Howard County enforces tougher restrictions to reduce spread of virus

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Officials in Howard County are implementing further restrictions to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Some in the community think it goes too far.

On Friday, March 27, the Howard County Board of Commissioners passed a new ordinance ordering any stores that are still open to place signs where non-essential items are stating they can not be purchased.

You can now find these signs in big box stores like Walmart, Target and Lowes.

All businesses were instructed to follow the new directive no later than noon on Saturday, March 28.

The board is deeming the following goods or departments non-essential:

  • Jewelry
  • Furniture
  • Home & Lawn Decor
  • Toys or Games
  • Carpet, Rugs, Flooring
  • Non-emergency appliances
  • Music, Books, Magazines
  • Craft & Art supplies
  • Paint
  • Entertainment Electronics

The commissioners, county health officials and Kokomo’s mayor came up with this list.

All non-essential businesses across the state have already been shut down due to Governor Eric Holcomb’s stay-at-home order, but these new restrictions go a step further because it applies to stores still open. Shoppers can not purchase any of the items the county considers non-essential.

“People were still having the opportunity to go out to our big box stores because they were offering shopping experiences for people who are purchasing non-essential items,” said Paul Wyman, president of the Howard County Board of Commissioners.

Wyman said officials have been receiving complaints from businesses about customers purchasing non-essential items and causing longer lines and more people in stores.

“They are spending two to three hours buying all this stuff they don’t need, all this non-essential stuff, and exposing me and I take it home and risk exposing it to my family,” said Wyman. Those were some of the concerns he was hearing from employees at retail stores.

The county says this goes against limiting public gatherings and social distancing guidelines.

The new ordinance, along with the already declared Public Health Emergency in Howard County, is expected to last until at least April 3.

Wyman said he does not think it will be business as usual after Friday. He does anticipate modifications to restrictions moving forward.

“We don’t want to be one of those communities with the worst case scenario with huge spikes and refrigeration units,” said Wyman.

Some families think this goes too far. They do not believe this will prevent someone from going to another county to buy what he or she wants.

“They are just going to other cities, this isn’t stopping anything. I am not sure why this ban was put into effect,” said Dan Parvin, owner of Blue Line Photography in Howard County.

Parvin already had to temporarily close his business because it is considered non-essential. He understands why his store needed to close and the reasons behind the stay-at-home order.

“It is hard enough with the families and the business owners going through this and then to tack on worrying about what you can and can not buy,” he said.

County leaders tell us they know these charges are difficult but they believe it is an important step to keep more families from getting sick.

Wyman said hospitals have been able to operate efficiently to this point and that’s mostly because of the tough and sometimes drastic steps taken by the county.

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