FOUNTAIN COUNTY — Social gatherings will be limited, restaurants and bars should operate at 50% capacity and businesses should require masking, enforce social distancing and screen employees and customers for COVID-19, under new guidelines issued by the Fountain and Warren Health Department.

The precautions, which begin Monday and will remain in effect for the next three weeks, come as health officials work to curb an ongoing spike in new coronavirus cases in both counties.

Fountain County reported 13 additional cases and one death Thursday, according to data from the Indiana State Department of Health. There were six new cases and one additional death reported in Warren County, according to the data.

There have been more than 145 new cases reported in Fountain County and more than 52 new cases reported in Warren County in the past 14 days, according to the Fountain and Warren County Health Department.

Under the guidelines, masking is required in all indoor public areas and social gatherings are limited to less than 25 people. Schools and churches are encouraged to work with the health department to determine the safest way to continue in-person classes or services.

Any ongoing extracurricular activities at K-12 schools, including sporting events, should be limited to only participants, coaches and support staff, the guidelines say.

In addition, nursing homes, jails and hospitals should restrict visitors and senior centers should be closed, according to the precautions. Vulnerable populations are being asked to stay home.

“This pandemic and your duty will not be over in three weeks, but we will be closer to the end,” the bi-county health department said in a Facebook post Thursday. “The goal of this effort is to show what we can do when we work together.”

“The debates and division on this issue must be replaced with vocal support and continued discussion. Individual rights and responsibility remain important, but these values are not enough in our fight against the virus,” the statement added. “It is our collective action and our inactions that will determine our success.”

Along with reducing seating capacity, restaurants and bars are encouraged to implement curbside pickup and follow strict safety precautions, according to the guidelines.

“We do not know everything about the virus, but we do know what works to slow the spread. We also know that a vaccine and better treatment options are coming, but many of these are months away from being available to all of us,” the Fountain and Warren Health Department said.

Coronavirus infections also remain on the rise in Montgomery County. The county reported 17 new cases Thursday, bringing the cumulative total to 794, according to state health data.

“Our community is doing a good job wearing masks but we can still do better ... a simple gesture of wearing a mask when around others is a small yet effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19,” the Montgomery County Health Department said in a Facebook post.

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