All Douglas County restaurants, bars must close at 10 p.m.; mass gatherings limited to 10 people

New changes affect fitness centers, other indoor venues

photo by: Kevin Anderson/Journal-World File Photo

The Lawrence-Douglas County health department's home at the Community Health Facility, 200 Maine St., is pictured in this file photo from July 2010.

Story updated at 1:53 p.m. Friday

Because of a recent spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Douglas County’s health officer has updated the local health order to force all restaurants and bars to close their premises by 10 p.m. and reduce the mass gathering limit to 10.

Previously, Douglas County establishments with a liquor license had been allowed to serve alcohol until 11 p.m. and close at midnight. Now, all venues and establishments that serve food or drink must close by 10 p.m., including all outdoor seating areas. Carryout, curbside, drive-thru or off-premise delivery of food — not alcohol — will be allowed after 10 p.m.

The health order, which was issued Friday afternoon and took effect immediately, also drops the gathering limit from 15 to 10. Just one week ago, the gathering limit dropped from 45 to 15.

An indoor capacity limit of 100 people or 50% of the lowest occupancy load — whichever is lower — has also been mandated in the health order. This will affect entertainment venues, gyms, recreation centers, restaurants, bars and other businesses that serve food and drink indoors.

A press release from the health department said the changes are an effort to limit environments of exposure with the goal of curbing the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

“Our goal is to strike an appropriate balance in limiting high-risk environments right now in our community,” said Douglas County Health Officer Dr. Thomas Marcellino. “Over the course of the pandemic, we have learned more about the science of increased risk of exposure and planning to handle a surge of hospitalizations, but the more people follow the basic public health guidance of mask wearing, social distancing and limiting gatherings, the better off our community will be during this critical time. We are grateful for the businesses in our community that have made sacrifices and worked with us to operate safe environments.”

Marcellino said two key parts of the updated health order are limiting capacity at fitness centers and establishing more space between parties for indoor dining.

The health order continues to mandate that people older than 5 years old wear masks in all indoor public spaces as well as outdoor public settings where 6 feet of distance cannot be maintained.

On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Americans not to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday. Douglas County leaders are also asking the local community to limit their social gatherings.

“The safest way to celebrate the coming holidays is keeping it limited to your family unit, just those within your household,” Dr. Jennifer Schrimsher, an infectious disease specialist at LMH Health and deputy local health officer, said in the release. “We have to create new traditions, creative ways to celebrate in order to help keep our family members and community safer. The more people you come into contact with, the more likely it is that you could become infected or spread infection to a loved one.”

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