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City shares capacity and mask updates

On Tuesday, March 30, the City of Huntington announced two coming revisions to its COVID-19 mitigation policies. These revisions include an early April return to full capacity for local businesses, followed by a locally enforced mask requirement becoming an advisory on May 31.

On Tuesday, April 6, the city anticipates lifting all venue capacity restrictions at businesses and other entities within city limits when the county’s COVID-19 advisory level is orange, yellow or blue.

Pending the state’s announced steps being made official in the coming week, Mayor Richard Strick intends to revise Executive Order No. 4 to remove local capacity limits and transition from a locally enforced mask requirement to an advisory policy on Monday, May 31.

Local businesses and other entities within the City of Huntington may expect to resume full operations starting on that date while still following social distancing guidelines.

“The important thing is to see that venue capacity limits are going away and we are moving forward,” Huntington County Interim Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Pflieger said.

In formulating the revised policies, city officials reviewed local COVID-19 data and consulted public health officials including Dr. Pflieger.

While Huntington County has made substantial progress in slowing the spread, the community’s positivity rates and number of new weekly cases place Huntington County at a “yellow” advisory level. To view the Indiana Department of Health’s color-coded county metrics map, visit coronavirus.in/gov/2393.htm.

The locally enforced mask requirement is intended to allow more time for Huntington residents who choose to get vaccinated to receive the vaccine. Immunity in vaccinated individuals is not achieved until about six weeks after the first dose of the Moderna and Pfizer series or two weeks after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The local policy applies within city limits and requires anyone 8 years old and up to wear a mask covering their mouth and nose in indoor public places. The order will end on Monday, May 31, when it becomes a mask advisory, unless community spread of COVID-19 demands a further extension.

“The reason for that eight week difference between the capacity restrictions rolling back and the mask mandate becoming advisory is because we recognize in that eight weeks there’s a space of time for us to reach a threshold of vaccine and viral immunity that ultimately will transform COVID-19 from a public health issue to a matter of personal health and deliberation,” Huntington Mayor Strick said.

In remarks to the Huntington City Council during its regular meeting on Tuesday, March 30, Dr. Pflieger said masks are an affordable and useful tool in slowing the spread until more residents have an opportunity to be vaccinated.

“Masks are a placeholder until you get vaccinated,” Dr. Pflieger said.
Dr. Pflieger also noted new study findings released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and

Prevention showing the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to be highly effective in reducing asymptomatic cases, further limiting the spread of the virus that  causes COVID-19 by vaccinated individuals.

On Nov. 24, 2020, Mayor Strick issued Executive Order No. 4 tying local venue capacity limits to the state’s county metrics map and enforcing the governor’s mask order within city limits. Passed the same day, City Council Resolution 16-R-20 extended the measures throughout the duration of the public health emergency.

Gov. Holcomb announced during an address on Tuesday, March 23, that he would lift the statewide mask mandate as of Tuesday, April 6 and place all decisions about venue capacity in the hands of local officials. The governor also stated he would extend Indiana’s declared public health emergency until at least Friday, April 30.

Gov. Holcomb also said during his address that the state will continue to require masks in all state facilities and all vaccination and COVID-19 testing sites until further notice. K-12 schools will continue under current face covering requirements through the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.

Businesses and other entities operating within city limits will retain the right to enact their own mask policies after May 31. The City will continue to support employers and employees that enforce businesses’ mask policies.

Indiana residents 16 and older are eligible now to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. To register, visit ourshot.in.gov or call 2-1-1. Local assistance with scheduling an appointment is available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday by calling 356-2900.