Elkhart County, as expected, has entered red on the county metrics map on the Indiana Department of Health’s website.

This means Elkhart County will be under stricter mandates from the latest governor’s executive order, including restricting social gatherings to no more than 25 people without approval from the health department.

In order to be released from this stricter mandate, Elkhart County will need to be in a lower category for at least two weeks.

Today, Elkhart County had an increase of 311 people who tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and an increase of three who have died from it.

Nearly 9% of Wakarusa infected with coronavirus

Wakarusa is one of the smaller towns in Elkhart County, however, almost 9% of its population is infected with the novel coronavirus.

According to the Elkhart County Health Department, 8.84% of Wakarusa’s 3,863 residents have been infected with the novel coronavirus.

Elkhart and Goshen’s populations are also close to that percentage. Elkhart has three ZIP codes, with the percentage of infection of the population as follows: 46514, 5.87%; 46516, 7.07%; and 46517, 8.32%.

Goshen has two ZIP codes: 46526 and 46528. According to information provided by the health department, 46526 has 7.62% of its population infected, while 46528 has 6.42% infected.

Other population infection rates include: Bristol, 4.8%; Nappanee, 5.49%; Middlebury, 4.46%; Millersburg, 3.89%; and New Paris, 5.81%

The increase in cases is as follows:

Bristol 46507: total cases, 438, up 95, a 27.7% increase

Elkhart 46514: 2,364 total cases, up 372, an 18.7% increase

Elkhart 46516: 2,368 total cases, up 304, a 14.7% increase

Elkhart 46517: 1,977 total cases, up 299, a 17.8% increase

Goshen 46526: 2,338 total cases, up 376, a 19.2% increase

Goshen 46528: 1,688 total cases, up 282, a 20.0% increase

Nappanee 46550: 676 total cases, up 156, a 30.0% increase

Middlebury 46540: 522 total cases, up 64, a 14.0% increase

Wakarusa 46573: 315 total cases, up 38, a 13.7% increase

Millersburg 46543: 142 total cases, up 16, a 12.7% increase

New Paris 46553: 199 total cases, up 40, a 25.2% increase

Courts mostly virtual

The judges of Elkhart Circuit Court and the Elkhart Superior Courts of Elkhart County issued a statement that actual face-to-face hearings in the courts in Elkhart County will only occur for emergency and essential court hearings until they can return to more normal operations during the pandemic.

The statement issued reads: “All non-emergency and non-essential hearings will either be continued or conducted remotely (by WebEx or telephonically). Non-essential hearings in civil, domestic relations, juvenile and criminal cases, include, but are not limited to: summary domestic relations hearings, small claims hearings, eviction hearings, foreclosure hearings, collections hearings, proceedings supplemental hearings, routine criminal proceedings such as initial hearings, violation of supervision, financial compliance, status hearings and pretrial conferences. Emergency matters for which actual face-to-face hearings shall occur include essential domestic violence hearings for the protection of life or limb and required evidentiary hearings in criminal cases. In-custody criminal cases will be conducted by video conferencing.”

It is anticipated that the courts will all cooperate to conclude as many cases as they can by agreement or by conducting remote hearings, the statement reads, adding, “By following these procedures, we will eliminate all face-to-face in-court hearings except those that involve emergency or essential matters.”

Court officials said they do not anticipate having any face-to-face hearings during this time since rarely does a hearing involve an emergency or absolutely essential matter requiring a face-to-face hearing.

All jury trials set during the time that Elkhart County is in a red status will be continued to a new date. Those involved will be notified of new trial and hearing dates, so people should make certain the courts have their proper email information and address.

As a general rule, spectators and the public will be denied entrance to the courts so long as this emergency order is in effect. The public may watch a live-stream of court proceedings at https://public.courts.in.gov/incs#/.

COUNTY CLERK

The Elkhart County Court Clerk is also following this protocol. The Clerk of the Court will be available for filing protective orders, handling child support matters and providing marriage licenses by appointment only.

People should handle business with the Elkhart County Court Clerk by telephone or by electronic means as much as possible. The clerk will have a drop-box in each courthouse for depositing filings which are being made by hand with the respective courts. The clerk will also have at each courthouse a computer terminal set up to make payments.

For more information, call the clerk’s office in Goshen at 574-535-6430, or the clerk’s office in Elkhart at 574-523-2305, or by telephoning the respective court in which a case is pending. The status of pending cases may be confirmed at mycase.in.gov.

Goshen court goes virtual

Because of the rise in cases of the novel coronavirus, Goshen City Court will not have face-to-face hearings in court, according to a statement issued by City Court Judge Richard Mehl. All hearings will either be continued or conducted remotely through Zoom or telephonically. In-custody criminal cases will be conducted by video conferencing.

Mehl writes that the courts do not anticipate having any face-to-face hearing until after the first of the year. All trials set during red status will be continued to a new date. Parties will be notified of new trial and hearing dates, so make sure the courts have a good email and address on file.

As long as the emergency order is in effect, no spectators or the public will be admitted to court.

Meetings with the Clerk of the Court will be by appointment only. Most business should be conducted on the phone or online at citycourt@goshencity.com. For more information, call the clerk at 574-533-9365. The status of pending cases can be found at mycase.in.gov.

St. Joe to begin fining businesses

Businesses in St. Joseph County could now face fines if they fail to enforce a county mask order requiring employees of businesses to wear masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The St. Joseph County Commissioners passed an ordinance Tuesday allowing the county health department to fine businesses violating the order between $50 and $250 for each day that the business remains out of compliance.

Under the ordinance, the health department can only fine businesses whose employees are not wearing masks. Businesses would not face fines if their customers fail to wear masks.

Business owners and county leaders said the new ordinance comes at a crucial time with coronavirus cases surging in the area and across Indiana.

“It’s not going to solve the problem but it just gives us another vehicle to help improve compliance in public spaces,” said Dr. Mark Fox, the county’s deputy health officer.

Fox said that if the county health department learns that employees at a business are not wearing masks, they will work with that business, WSBT-TV reported.

“And if there’s a persistent disregard for that guidance, that would be the setting at which a business would be at risk of being fined,” he said.

A public health mask order has been in place in St. Joseph County since May, the South Bend Tribune reported. That order remains in effect through the end of the year and is likely to be renewed into next year. Last week, Gov. Eric Holcomb extended Indiana’s mask mandate for another month.

Noble County Health Dept. issues restrictions

Noble County’s Health Department on Wednesday issued a more restrictive order than the governor’s Executive Order 20-48.

This new order sets the upper limits on social gatherings/event safety plans that are to be reviewed by the Noble County Health Department.

“It is in no way less restrictive,” the order reads.

The order will be in effect beginning at 12:01 a.m. Sunday and will expire at 11:59 p.m. Dec. 12.

If someone is hosting a social gathering of more than 50 (while in orange) or 25 (when in red), the plan must be approved by the health department. Health officials capped the number of people they will approve for an event at 250 for orange and 100 for red.

For events, the caps are the same.

And for social gatherings and events held at multiple site venues, a safety plan must be submitted to the health department for approval. The order reads the county may approve for each separate area up to a maximum of 250 individuals per gathering or event during any time Noble County is designated orange and a maximum of 100 when designated red.

Also, venues will ensure separate social gathering and event attendees do no comingle; that within each area or site they are to ensure six feet of social distancing within tables with seating spaced to achieve and maintain social distancing between individuals or households, and for classroom, auditorium, bleacher, or other style of seating, ensure six feet of separation between individuals or households; and ensure separate and designated restroom facilities for each area/site and designated facilities must be sufficient for the number of attendees in each site or area.

Hand sanitizer must also be provided or other prevention supplies at each site. Organizers must also message that attendance is prohibited if people are sick or have recently been exposed to COVID-19.

Community recreational sports leagues and tournaments will also be restricted in number, and this number includes participants, personnel and spectators. Those limits are 250 for orange and 100 for red.

Restaurants, bars, taverns, nightclubs and other in-person food and drink services are ordered to limit capacity to 50% indoor and 100% outdoor. Outdoor is permitted only if a tent has at least two open-air sides.

These establishments must be closed and cleared of customers between midnight and 5 a.m.

Bar seating will be closed. Table seating only will be allowed, including table seating in the bar area. Table seating is limited to 10 people per table and tables must be spaced so that individuals will be six feet away from individuals seated at other tables.

Self-service style food stations will not be permitted unless a staff member serves patrons.

Gyms, exercise and fitness centers will be restricted to 50% capacity.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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