Ripley County elevates to level red, adds new COVID-19 restrictions

Dr. David Welsh

RIPLEY COUNTY — The Ripley County Health Department has announced new COVID-19 restrictions in addition to those set forth by Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb’s Executive Order 20-48.

“Unfortunately we have treaded into new and worse territory. We’ve had an increase in deaths and positive cases,” Ripley County Health Officer Dr. David Welsh said. “There’s more cases at the hospital and in the city. Our positivity rate has gone up dramatically and it is affecting what can be done safely in the community.”

The following restrictions were implemented in Ripley County on Thursday, Nov. 19:

Food service

  • Food establishments shall maintain a 50 percent maximum occupancy and bars shall maintain a 25 percent maximum occupancy, those at the bar must be seated with 6-foot social distancing required
  • 6-foot separation of seating is required for all food establishments
  • No more than one household at a socially distanced table is allowed
  • No Buffets permitted or self-service drink stations
  • Carryout/curbside pickup only is highly recommended
  • Restricted hours of operation are under consideration as of 11/19/2020 and will be reviewed on a weekly basis
  • No Ripley County temporary food permits will be issued until further notice

Personal service

  • Physical fitness class sizes should be limited to maintain social distancing
  • Equipment must be spaced to accommodate 6-foot social distancing and sanitized after each use
  • Salons must close waiting room areas and have clients only enter at scheduled appointment times, no more than one client per stylist at a time

Entertainment

  • Movie theaters will be contacted individually to review circumstances

Other

  • It is highly recommended offices are to be open to the public by appointment only.
  • It is also highly recommended that employees work from home if possible.

Schools

  • Ripley County School Corporations have been contacted directly

These red level restrictions will be in place until Ripley County has maintained two weeks of orange level requirements. The county can then be demoted to level orange status and restrictions.

Governor Holcomb’s Executive Order 20-48 can be accessed online at https://www.in.gov/gov/governor-holcomb/newsroom/executive-orders/.

Keeping schools and businesses open safely

“What’s compounded is we have had events and gatherings recently where people attended who were having symptoms. We have had people attend (events) who were waiting on test results,” Welsh said. “When those tests come back positive other people have to quarantine and even worse they find out they are positive and now other people have become positive.”

Welsh said the local community had done well earlier this year combating COVID-19 cases. He knows residents can do it again by washing their hands, covering their mouths, staying home if sick and wearing a mask.

“My personal objective is keeping the schools open safely, to keep businesses open safely,” Welsh said. “We can’t do that if people are ignoring some basic acts.”

Welsh has met with administrators from schools in Ripley County to provide details on how red level restrictions and the governor’s restrictions will impact day to day operations.

“The schools are doing a great job. I’ve been asked if the schools should be open, if kids or grandkids should be going,” Welsh said. “Quite frankly, the schools are one of the safest places to be in the county. The problem is coming from what is being done when they are not in school.”

Schools will continue to social distance and conduct contact tracing. The new restrictions will mostly deal with sporting events and limiting crowd sizes.

“Some of that is still being worked out, but for instance at basketball games it will be just the players, the coaches, sports staff and each player will be able to have two parents or guardians attend,” Welsh said.

Schools are also looking into live streaming swimming events.

“We’re still working out situations for cheer, dance and band, but right now the numbers aren’t safe to have them in the gymnasium,” Welsh said. “The best thing we can do is have people practice the good practices so we can get back to orange so that cheer, dance and band can get back in the gym.”

Welsh said COVID-19 is now severely impacting those in all age groups and not just seniors.

“We have all ages getting the virus and getting very sick. We are also finding out that people who get it, they don’t just get over it like some people think,” Welsh said. “There’s actually a new term for people who’ve continued to have lingering symptoms. They call that a ‘long hauler’. There are some long term ramifications that we are just finding out. ”

Welsh said some who are no longer infectious with COVID-19 still have trouble with being able to taste and smell or they are still fatigued and can’t participate in the same amount of physical activity as before they were diagnosed.

Welsh also mentioned there is concern among doctors for some young athletes and whether or not they should have a cardiac clearance to participate in sports.

Vaccine information

According to Welsh, the first of two COVID-19 vaccines is showing good progress and effectiveness.

“When those roll out that will help. There’s going to be more vaccines coming out in the early spring,” Welsh said. “It is not like we have to hold that hill indefinitely, but we have to maintain our efforts as other tools get into our tool box.”

The early vaccine will be distributed to Margaret Mary Health and should be available soon, according to Welsh. A tiering system has been set up to determine what order people will be considered for COVID-19 vaccination.

Welsh said Eli Lilly and Company just received emergency approval for a drug to treat COVID-19 as well.

“I know everyone is tired about this COVID thing, and I am too, but we still have to do things to help protect our family, friends and neighbors, ” Welsh said.

Welsh provided the following message to Ripley County residents:

I need everyone’s help. We are in a worse spot, but we know what works. It’s not like March when we weren’t sure. I’m confident with everyone’s cooperation we can get back on track, we can get things back to orange and even yellow. Let’s get things back because we want to make sure schools stay open and extracurricular activities continue because that is so important to the health of the students. If you’re at risk, please stay at home and help your neighbor out who is at risk to pick up things. We’re trying to do everything we can to keep businesses open and safely. I would ask for restaurants and people to utilize drive-thru and pick up. Please patronize your local establishments. They need all of our assistance. We are a community. When part of us does better, we will all do better.

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