Howard County is declaring a public health emergency as a result of COVID-19, and further restrictions will be put into place on Friday.

The Howard County Commissioners signed an emergency ordinance today declaring that the outbreak of coronavirus is a public health emergency. On Friday beginning at 5 p.m. the county’s travel alert will be upgraded to orange, and for two weeks all non-essential businesses are to close.

“The commissioners fully understand the burden that this has placed on many citizens in our community,” said Commissioner Paul Wyman. “The risk of doing nothing is too great. Therefore, we are erring on the side of protecting the health and well-being of all of our citizens. We ask that all citizens do their part to help us get on the other side of this pandemic. I have witnessed our community rise to the challenge in the face of adversity on many occasions, and I do believe this time will be no different. Please take the time to look after those in need, check on your neighbors, and be kind to everyone you encounter. God bless Howard County.”

The emergency ordinance adds to the restrictions put in place by the commissioners after a regularly scheduled meeting on Monday. These new restrictions include:

- Raising the county’s travel alert to orange, permitting only essential travel. Essential travel includes driving to and from work, travel related to medical care, travel for food, groceries, medication, essential household goods, hygiene products, and other essential services.

- For a period of two weeks, only critical essential businesses shall remain open. All other non-essential businesses shall be closed.

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- Critical essential businesses that may remain open include, but are not limited to:

  • Essential city of Kokomo and Howard County government service offices
  • Grocery stores
  • Funeral homes
  • All health care service providers including doctor offices, hospitals, pharmacies, and therapy establishments
  • Banks, lending institutions, and all other related businesses
  • Gas stations and auto repair businesses
  • Convenience stores
  • “Dollar” stores
  • Daycare facilities
  • Restaurants and bars offering carry out, delivery, and drive-up only
  • Utility and trash services
  • Airports
  • Postal services, Fed Ex, and UPS
  • Veterinarian clinics
  • Home improvement/hardware stores
  • Hotels and motels
  • Laundromats
  • Public and private transportation including Spirit of Kokomo
  • Agricultural operations and pet stores
  • Legal services
  • Social service agencies such as Rescue Mission, Bona Vista, CAM, and Salvation Army

The ordinance noted that the restrictions could be revisited “as the COVID-19 circumstances change and are subject to revision as deemed appropriate for the health and well-being of Howard County citizens.”

Kokomo Mayor Tyler Moore submitted a supporting statement for the ordinance as well.

“Due to the heightened situation regarding the COVID-19 outbreak and the potential severity of the health risk to our citizens, the city of Kokomo joins the Howard County Board of Commissioners in advocating for strong and necessary precautions,” said Moore. “We believe these precautions are most appropriate for the protection of our citizens and for the purpose of aggressively mitigating the spread of this deadly virus.”