Vanderburgh Co. Health Board votes for stricter COVID-19 restrictions

Mayor Lloyd Winnecke says he will not act on these recommendations at this time

Mayor not acting on health board's vote for stricter COVID-19 guidelines

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - The Vanderburgh County Health Board has voted to recommend tough new restrictions to stop of the recent surge of COVID-19 cases.

However, Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke tells 14 News that he will not act on those recommendations at this time.

Instead, Mayor Winnecke said the city will proceed with his executive order, which takes effect Monday.

In a virtual meeting on Thursday afternoon, the Vanderburgh County Health Board voted to recommend social gatherings and indoor sporting events with no more than 50 people.

The board is also recommending 50% capacity for bars and restaurants. Bars would also be required to close at midnight.

The mayor’s executive order requires that any social gathering over 125 people must be approved by the Vanderburgh County Health Department. Mayor Winnecke says the data he’s received from the state does not support restrictions on bars and restaurants at this time.

In comparison, Stage 5 of Indiana’s “Back on Track” reopening plan allows social gatherings up to 500 people.

Any gathering larger than this number would need to be approved by the local health department.

Mayor Lloyd Winnecke says he is sticking to his executive order as written, and is rejected the board’s recommendations.

“We had a lot of really good input. To change the executive order before it even takes effect, I think would be really, really confusing," said Winnecke.

“These businesses have made hiring decisions, they’ve made inventory purchases with the thought that they are now open. I have to consider the issue of commerce, the issue of our economy, of employment, and public health.”

14 News followed up with Vanderburgh County leaders to see if they, too, would be enacting more restriction to cover the rest of the county.

County Commissioner Jeff Hatfield says he fully supports the mayor’s latest order.

When asked why the entire county did not also enact more regulations, he said much of the county is rural, outside the Evansville city limits, and Governor Eric Holcomb’s Stage 5 regulations seem to fit the bill.

“I’m not willing to going back to buying into the idea that somehow, individual local responses are going to help,” says Hatfield, "when it’s proven that those methods of shutting down companies and restricting movement and so on and so forth, that somehow that’s a magic bullet, I don’t believe it is.”

What if a large event was hosted just outside city limits, like at Burdette Park for example, and those who attend the event go back into the city to eat or shop or work?

“It’s a much bigger problem than that," says Hatfield. "We needed a national response, and we didn’t get one. We were then left with a 50-state response, and that hasn’t really worked that well either. Now, what is happening is, we’re being asked to have a 3,142-county response, and that’s not going to work either.”

Hatfield says in his opinion, the only way we defeat the virus until we have a vaccine is for people to wear masks and socially distance themselves.

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