In a move anticipated by local health officials and community leaders, the Indiana Department of Health on Wednesday downgraded Jefferson County’s advisory status from “orange” to “red” in terms of community spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The county had been edging closer to “red” status — the state’s highest infection rate in terms of community spread — for several weeks and that downgrade finally became effective on Wednesday.
The announcement comes just one day after the Jefferson County Health Department (JCHD) announced that it will receive its first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine later this week with plans to begin distributing the shots to specific groups starting on Monday, Jan. 11.
As of Tuesday, the state had reported a total of 2,236 cases of COVID-19 in Jefferson County with 38 total deaths. The county currently has 743 active cases. The health department issued a statement on Wednesday that the downgrade to “red” status was “not unexpected as the county has seen our positive cases raise over the past few weeks.”
According to executive orders issued by Gov. Eric Holcomb, counties zoned “red” face tighter restrictions on social gathering. Moving forward the new limits will limit attendance at indoor events to 25 or fewer people with social distancing and face masks also required. Other guidelines include:
• Vulnerable populations should remain isolated and senior center activities are suspended.
• All businesses must adhere to strict social distancing guidelines and curbside pick up is preferred. Businesses are also required to place clearly visible signage at their public and employee entrances notifying everyone that face coverings are required.
• Businesses should only admit those who wear face coverings properly— which means covering both the nose and mouth — and practicing social distancing.
• Community recreational sports leagues and tournaments may continue with attendance limited to participants, required personnel and parents/guardians and their minor children. Sports leagues may institute even stricter regulations.
• Extracurricular and co-curricular activities at K-12 schools may continue but attendance is limited to participants, support personnel and parents/guardians plus their minor children. However, schools may institute stricter regulations and all students and attendees must be socially distanced and wear face coverings.
Meanwhile, local distribution of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is slated to begin with various groups who are most at risk to come into contact with the coronavirus through their line of work.
Those eligible to pre-register for the vaccine include first responders — firefighters, law enforcement, emergency medical services, reservists and volunteers who have in-person contact with the public — coroners and funeral directors who have contact with infectious material and licensed and unlicensed healthcare workers who have in-person contact with patients or infectious material in any healthcare setting.
Eligible individuals should receive an invitation and registration link from their employer, professional association, or the State of Indiana — through the Indiana Department of Health, Professional Licensing Agency, Family & Social Services Administration, Department of Homeland Security or another state agency — so if you meet one of those qualifications be patient, make sure your email is updated with Indiana Professional Licensing Agency and continue to check your email and SPAM. If you think you are eligible and haven’t received an invitation, ask your employer.
The JCHD will be following the Indiana Department of Health vaccine plan phases approach — available at www.coronavirus.in.gov/vaccine — and there is not a waiting list for the vaccine. Once vaccine becomes available to different populations the Jefferson County Health Department will make related announcements through local media, the Jefferson County Web Site www.jeffersoncounty.in.gov and the Jefferson County Health Department Indiana Facebook page.
In addition, JCHD will be utilizing an online scheduling tool provided by the Indiana Department of Health to streamline the process. Those without internet access can be assisted by local health department staff.
For additional information, call the JCHD at 812-273-1942.
The JCHD urges residents to mask up, social distance and hand wash/sanitize to avoid exposure to the virus.