Jennings County issues emergency declaration, tightens restrictions


Jennings County commissioners have approved an emergency ordinance ordering all nonessential businesses to close for at least 10 days.

The order, issued Sunday, declares a public health emergency in Jennings County and outlines travel and businesses restrictions that went into effect Monday.

Permitted travel includes only essential travel, such as to and from work, travel related to medical care, travel for food, groceries, medication, essential household goods and hygiene products and other essential services.

The ordinance states for two weeks, only essential businesses shall remain open and all other businesses are closed.

The ordinance states there should be no public gatherings of more than 10 people, and all Jennings County residents are to attempt at all possible times to maintain a social distance of 6 feet or more from others.

The 10-person restriction does not apply to workplaces so long as the social distancing guidelines are followed and internal safeguards are put into place with regard to cleaning, disinfecting sanitizing and social distancing.

Commissioners President Matt Sporleder said concerns have increased since a positive case of COVID-19 was diagnosed last week.

"This is not a total lockdown. It is exactly as it’s written," Sporleder said. "It is essentially an advisory of essential services only. We put one statement in there that if there is any questions on industry, if you directly or indirectly provide services being used to combat the virus, you can remain open. Industry can read into that. For example, if we have a place manufacturing steel products and the steel products could possibly be used in making hospital beds, we don’t want them to shut down."

Sporleder and fellow commissioners Bob Willhite and Dave Lane signed off on the ordinance.

Jennings County Public Health Officer Dr. Gregory Heumann, North Vernon Mayor Mike Ochs and Vernon Mayor Dan Wright all wrote statements supporting the ordinance.

Officials met at 4 p.m. Sunday before sending a message out to all Jennings County residents, Sporleder said. He said emergency management and human resources started sending the messages out Sunday night, and the ordinance was posted on the county website, but some didn’t receive text/calls until after 9 p.m.

The Indiana State Department of Health reported two positive cases of COVID-19 in Jennings County as of Monday morning. In the state, there have been 1,960 total tests with 259 positive cases and six deaths recorded.

"Due to the evolving situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Jennings County Health Department is convinced it is absolutely necessary to take more extensive measures to control this outbreak," Heumann said. "A major part of this decision is about not only protecting our citizens but also about limiting the burden on the local healthcare system so that it is not overwhelmed and can continue to serve our entire community. We appreciate everyone’s cooperation and sacrifice to keep Jennings County safe."

Sporleder said the county will not police the ordinance.

"We haven’t even discussed (any types of fines)," he said. "It’s plain and simple. We are trying to help people make common sense decisions. They need to read the ordinance before contacting everyone. I think the questions asked to industry will be asked by their employees. Higher-ups need to be able to answer to their employees."

Sporleder is urging citizens to come together while maintaining distance during these unprecedented times.

"Be patient and kind," Sporleder said. "Use this as a time to try and help out a neighbor if you know someone is lacking something. There are a lot of people going through tough times right now. Don’t be mad about it, but use this as an opportunity to better yourself or others. We need to come together as a community to get through this."

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”At a glance” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Jennings County critically essential businesses to remain open, include, but are not limited to:

  • Jennings County government offices
  • Jennings County Sheriff’s Department
  • Jennings County 911
  • Jennings County EMS
  • Jennings County EMA
  • Jennings County Highway Department
  • Jennings County courts, including clerk and security, allowing only for operations as ordered by the Indiana Supreme Court in its March 19 order on Jennings County Petitioner for AR 17 Emergency Relief
  • All fire departments
  • Any other office, agency or business providing relief services and efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • 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
  • Day care facilities
  • Restaurants and bars-carry-out, delivery and drive-up only
  • Utility and trash services
  • Airport
  • Postal services/FedEx and UPS
  • Veterinarian clinics
  • Home improvement/hardware
  • Hotels/motels
  • Laundromats
  • Public and private transportation
  • Agricultural operations
  • Pet stores
  • Legal services
  • Social service agencies
  • Industry either directly or indirectly providing goods or services to combat the COVID-19 pandemic

[sc:pullout-text-end][sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”On the Web” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

The Jennings County Board of Commissioners approved an emergency ordinance Sunday evening ordering all nonessential businesses to close for at least 10 days. That started at 8 a.m. Monday.

The ordinance can be found on the county’s government website at


No posts to display