in the city are starting to trend in the wrong direction.

“Unfortunately, we have seen movement in the wrong direction on the four key metrics that we follow for reopening,” Arwady said pointing to an increase in COVID cases in the city, specifically in a younger demographic, 18- to 29-year-olds.

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(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

CBS 2 Chicago Staff