Chesterton Tribune



County Health Department orders new COVID rules; local Red status maintained

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Although the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) upgraded Porter County’s COVID-19 status from Red to Orange on Nov. 25, the Porter County Health Department (PCHD) has “determined that additional COVID metrics warrant the need for additional restrictions to slow the spread of the virus,” PCHD said in a statement released on Friday.

“The metrics used by ISDH to determine the color code of the county only include the number of new weekly cases per 100,000 and the all-test positivity rate,” PCHD said. “These metrics have been skewed by the Thanksgiving holiday, where there was decreased availability for testing, decreased demand for testing, and a backlog of tests at the labs around the state.”

"We will not be able to accurately use these two metrics to determine the true burden of COVID in Porter County for a couple of weeks, and maybe not even until the New Year, when the holidays come to a close,” Porter County Health Officer Dr. Maria Stamp said. “Accordingly, we are looking at additional metrics to determine what actions are needed, including the impacts on our hospitals and the number of deaths.”

“Regional hospital systems have been extremely stressed over the past three weeks,” PCHD said. “Over one-third of patients admitted to hospitals are suffering COVID. Over one-half of ventilators are in use treating COVID patients. There are frequent diversions to other hospitals for care of patients. These burdens are also contributing to staff shortages to provide care for patients.”

Fifty-one Porter County residents died of COVID-19 in November, accounting for 43 percent of all deaths to date. In just the first three days of December, 15 additional deaths have been reported.

"After considering all of these metrics, I have determined that additional actions must be taken to slow the spread of the virus,” Stamp said. “As authorized by Executive Order 20-48, I have issued an order to implement those actions.”

The following actions went into effect at 12 a.m. Sunday and will remain in effect until superseded or rescinded, PCHD said:

-- Social gatherings and events shall be limited to 25 persons. All gatherings and events with more than 25 persons will need PCHD approval. These include special or seasonal events, concerts or musical performances, movie screenings, fairs, festivals, weddings, wedding receptions, convocations, and sporting events. Event safety plans must be submitted to PCHD at least seven days in advance of the event.

-- Gov. Holcomb’s mask mandate remains in full force and effect for both employees and patrons of any establishment required to wear a mask that fully covers both the nose and the mouth. Businesses are expected to enforce mask use by patrons by posting appropriate signs and designating staff to ensure that masks are worn prior to entrance. Those unable to wear a mask are strongly urged to wear a face shield or utilize curbside pickup or delivery options.

-- Indoor and outdoor capacity for bars, restaurants, and entertainment venues must be governed strictly by COD social distancing guidelines. Tables must be arranged such that separate parties are seated at least six feet from other parties. Masks must be worn unless seated for the purpose of eating and drinking. Food and drink consumption may not take place unless seated. Dance floors are to be closed. Musicians and singers must be masked. Self-service buffets and salad bars are to be closed. Maximum party size at individual tables in restaurants, bars, and clubs shall be no greater than six. Bars, dine-in restaurants, and clubs shall adhere to an 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. closure requirement.

-- Retail establishments shall be limited to 50 percent capacity. Shopping carts must be sanitized between uses and curbside pickup is preferred.

-- Gyms and fitness studios, including locker rooms, shall be subject to strict adherence to social distancing and masking requirements. Group fitness classes are limited to 50 percent capacity not to exceed 25 persons unless that group is part of an official sports team. This includes but is not limited to gymnastics, basketball, volleyball, soccer, martial arts, fitness classes, and workout rooms.

-- Skating rinks must limit capacity to 25 persons at a time on the rink, with overall facility capacity limited to 50 percent. Places of entertainment like bowling alleys, movie theaters, and arcades must adhere to a 50 percent capacity limitation and to social distancing.

-- Libraries, funeral homes, and swimming pools must adhere to strict social distancing and require patrons to mask.

-- Attendance at K-12 school-related events and community sports leagues and tournaments is limited to participants, support personnel, and parents/guardians/siblings. Concessions are to remain closed.

-- PCHD will utilize COVID-19 safety inspectors to ensure compliance with, and enforcement of, Executive Order 20-48. Employees, patrons, and members of the public are encouraged to contact PCHD--by telephone, email, or via the website--with reports of non-compliance.



Posted 12/7/2020




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