Fishers health officials approve new pandemic restrictions

Fishers health officials on Friday approved a new set of pandemic-related restrictions for school activities, social gatherings and restaurants in hopes of stemming the recent surge of COVID-19 cases.

“We really need to think about ways to restrict as many activities that we can that are unnecessary,” Fishers Public Health Director Monica Heltz said. “The situation is quite dire at this point.”

As approved by the Fishers Health Department’s Board of Health, the new rules will go into effect at 8 a.m. Wednesday and last until Dec. 10. At that point, the board is set to reconvene and evaluate how the measures performed. The public health order can be found here.

On Wednesday, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced he would sign an executive order taking effect Sunday that would establish restrictions for Indiana counties with the highest rates of infection, aka “red” counties, and “orange” counties, or those with the next-highest rates. The state’s color-coded map can be found here.

Fishers is located in Hamilton County, which is considered “orange.” But Fishers has its own health department that can set more restrictive rules if it wishes. In some cases, Fishers plans to align with rules for the “red” classification.

Here’s a rundown of some of the new restrictions:

Extracurricular and sporting activities

The Board of Health decided Friday that all indoor K-12 extracurricular and co-curricular activities—including IHSAA sport events—must submit a COVID-19 mitigation plan to the health department for approval.

That measure is less restrictive than Heltz’s previously proposed ban on extracurricular activities.

“There’s an opportunity to create a controlled environment where kids can continue their extracurricular activities,” Mayor Scott Fadness said. “My concern would be with the congregation of spectators.”

Fishers will limit attendance to parents, support staff and participants, which aligns with the state’s “red”-level restrictions.

Social gatherings and special events

Fishers defines social gatherings as events or assemblies—indoor or outdoor—designed specifically to bring people together for social interaction, such as wedding receptions, funeral visitations, family reunions, barbeques, picnics or club meetings.

Rather than follow the state’s restrictions for crowds of 50 people under “orange” level or 25 under the “red” level, Fishers is taking the extra step to limit social gatherings to 10 people at an indoor venue and a maximum of 25 people outside.

Special events—defined as more formal gatherings for defined purposes, such as conferences, conventions and concerts—must have approval from the city’s health department if there are more than 25 attendees. That also is consistent with the state’s rules for “red” counties.

Restaurants

For restaurants, the Board of Health called for the following:

— Masks must be worn at all times while indoors except when eating or drinking.

— All patrons or group parties must be at least six feet away from people at other tables. Party size must be limited to eight people or fewer at each table. Table service is required for indoor dining or drink service.

— No bar-top seating is permitted. Tables within a bar area may be open for table service. Customers must remain seated.

— No more than two people may wait in the lobby for a table unless social distancing can be accommodated.

— All self-service beverage or food stations offering items not already packaged must be closed.

On Friday, Fishers also extended its mask mandate another 30 days.

To enforce the new restrictions, Fishers is adjusting the schedules of its health inspectors and establishing websites for the public to report infractions.

Fishers City Attorney Chris Greisl said enforcement will begin with a verbal order, followed by a written order, then an order to close non-compliant business. Should those measures fail, he said the city will refer the matter to an attorney for further actions.

“Our first approach is always to educate and assume they want to do the right thing,” Heltz said.

As of Thursday, Fishers reported 377 new positive cases in the past 14 days. The city’s rolling seven-day testing-positivity rate, based on the Hamilton County rate published by the state, was 17.3% for testing of unique individuals.

The city maintains its own color-coded risk rating. It is now red—the most severe rating.

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