HUNTINGTON, Ind. (WANE) — Huntington has issued strict restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the city, including possible fines, indoor capacity limits, and a ban on live entertainment.
“This virus is something that most of us have never faced before,” Mayor Richard Strick said. “We have never had to think about what it means to live while a virus is spreading throughout the community. We’ve made mistakes. We are committed to learning from those and we are committed to doing better tomorrow.”
Huntington Mayor Richard Strick announced the restrictions on Tuesday in front of spaced out local leaders and media.
During the press conference, Strick referred to restrictions related to the restrictions Gov. Eric Holcomb announced more than two weeks ago. The restrictions are tied to a color-coded to Indiana’s dashboard and will adjust as the threat increases and decreased.
Currently, Huntington is orange but its positivity rate is on the rise. The orange status means that restaurants, bars, and gyms are only allowed to operate at 50% capacity indoors. If the county were to go red the capacity limit would drop to 25%.
No live music or karaoke will be allowed in bars while Huntington is in the orange or red stages. Social gatherings and events are limited to 50 people or 50% venue capacity, whichever is fewer.
A mask mandate is also in effect which states that a person must wear a mask while indoors. In a restaurant, a person is required to wear a mask at the table and can then remove the mask when food or drink items are presented.
Strick also asked that any college students returning to Huntington County from schools outside the county take a COVID test as soon as possible.
The biggest change is that now local police have the discretion to issue fines for individuals and businesses who violate the mask mandate.
“The last thing I want for our officers to write tickets for this,” Huntington Police Chief Chad Hacker said. “I want them to go out and they have the authority to talk to these individuals. It’s their discretion how they choose to handle it but we are going to encourage them to have conversations, talk to everybody, and hopefully, we don’t have to go to that level where an ordinance citation is written but if it does I will support the officers.”
When officers see a person not wearing a mask an officer can issue a written warning for a first offense. However, if the person has repeatedly violated the mandate the first offense is $25 dollars.
That fine will increase by $50 dollars for each additional offense.
If a situation arises where a patron is asked to leave an establishment or business and they refuse to the person could receive a trespassing or a disorderly charge. However, Chief Hacker says he is hoping that won’t happen.
“It’s all about communication,” Hacker said. “The last thing we want is to write the ticket.”
The city of Huntington will be offering grants to local businesses to help with the expense of additional heaters or awnings if they wish to create outdoor seating capacity.
The city is also commissioning volunteers to help local contact tracing and to help households home under quarantine or isolation. Free masks will also be distributed to the city and community of Huntington.
“We are all in this together whether we remember that in the moment or not,” Mayor Strick said. “It’s each of our duties to recall and remember that.”
The new changes are now in effect but will only apply to the city of Huntington and not the county.