The city of Indianapolis and the Marion County Public Health Department are stepping up enforcement of the public health order created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. During a virtual news conference Tuesday, Mayor Joe Hogsett and MCPHD Director Dr. Virginia Caine expressed disappointment in several venues not following the order over the weekend and announced all businesses and venues found in violation will now immediately receive a $1,000 fine. Caine also detailed an updated public health order, which includes guidelines for school sports this fall.
Among the venues found in violation of the order is the Indianapolis Speedrome. Our partners at WISH-TV report the venue saw thousands of fans packing the stands on Saturday, with only a few wearing masks.
The health department cited the venue and is seeking a $1,000 fine, saying the 25% capacity limit, social distancing guidelines, and mask requirement were not enforced.
“This weekend, several businesses flouted the guidance that is in place to stop COVID from spreading,” said Hogsett. “The sight of spectators at a venue packing the stands without masks is beyond discouraging. We have spent months clawing our way to where we are. To see others possibly squander that in the course of just one afternoon is painful.”
Caine mentioned two other businesses found in violation, though the names of those businesses were not revealed.
To date, the public health department says it has received more than 400 complaints of potential violations to the public health order with two citations being issued. Caine says enforcement will now change.
“We will now immediately start issuing $1,000 fines for businesses and venues in violation,” said Caine. “We take this seriously…and we know that we’ve got to step up our enforcement. The education and the warning period is over.”
The updated public health order says bars and nightclubs will remain closed, including 21 and over venues that did not have a full menu prior to March 1.
Outdoor dining, as well as indoor dining at all-age restaurants, will remain at 50% capacity, while full-menu, age-restricted restaurants will operate at 25% indoor capacity with no bar services permitted.
Masks will continue to be required indoors when not eating or drinking.
Caine added businesses and venues that are found to be in continued, egregious violation of the order could face higher fines and potentially be shut down.
The order also gives the green light for school sports to begin, as long as schools operate under IHSAA guidelines. Football, for example, requires social distancing of six feet in the team box, no handshakes at the coin toss, and masks required on the sidelines.
Additionally, no more than 250 spectators will be allowed in the stands at school sporting events.
The updated order goes into effect Friday.
The MCPHD says the county’s seven-day coronavirus positivity rate stood at 9.2% as of August 3 and preliminary data shows that number is on the decline, according to Caine. She says the number of emergency room visits for COVID-related symptoms and hospital admissions is also on the decline, both currently averaging 18 per day.
Caine explains the updated order involving high school sports.