| Richmond Palladium-Item
Nurse, other health care workers, first to receive COVID-19 vaccine
The first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were given in the U.S. on December 14.
RICHMOND, Ind. — The citations are printed.
Now, the plan for personnel to issue those citations is also in place. Four safety awareness inspectors will enforce COVID-19 restrictions in Wayne County.
Wednesday morning, the Wayne County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding of an interlocal agreement with the city of Richmond. Under that agreement, the city will utilize CARES Act money to fund the four inspectors through Jan. 31.
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“We’re beyond trying to educate people,” said Ken Paust, president of the commissioners. “We’ve tried and we’ve tried. It’s time now that those who blatantly are violating this are going to get warned and then they’ll shut you down. At least for a day, anyway.”
Gatherings that exceed 50 people have frustrated the commissioners and members of the county’s health board, which met Tuesday. Especially, when there are no masks or social distancing.
“I know this past weekend folks showed me stuff on Facebook where there was a party with 250 people,” Paust said. “An event that was held, no masking, you didn’t see people social distancing. That’s just plain blatant.”
What are the restrictions in Wayne County?
Wayne County maintained its orange designation in the Indiana State Department of Health metrics Wednesday with a 2.5 score. The orange designation restricts gatherings to 50 people. If the county were to move into the highest red designation, the restriction would lower to 25 people.
The metrics indicated Wayne County had nearly four times the needed number of cases per 100,000 people in the previous seven days to qualify for the red designation. However, the county’s seven-day positivity rate of 13.25% fell below the 15% mark needed for the red designation.
Pete Zaleski initiated an enforcement discussion during Tuesday’s health board meeting. He also saw online photos of the 250-person gathering.
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“The rest of the county’s really working hard, wearing a mask and trying to do the right thing, then you’ve got these events that are really pushing us in the wrong direction,” he said.
Christine Stinson, the executive director of the Wayne County Health Department, would train and supervise the four new inspectors. They would issue warnings, then proceed to shut down events. They would have the authority to shut down businesses for one day, then for longer if there’s still no compliance.
Paust said Stinson’s staff has “bent over backward” to work with businesses during the novel coronavirus pandemic so that they could continue operating.
“We’re not looking to close any business,” Paust said. “We want all of our businesses to stay open. The only thing that we’re asking is that you work with us and do what we need to do to keep people safe while you’re open for business. We want you to be able to stay in business, and we want your patrons to be here next year to come to your business.”
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The latest COVID cases and deaths in Wayne County
When the state updated county COVID-19 statistics Wednesday, Wayne County had reached 4,533 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases and 124 COVID-related deaths. In December, there have been 1,024 cases and 33 deaths among county residents. At least one county resident has died of COVID for 33 consecutive days, dating to Nov. 12.
Frustration with violations of gathering sizes, masking and social distancing was expressed at the Tuesday and Wednesday meetings. Violations were described as “in your face,” “blatant” and “total defiance.”
Commissioner Mary Anne Butters immediately saw eight men without masks Tuesday when entering a grocery store. She said the owner has been met with “violent hostility” when trying to enforce masking within the store. Butters said those not wearing masks are “serial killers.”
“We just cannot allow this to continue,” she said.