Social gatherings in Tippecanoe County will be capped at 100 people under a new order unless the Tippecanoe County Health Department approves a larger group -- and the department is urging caution at gatherings of any size that include people from different households.
“It’s not one specific event that drafted this -- we’re just very concerned about our rising case numbers,” said health department administrator Khala Hochstedler. “And at this point, it truly is community spread in our community.”
In a health officer’s order issued Wednesday and scheduled to go into effect Nov. 4, the department defined a social gathering as a “meeting, event, assembly, or convening” at which attendees from different households gather in a “coordinated fashion,” either indoors or outdoors.
The order requires face coverings at any gathering, per Indiana’s ongoing statewide mask order, and six feet of social distance.
Tippecanoe County’s COVID-19 case count passed the 4,000 mark this week, and the Indiana State Department of Health reported 75 new COVID-19 cases in Tippecanoe County in its Wednesday update.
“Before, we would say the majority of them are Purdue cases,” Hochstedler said. “In the last two weeks, that has not been the case. Not even half of them now each day are Purdue.”
Hochstedler said the department has not been able to identify a specific activity causing the increase.
“Generally, we’re seeing people get very relaxed about mask-wearing and getting together and not social distancing,” Hochstedler said. “And so this was the first step we decided to take to hopefully address that issue and bring it down.”
Those holding gatherings with more than 100 people in attendance must submit written plans to the health department at least one week beforehand, including arrangements for event capacity, COVID-19 symptom screening for staff and volunteers, and social distancing, face covering, and cleaning measures.
The order does not apply to a range of locations, including schools, offices, stores, and restaurants. Religious services are also excluded, though the department prompts religious organizations to continue following existing guidelines for churches and faith groups.
Hochstedler also said the department remains concerned about people’s plans to gather for the upcoming holiday season.
“We’re hoping this is a reminder to the community, and a wake-up call, that we’re still in the middle of a pandemic,” Hochstedler said. “And we’re hoping that we don’t have to take any further action or restrictions, and that we can slow down the spread, but we can’t have both hospitals filled and the amount of cases that we have per day going into winter and the colder months.”