ANDERSON — The Madison County Health Department is preparing new restrictions in expectation that the county will receive a “red” designation as early as next week from the state.
Currently, Madison County is designated “orange” by the Indiana State Department of Health. The state’s color-coded scale ranges from blue at the low end of the COVID-19 spread, ascending to yellow, orange and then red at the top end.
“Unfortunately, we are seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases,” Dr. Stephen Wright, the county’s health officer, said Wednesday. “We need to be vigilant about mitigation measures.
“While we hope Madison County does not enter the Red Zone as defined by the governor, we want to inform the public that if we are determined to be red, additional restrictions will need to be in place,” he said.
Stephenie Grimes, administrator of the county health department, expressed surprise Wednesday that the county had remained in the “orange” designation.
“Those designations are based on statistics that are a week old,” she said. “We expect the county to be designated red possibly as early as next week.”
The state designation is based on the following data: number of cases per day; number of positive cases over seven days; positivity test rate across seven days; and an increase or decrease in cases compared to the previous week.
The positivity rate in Madison County was 8% Sunday before rocketing past 14% Monday, Grimes said, adding that 204 new coronavirus cases were reported in the county Wednesday alone.
Once the county is designated as “red,” Wright will issue a health order with new restrictions. The Madison County commissioners would then be asked to adopt an emergency health order.
The proposed restrictions would include limiting seating at local restaurants to 50% of capacity and maintaining at least 6 feet between all tables; gyms, fitness facilities and similar facilities would limit capacity to 50%; event venues would be required to restrict attendance to 20% of capacity while providing for social distancing and breathing masks.
“I believe we will continue to see the high number of cases through February or March,” Grimes said. “It is a result of the holiday season and family gatherings.”
Grimes noted that staff and students are not contracting the coronavirus in local schools.
“They are getting them at sleepovers and small gatherings,” she explained.
Grimes is concerned about the start of the holiday Black Friday shopping season.
Some stores are reducing their hours, which will bring more people into the stores at a time, she noted, expressing hope that store management will require staff and shoppers to wear masks or will limit the number of people allowed into a store at a time.
While no major coronavirus outbreaks plague long-term care facilities in Madison County, testing for the coronavirus is on the rise locally.
The county health department has tested more than 2,000 people for the coronavirus within the past week. With more tests administered, Grimes hopes the positivity rate will decline.
“Right now I think more people are paying attention to what is taking place,” Grimes said. “People can’t help but pay attention to the pandemic when they know someone who has contracted COVID-19 or is in quarantine.”
The health department will start rapid testing for people showing symptoms of the coronavirus on Monday. Results will be available within 20 minutes.
Drive-thru testing is scheduled for Dec. 19 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Harrah’s Hoosier Park Racing & Casino and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Beulah Park in Alexandria.
More testing is scheduled for Dec. 16 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Pendleton Heights High School parking lot and on Jan. 6 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Hoosier Park.