AUBURN — DeKalb County Health Officer Dr. Mark Souder has issued a “public health order” affecting social gatherings, events, bars, restaurants and businesses.
The order responding to the coronavirus pandemic was issued Nov. 20.
The rules took effect at midnight Nov. 22 and continue through Dec. 12.
However, “This order is subject to renewal if the case statistics do not improve,” Souder added.
As promised earlier in the week, the order is similar to one issued Nov. 17 by Allen County.
Souder’s order differs by adding a section that requires wearing of masks for customers in retail stores and employees in certain workplace situations.
“We’re not getting nearly the cooperation at our Kroger, Walmart, in particular, stores with mask-wearing,” that he would like to see, Souder said.
“We know we have a civil right not to do some things, but we don’t have a civil right to spread disease,” he added.
The order requires stores to enforce a policy of “mask-wearing or receiving no goods or services,” Souder said. “It is being enforced in other areas. You don’t get away with that at Menards in Angola or Fort Wayne, fox example.”
He added, “I’m willing to pursue an ordinance with penalties for people who won’t wear masks when required, if it becomes necessary. I hope in place of that, we’ll get great cooperation for a very important community effort to stop the virus spread.
“We’re very concerned about the hospitalizations, and that was the main driving force for these actions, because the medical system is getting extremely burdened,” Souder said.
Health care workers “can only work so much a day, and they can only take care of so many people in a day,” he said.
The order sets attendance limits for both red and orange status under Indiana’s color-coded system for the degree of COVID-19 spread. On Nov. 18, DeKalb County entered red status, indicating the highest level of spread.
DeKalb County is guaranteed to be under red status rules until at least Dec. 9. The first chance to return to orange status was Nov. 24, but a county must remain orange for two weeks before relaxing the red-status rules.
Under DeKalb County’s specific rules, hosts of social gatherings or events must obtain approval of a safety plan from the county health department to exceed the statewide limit of 25 people when in red status or 50 people in orange status.
For social gatherings and events, the DeKalb County Health Department will approve no more than 100 people if the county is in red status — as it is now — with a maximum of 250 under orange status.
The order sets special rules for social gatherings and events at sites “with multiple, clearly separate areas, such as separate banquet rooms, conference rooms, or multiple sports fields.” At those venues, the health department can approve groups of up to 100 people during red status and 250 under orange in each separate area at the site.
A multi-site venue must ensure that people from the separate areas do not mingle, the order says. It also must ensure 6 feet of social distancing between individuals or households; provide separate restroom facilities for each area; provide hand sanitizer; and post messages that attendance is prohibited if a person is sick or was recently exposed to COVID-19.
Community recreational sports leagues also are limited to 100 people in red status or 250 in orange, including participants, personnel, and spectators.
When in red status, “restaurants, bars, taverns, nightclubs and other establishments providing in-person food and drink service” must be closed from midnight to 5 a.m. They are limited to 50% of indoor seating capacity, but can have 100% of outdoor capacity. Outdoor tent seating is permitted only if the tent has at least two open-air sides for maximum ventilation.
Bar seating must be closed, with table seating limited to six people per table, who must be at least 6 feet away from people at other tables.
Self-service food stations such as buffets and salad bars are not permitted unless a staff member serves patrons.
Retail stores and retail food establishments must posts signs saying customers must wear masks “or they will receive no goods or services inside the facility.” Curbside service and/or delivery can be provided to customers who cannot wear masks or face shields.
Employees at retail stores, retail food establishments or workplaces may wear face shields if they have physician-documented health conditions.
Workplaces of all kinds are to require employees to wear masks when within 10 feet of another person.
Under red status, gyms, exercise and fitness centers are limited to 50% capacity. The rule applies to all exercise and fitness/workout facilities or gyms, including yoga studios, dance studios, karate studios, martial arts studios, and other similar fitness centers.