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Howard County tightens the "non-essential" shopping rules

Howard County stores appear to be falling in line with an emergency order from the county commissioners.

KOKOMO, Ind. (WTHR) - Howard County stores appear to be falling in line with an emergency order from the county commissioners. They are telling shoppers what they can’t buy. Commissioners are trying to put a stop to binge shopping that is both unhealthy and unfair.

Are gas grills essential? How about fresh paint? Is new jewelry a necessity in the middle of a pandemic?

"It is not essential for the next week or two," Commissioner Paul Wyman said.

So the Howard County commissioners issued an emergency order, prohibiting the sale of a shopping list of items they deemed unessential.

A sign posted at a Lowe's store in Kokomo said the list of non-essential items that couldn't be sold except for emergencies includes:

  • Jewelry
  • Furniture
  • Home and lawn decor
  • Toys/games
  • Carpets/rugs/flooring
  • Non-emergency appliances
  • Music/books/magazines
  • Craft and art supplies
  • Paint
  • Entertainment electronics

Wyman explained that while most of the county and Kokomo are shut down, the big retailers are allowed to remain open.

Restrictions have forced many small businesses in Howard County to close for several weeks at a time. (WTHR photo/Rich Van Wyk)

"Our big box stores were the places everybody wanted to go and congregate and get out of the house. They were leaving home and taking two- or three-hour shopping excursions," he said.

Packed stores defeat public health officials' plea for social distancing and put shoppers and store employees at risk.

"Cashiers, the ones on the front lines, were reaching out and saying, 'Wait a second,'" Wyman explained. "We have people in here and buying all these things and 200 people are coming through my cashier line a day. I’m being exposed to who knows what and I have the potential of taking that home to my family and that is not fair."

Now stores are blocking off whole aisles of suddenly non-essential products. Some can be purchased online and picked up. That’s how Brittney Moloch bought a replacement coffee maker.

"It’s kinda crazy, not something anyone would think would happen right now, but it’s necessary. We need to stay home as much as possible," she said.

The commissioners also felt the previous rules were unfair to small businesses that sold only "non-essential" products. Shoppers can’t buy toys or jewelry from stores on Kokomo’s square, but they could at Target.

"Our mom-and-pop shops, the lifeblood of our community, were shut down," Wyman said.

The clock is running on these new retail restrictions. They are set to expire Friday, but if warranted, the county commissioners could decide to extend them.