ALBION — Noble County Health Officer Dr. Terry Gaff has issued new local health restrictions in concert with other northeast Indiana counties as COVID-19 activity has spiked across the region.

Although Noble County received an orange rating in this week’s state metrics, Noble is surrounded by red counties on multiple sides as northeast Indiana has become one of the state’s worst hotspots for virus activity.

Northeast Indiana counties have opted to work together and pass similar new guidelines to create consistent rules throughout the area. Allen County was the first to act earlier this week and Gaff is now joining Noble County.

Gov. Eric Holcomb’s newest executive order limits gathering sizes to 50 people for counties rated orange and 25 people for counties rated red without submission of a safety plan to the local health department and Gaff’s order sets maximums for the health department to even consider a safety.

Noble County is setting those maximums at 250 people at orange level and 100 people at red level. Any gatherings or events larger will not even be considered for approval.

The local order also impacts restaurant and bar service, similar to limits put in place recently by Allen County. Those measures include:

• Capacity is limited to 50% of indoor capacity and 100% of outdoor capacity. Outdoor tent seating is permitted only if the tent has at least two open-air sides for maximum ventilation.

• Establishments must be closed and cleared of customers between the hours of 12-5 a.m.

• Bar seating shall be closed; table seating only. Table seating within a bar area is permitted.

• Table seating is limited to 10 people per table and tables must be spaced such that individuals will be at least 6 feet away from individuals seated at other tables.

• Self-service style food stations (buffets, salad bars, etc.) are not permitted unless a staff member serves patrons.

The local order also includes some new guidelines restricting gyms and fitness centers, but only if the county enters a red rating, which it hadn’t this week.

If at any point in the future Noble County does slip into the red — positivity would need to rise about 15% and the county was about 2 percentage points away from that this week — all exercise and fitness/workout facilities or gyms, including yoga studios, dance studios, karate studios, martial arts studios, and other similar fitness centers would also be restricted to 50% capacity.

Per the governor’s executive order, the county must adopt more restrictive measures immediately if it increases in rating, but must obtain a lower rating for two consecutive weeks before less restrictive measures can resume.

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