COVID-19 cases on the rise locally and across the state

Procedure updates have been posted on the interior doors of the Huntington County Sheriff’s Department. The department is currently closed to the public due to COVID-19 concerns.
Procedure updates have been posted on the interior doors of the Huntington County Sheriff’s Department. The department is currently closed to the public due to COVID-19 concerns. Photo by Katelynn Farley.

 On Wednesday, Nov. 11, Gov. Eric Holcomb addressed the state in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying, “unfortunately too many of us have let our guards down and assumed we won’t get it, or if we do, so be it.”

Holcomb explained that when Indiana entered Stage 5 of his “Back on Track” plan in late September, which fully reopened the state, the statewide positivity rate was at 3.9 percent. At the time of his press conference on Nov. 11, the positivity rate in Indiana was 10.3 percent.

“The number of hospitalized COVID patients is at an all-time high,” he stated. “Hospital officials tell us that in some instances their patient numbers may double over the next several weeks.”

Holcomb said he would sign an executive order, and for the next month, beginning Nov. 15, pandemic requirements will be implemented for all Hoosiers with targeted restrictions for counties that are in “orange” or “red” status – meaning the spread of COVID-19 is moderate to high in those areas.

Huntington County was in the “orange” category at press time.

These requirements for orange counties include:

• Social events limited to 50 people.

• Special events of more than 50 people will need approval from the local health department. •

Attendance at winter indoor K-12 extracurricular and co-curricular events is limited to 25 percent capacity.

• Capacity in common areas and break rooms should be reduced and users should be socially distanced.

• Community recreational sports leagues and tournaments may continue with attendance limited to participants, required personnel and parents/ guardians only.

Locally, the Huntington County Commissioners have asked residents to limit face-to-face interactions.

County offices remain open, said Bridgett Burkhart, administrative assistant for the commissioners, but folks are urged to conduct business over the phone or through email if it is possible.

Burkhart says it is an effort to “keep everyone as safe as possible.”

Precautionary measures have also been ordered by Huntington County Sherriff Chris Newton, in regards to COVID-19’s effect on emergency responders, jail staff and inmates.

Previous requests for masks to be worn into the sheriff’s department during visitation and all other business had been made, and employees within the department have received backlash from the public.

According to a social media post from the sheriff’s office made on the evening of Wednesday, Nov. 11, the department respects “an individual’s decision on the mask debate when out, but it must be worn within our facility”.

The post also reminded the public that “we can not afford to lose deputies and staff due to a potential exposure and be off work for up to 14 days each, especially within the jail.”

Due to this issue, the following precautionary measures were put in place, beginning on Wednesday, Nov. 11, due to the rise in COVID-19 cases:

• Access to the Huntington County Sheriff’s Office has been limited. According to the social media post from the Sheriff Department’s page, “If you are unsure of the importance of your situation, call dispatch at 260-356-8316. There will be no change to the handling of emergency and urgent matters.”

Calls for service:

• Deputies will respond to all emergency and high priority calls as in the past.

• As of now, Deputies will continue to respond to non-emergency calls that require the physical presence of an officer. The public is asked to understand that officers may be wearing latex gloves and offering no handshakes, as well as maintaining a safe interview distance. Deputies may also request whenever possible to communicate in open-air locations such as outdoors or on porches, etc.

• Non-emergency calls that do not require the physical presence of an officer will be handled by the officer over the telephone.

Copies of reports:

• Crash reports will, as always, be available online at www.buycrash.com.

• Copies of incident reports must be requested by filling out a public records request. Request paperwork can be found online at www.huntington.in.us/county.

Handgun permits:

• The application process begins online at www.in.gov/isp/firearms.htm. Fingerprinting for handgun permits is no longer done at the Sheriff’s office. Call 877-472-6917 to be fingerprinted. After completing steps one and two, call the Sheriff’s Office at 356-2520, leaving name and number. Office staff will make contact for appointments.

Tax warrants:

• All tax warrants will be paid online at indianataxwarrants.com or by mail to the Huntington County Sheriff’s Office.

Inmate visitation and commissary deposits:

• All lobby kiosk visitation has been suspended. Family may visit with inmates from home via video visitation.

• For visits, go to www.icsolutions.com.

• Placing funds on an inmate’s Commissary Account should be done at www.jailfunds.com.

Arrestees and courts:

• The Huntington County Courts and Jail will be fully exercising video arraignment procedures. While some court proceedings require the presence of the defendant, public access to the courtrooms may be limited at the court’s discretion.

The Huntington County Sheriff’s Office is committed to maintaining a healthy and safe environment for the public, their staff and individuals under their care and custody.

“We are very hopeful this is for a limited time and will resume normal operations as soon as possible,” the original social media post said.

Most information that may be requested can be found on the “Huntington County Sheriff’s Office” app, which is available on Apple and Android devices for a free download.

Gov. Holcomb and local officials urge citizens to do their part in stopping the spread of the virus by wearing a mask and socially distancing.

“Rather than doing the things we had been doing that allowed us to open our restaurants and shops … to full capacity … too many have said, ‘We’ll just ride it out and if I get it so be it.’

“And that brings us to where we are today.”