By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – The city of Warsaw is once again putting some limits on the number of people gathering for city meetings in an effort to slow the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.
Mayor Joe Thallemer announced the changes Wednesday morning at a news conference at city hall.
- The city will limit indoor gatherings in city buildings to no more than 10 people.
- The city will encourage the use of masks in city buildings,
- The city will spread out seating in council chambers to accommodate social distancing.
- Some park activities will move to an outdoor location if appropriate. Indoor activities will be limited to no more than 20 people.
If the state health department moves Kosciusko County to a red status, all of the city’s public meetings would transition to a virtual format using the city’s live streaming service.
The decision already follows a series of cancellations in the community over concerns with COVID-19 as officials watch another spike that appears to be more contagious and affects younger people more often.
A day earlier, Warsaw Community Schools’ board of trustees voted 5-1 to reinstate a mask mandate, effective Friday, Sept. 10.
The new policies come just days before a weekend packed with activities in Warsaw, including a parade in honor of Sept. 11, a doubleheader event in the downtown with Kosciusko Kettleheads beer tasting event combined with Taste of Kosciusko, as well as a two-day John Dillinger festival at the Historical Museum.
Thallemer said many of those events are outdoors, which is less of a concern than indoor gatherings, and that organizers are working with the health department to review protocols.
Thallemer was joined at the news conference by Kosciusko County Commissioner Cary Groninger, County Health Officer Dr. William Remington and Bowen Center CEO Kurt Carlson.
The county recorded 300 new cases in the past week and Remington said the current positivity rate of 12.5% is the highest since mid-January.
Carlson said they are seeing a continued increase in the number of people seeking tests. Staff at the county fairgrounds provided nearly 200 tests on Tuesday, Sept. 7.
About 43 percent of those in line were showing symptoms consistent with coronavirus, Carlson said.
He’s also noticed a shift in demographics among those seeking tests.
“In the past, people who were testing were older. Now, the greatest number of tests are for 11 to 20-year-olds and 21 to 30-year-olds,” Carlson said.
New hours for testing at the fairgrounds are Tuesdays from 2-6 p.m., Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Remington continued to urge people who are eligible to receive a vaccine.
The county also made a plea for donations to help cover the cost of renting the Shrine Building at the fairgrounds.
Remington said a state grant used to assist with testing is insufficient.
“We have a rent check due every month. We could use some help with that. Please consider reaching out to the health department or the mayor or Kurt Carlson of the Bowen Center,” Remington said.
The city and county have already contributed with money from the CARES Act.
“The coffer is getting lighter,” Remington said.