Gov. Eric Holcomb, in his Wednesday press conference, said there will be no more Stage 5 beginning Nov. 15. Restrictive measures will take place in counties in the orange or red designation, meaning moderate to high spread of COVID among the community. Enforcement is still in the hands of local health departments; however, Holcomb said the state will release $20 million in grants to help local governments take control of the spread in their communities.
Since September, when the state began the color coded metric status for the counties, the state was mostly colored in blue, meaning little to minimal spread. Wednesday, Nov. 11, there were no counties in blue, and few in yellow.
Jasper County is in the orange and Newton County jumped into the red stage. The state’s positivity rate sits at 12%, while Newton County has a 7-Day positivity rate of 20.2%. Jasper County is at 13.1% on Nov. 15, remaining in the orange status for a third week. Another death was added to the county’s total on Nov. 15, giving Jasper County eight deaths, five since Oct. 14.
“We must do all we can to protect our hospital capacity, so our health care professionals can protect and care for patients,” Gov. Holcomb said. “Not only for those who have COVID, but for the cancer patient, the heart patient, and the other Hoosier patients who need care in our urban, rural, and suburban hospitals all across the state of Indiana.”
Holcomb’s executive order requires face coverings or masks be worn in public places, continuing social distancing and depending on the county’s status, limiting the number of people at events, in restaurants and bars. In Jasper, that means no more than 50 people in a gathering, distancing at restaurants and bars to 6 feet between patrons or family groups and limiting after school events to include only participants, support staff and parents/guardians at sporting events and any extracurricular activities in all grades.
Holcomb said hospitals are seeing increased patient load as well as shortages in staff, as they too are quarantined or have the virus. Indiana’s National Guard will be out to relieve front line workers in long term care facilities and the state is asking for medical reserve workforce to sign up to help. “Your help is needed now more than ever,” said Dr. Kristina Box.
Holcomb said Hoosiers need to follow the requirements, wear face masks or coverings, social distance and hand hygiene to combat the spread. “We need to give some measure of relief to our healthcare workers,” he said. The most inexpensive way to do that is to wear a covering. He also reminded people to stay home if they’re sick or symptomatic.
He said businesses in counties that are orange should admit only those wearing face coverings to enter and enforce distancing as well.
A special, seasonal or commercial event for which more than 50 people will be in attendance, must submit a plan to the local health department at least seven days in advance and receive approval before proceeding. College and professional sports are included. This requirement is effective Nov. 22.
Holcomb asked people to keep holiday gatherings small, wear face coverings and gather outside, weather permitting, even in family gatherings.
“Be thankful and have hope,” he said. “This year, let our actions be the best gift we give one another.”