At its Thursday, Oct. 22 meeting, Wayne County Health Board issued a new list of directives to schools, many of which are related to sporting events, because of moderate to high community spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Restrictions including limiting the number of students to those athletes who will compete; eliminating cheerleading, bands or other spirit activities; providing two tickets to each dressed player; monitoring and requiring social distancing and masking for players, coaches and fans; eliminating large-group activities or assemblies; and sending home any students with symptoms.

Schools are to discuss with parents the importance of their family’s behaviors outside school and encourage parents to limit or eliminate the social events their student attends.

As they explained the new requirements, a letter signed by superintendents from Nettle Creek, Northeastern, Centerville and Western Wayne school districts said that at this time, “we will continue to operate school as we have been.”

“In order for our schools to remain open, we need everyone to continue to help us do that. If numbers continue to rise in the county, we may have to look at alternate plans. As we head into our winter sports season, please know we will be following this directive from Wayne County with fidelity.”

Superintendents ask families to social distance, mask up, avoid crowds, stay home if they’re sick and wash their hands.

That announcement came before a 4 p.m. press conference that afternoon featuring Wayne County and City of Richmond government, health and business leaders, pleading with residents to follow that advice as well so local businesses can survive the pandemic.

As of Wednesday, Wayne County has joined the state’s orange ranking related to COVID-19 (blue shows the lowest amount of illness (best), followed by yellow, orange and red).

The state’s system is based on the percentage of people who test positive in a 7-day period and the total number of weekly cases/100,000 residents.

Wayne County’s COVID-19 rates have been trending upward.

Wayne County is reporting 50 new cases on Thursday alone, with the county’s number of lab-confirmed positives at 1,269.

Less than two weeks ago, the county surpassed the 1,000 case milestone after a slowdown in cases in recent weeks.

Wayne County has had three more related deaths, according to new data shared Thursday by Indiana State Department of Health.

That brings the county’s virus fatality total to 30, with more than half of those deaths occurring in October alone.

Bob Hansen contributed to this article.

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Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.