A surge in daily new COVID cases caused Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb to switch gears and follow a new color-coded system by county to fight this ongoing pandemic. The change, which began Sunday, Nov. 15, replaces the stages that had been in effect since March and is a step back for every county in the state.
If you are visiting Indiana or are a resident, here's what you need to know:
Statewide Mask Mandate
Anyone age 8 and older must wear a face mask in indoor public spaces, commercial entities, transportation services or in outdoor public spaces where social distancing is not possible throughout all of Indiana.
The mask mandate will continue indefinitely.
With COVID cases spiking across Indiana, it had become time to ditch the stages and find a new system specific to every county. Counties moving forward fall into one of four categories based primarily on that county's 7-day COVID positivity rate. The categories include: blue, yellow, orange and red; with each color having different restrictions and red being the most restrictive.
The color-coded statewide map is updated weekly at noon on Wednesdays and can be found by clicking here.
So what do the colors mean?
The mask mandate highlighted above remains regardless of the color. Social distancing is also highly recommended and expected whenever possible regardless of the color.
Regardless of the color, all businesses are required to enforce wearing masks inside their building and must post signage at their door letting visitors know masks are required.
Beyond that, the following restrictions apply for each color, but keep in mind that these are state guidelines. Each county or community can have their own guidelines that are even more restrictive. For example, Indianapolis currently has more restrictive mandates in place than the state requires.
There are some exceptions and gatherings that are currently exempt from the colors below including places of worship and schools.
This is the least restrictive of the four colors, meaning counties in blue are in the best shape in terms of weekly positive tests. Social gatherings or events of less than 250 are allowed. Gatherings where more than 250 people are expected either need to be postponed or canceled or the organizer of the gathering must submit a safety plan to their local health department at least seven days in advance and receive approval.
Social gatherings or events of less than 100 are allowed. Gatherings where more than 100 people are expected either need to be postponed or canceled or the organizer of the gathering must submit a safety plan to their local health department at least seven days in advance and receive approval.
Social gatherings or events of less than 50 are allowed. Gatherings where more than 50 people are expected either need to be postponed or canceled or the organizer of the gathering must submit a safety plan to their local health department at least seven days in advance and receive approval.
Additionally, businesses should take extra steps to reduce the number of employees allowed in common areas and take additional measures to ensure social distancing standards.
All winter indoor K-12 extracurricular activities including sporting events should reduce attendance to 25 percent capacity. Community and recreational sporting events including tournaments should limit attendance to participants, required personnel and parents, guardians and siblings of minors who are participating.
This is the most restrictive of the four colors. So, social gatherings or events of less than 25 are allowed. Gatherings where more than 25 people are expected are strongly encouraged to be postponed or canceled. However, the organizer of the gathering can and must submit a safety plan to their local health department at least seven days in advance and receive approval.
Restaurants and retail businesses are encouraged to only accept phone and online ordering with curbside pickup. Senior care activities must be canceled or suspended.
All winter indoor K-12 extracurricular activities and community and recreational sporting events including tournaments should limit attendance to participants, required personnel and parents, guardians and siblings of minors who are participating.
What Does This Mean For Hendricks County?
As I write this, Hendricks County like most of Indiana is currently in orange, and the county hasn't enforced stricter standards. As long as a county isn't in red, this is what can take place as long as social distancing guidelines are followed, which means people still need to be six feet apart:
- Restaurants indoor dining can remain open.
- Bars and bar seating in restaurants can open but patrons must be seated.
- Museums, zoos, aquariums and other entertainment and tourism-related venues can remain open.
- Stores and malls can remain open.
As Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box has said people should continue to take precautions such as washing hands, watching one's distance and wearing a mask. We hope our local businesses, residents and visitors will continue to be vigilant and adhere to each businesses' guidelines if they are more restrictive than the state.
This will become even more critical as the temperatures drop and our indoor activities become more popular.
You need to visit their websites or Facebook pages for more specific information on their cleaning and COVID policies. Many have required reservations.
Outdoor dining has ended at most of our restaurants meaning indoor seating, which has been available throughout the past few months, will become even more popular.
Masks will continue to be mandated when entering, leaving and moving around inside our restaurants. Masks can be removed while eating.
For more information on what every Hendricks County restaurant is currently offering, check out our easy-to-read and regularly updated Hendricks County Restaurant Guide.
Parks & Playgrounds
I checked with all of our park officials and all parks and playgrounds throughout Hendricks County remain open.
Local health officials have stressed, however, that parents need to remain vigilant by bringing hand sanitzer, having their children wash their hands frequently and even having their children wear facial coverings if the playground is busy and/or they are in constant contact with other children.
All parks are also open and have opened their restroom facilities, sports fields and courts.