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State issues warnings to 80 'nonessential' businesses operating in spite of governor's order
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State issues warnings to 80 'nonessential' businesses operating in spite of governor's order

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The state's new Enforcement Response Team already has issued warnings to 80 businesses across Indiana for violating the terms of Gov. Eric Holcomb's updated stay-at-home order.

Cynthia Carrasco, deputy general counsel for the Republican governor, said Thursday the state has received 214 complaints from Hoosiers since Monday identifying businesses operating as usual, despite allegedly not qualifying as an "essential" business under Holcomb's executive order aimed at minimizing the spread of the coronavirus.

Following investigations, the response team determined a majority of the businesses actually met the broad standards to be classified as an essential operation, Carrasco said.

Under the order, "essential" businesses include health care entities, grocery and drug stores, social service organizations, gas stations, hardware stores, media, first responders, building trades, restaurants, critical manufacturers, delivery companies, hotels, funeral homes, business suppliers and transportation companies, among others.

However, Carrasco said 80 businesses clearly were not abiding by the terms of the governor's directive, and, as a result, were warned that continued noncompliance could result in the permanent loss of their business licenses or possible prosecution for a misdemeanor crime.

"It's a tiered-step approach. First, it's a warning: 'Hey, you're not an essential business, you really should shut your doors.' Then, if there is some sort of disparity, the next step is to go back with a cease-and-desist order," she said.

The Enforcement Response Team did not immediately respond to a request for the names and locations of the 80 warned businesses.

Meanwhile, Holcomb issued a warning of his own to churches and other religious institutions considering holding indoor services commemorating Good Friday and celebrating Easter this weekend: Don't do it.

The governor said, as a Christian, he understands the importance of Holy Week and the obligations it puts on fellow believers.

But Holcomb said the risk of spreading the coronavirus when more than 10 people are gathered together — and the potential illness and death that can follow — should inspire both pastors and parishioners to skip in-person Easter services this year.

"During this time of uncertainty, faith is more important than ever, and I am deeply grateful to our religious leaders for their efforts to find safe and creative ways to serve their communities," Holcomb said.

The governor suggested churches still eager to celebrate Easter consider broadcasting their services online or hosting a drive-in service, but only if everyone stays in their vehicles, the vehicles are spaced well apart, and any communion distribution follows safe food handling standards.

He said under no circumstances should individuals vulnerable to illness attend a drive-in service, including people age 65 and older, people with underlying medical conditions and people who already are sick.

"The purpose of this guidance is not to restrict religious liberty, but to save lives during these extraordinary times," Holcomb said.

"I look forward to the day where we can once again worship side-by-side without the threat of spreading coronavirus."

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