Bloomington parks and recreation staffer second city employee to test positive for COVID-19

In a press release issued Friday morning, the city of Bloomington has announced that a second city employee has tested positive for COVID-19. The confirmed positive case  announced on Friday was for a parks and recreation department employee.

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Playground equipment and workout stations are closed in Bloomington. Trails are still open. This is a view south where the B-Line Trail runs next to Switchyard Park.

According to the press release, the parks and recreation worker was placed on leave Monday, March 30, and tested for COVID-19, because they were showing symptoms consistent with the virus. The positive result of the test was returned yesterday (Thursday, April 2), according to the release.

According to the press release, the city is now tracing the parks and recreation employee’s contacts and following Centers for Disease Control guidelines

This is the second positive COVID-19 test for a city of Bloomington employee. The first, for a firefighter, was reported last Saturday.

According to Friday’s press release, the firefighter received medical clearance on Friday and is expected to return to duty on Saturday (April 4).
Continue reading “Bloomington parks and recreation staffer second city employee to test positive for COVID-19”

Census 2020: University, city working against COVID-19 to get Bloomington college students counted, local census numbers currently lagging behind rest of state

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Annotated screen shot from Our World in Data

[Note: The census can be completed online by visiting this link to the US Census. https://my2020census.gov/]

About weeks ago, on Feb. 20, Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, gave his annual “state of the city” address. The mayor’s basic theme was “everyone counts”—a riff on the decennial census that’s taking place this year.

Before the speech, in the lobby of the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, where Hamilton delivered his remarks, Beverly Calender-Anderson was passing out literature about the census.  She was encouraging people to make sure they get themselves counted. Calender-Anderson is director of Bloomington’s community and family resources department.

As the proceedings were called to order at the Buskirk-Chumley, city council president Steve Volan took some time at the podium to add a piece of “flair” to his lapel—a button promoting participation in the census.

In his brief remarks on the census, Volan focused on the importance of getting students counted correctly: “Students are to be counted, as the census says, where they ‘usually reside’. So it’s important that everyone who is in Bloomington be counted here.”

At the time, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States was 15. Now six weeks later, the confirmed case count across the country is more than 200,000. Indiana’s confirmed cases are doubling about every four days, and this week passed 3,000. Continue reading “Census 2020: University, city working against COVID-19 to get Bloomington college students counted, local census numbers currently lagging behind rest of state”

Bloomington farmers market to use pre-order, drive-through pickup to start season due to COVID-19 protocols

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Bloomington farmers market ordering screen (Screen grab on April 2, 2020)

Bloomington’s farmers market will start off the year on a pre-order, drive-through-only basis, due to the required protocols of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Details of the drive-through-only approach were revealed in a press release issued late Wednesday this week. Orders for this coming Saturday, April 4, the scheduled opening day of the summer market, have to be placed by the end of the day on April 2.

Also in future weeks, the market will operate on a Thursday ordering deadline for Saturday pickups.

[Updated at 1:24 p.m. on April 2, 2020: Marcia Veldman, farmers market manager, told The Square Beacon that by early afternoon on Thursday, around 500 orders had been received.] Continue reading “Bloomington farmers market to use pre-order, drive-through pickup to start season due to COVID-19 protocols”

Owners or employees? Bloomington city council’s planned $2-million COVID-19 relief gets scrutiny

At its meeting on Wednesday, Bloomington’s city council took the next procedural step towards getting $2 million worth of already-collected food and beverage tax revenue, into the hands of the private sector.

The goal is to provide bridge funding for local employers and employees who have been impacted by the COVID-19 viral epidemic.

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Row-wise from top left: city council deputy administrator/attorney Stephen Lucas, CM Ron Smith, CM Jim Sims, city council  administrator/attorney Dan Sherman, CM Sue Sgambelluri, CM Matt Flaherty, CM Dave Rollo, CM Kate Rosenbarger, CM Isabel Piedmont-Smith, city clerk Nicole Bolden, CM Steve Volan, and CM Susan Sandberg. (Screen grab from April 1, 2020 meeting of the Bloomington city council conducted on the Zoom videoconferencing platform.)

The bridge is supposed to span the time it will take for more robust federal aid to land in local hands.

The step taken by the city council on Wednesday was to hear a first reading of a $2 million appropriation ordinance, made possible by the positive recommendation of the food and beverage tax commission at a meeting convened last Friday.

Based on the timeline sketched out on Wednesday by city controller Jeff Underwood, the money could be ready for distribution as soon as the end of next week, April 10.

The steps involved would include a city council approval of the appropriation at its second reading at a Tuesday, April 7 meeting.

The appropriation would then need a final sign-off by the Indiana Department Local Government Finance, which Underwood hopes to get by April 10. At that point, the money would be available, Underwood said at Wednesday’s meeting.

To whom should that money be available? Continue reading “Owners or employees? Bloomington city council’s planned $2-million COVID-19 relief gets scrutiny”

Bloomington’s city council now set for next step in consideration of $2M for economic relief of businesses and workers

Annotated R-OUT Unemployment Initial Claims Monroe County 2008-2020

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A screen grab of Tuesday’s (March 31, 2020) Zoom-based meeting of the Bloomington city council’s  sustainable development committee. In the main frame is Alex Crowley, Bloomington’s director of economic and sustainable development.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Bloomington area local businesses can now seen on charts and graphs.

The pandemic has spiked the county’s initial unemployment claims to four times the number seen during the highest week of the 2008–2009 economic downturn. Even higher numbers could be recorded next week. Unemployment numbers are released on Tuesdays.

In addition to fresh unemployment figures, this Tuesday brought a first detailed look at Bloomington’s effort to use $2 million of food and beverage tax money, as well as other funds, to provide economic relief to businesses and workers .

That’s when the Bloomington city council’s four-member sustainable development standing committee heard a report from an economic stability and recovery (ESR) working group formed by Mayor John Hamilton. Continue reading “Bloomington’s city council now set for next step in consideration of $2M for economic relief of businesses and workers”

United Way, other non-profits, announce $330K in grant awards for emergency relief from COVID-19 impact

In a press release issued Tuesday morning, the United Way of Monroe County announced the distribution of nearly $300,000 in grants to area non-profits to help them as they respond to the local impact on critical human services needs from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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On Tuesday morning,  United Way of Monroe County announced the distribution of money in the COVID-19 emergency relief fund.

Also included in Tuesday’s press release is the announcement by the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County of more than $30,000 in “rapid response” grants to nonprofits, to help with supplies, equipment, remote-work technology and staffing.

A third announcement in Tuesday’s press release comes from the Bloomington Health Foundation (BHF), which contributed $25,000 to the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, coordinated by the United Way. BHF also matched $25,000 worth of individual contributions to that fund.

Tuesday’s release says that the BHF funded hand washing stations for Wheeler Mission and Shalom Community Center, working with the Monroe County Health Department. The wash stations help those experiencing homelessness follow the standard advice of frequent hand washing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Continue reading “United Way, other non-profits, announce $330K in grant awards for emergency relief from COVID-19 impact”

COVID-19: Sidewalks still getting built; Bloomington Transit buses still running, with 90 percent fewer riders

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Looking south along Adams Street where it intersects with Kirkwood on Monday, March 30, 2020. The backhoe framing the Bloomington Transit bus is working on the installation of a new sidewalk on the east side of the street running along Rose Hill Cemetery towards Cresent Donut Shops. The sign on the donut shop indicated it is open for business, which is allowed for take-out food service under the stay-at-home order. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

As Indiana approaches starts the sixth day of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s stay-at-home order—issued to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus—Bloomington’s road construction projects continue.

And public buses are continuing to run, but still on a spring break schedule. Continue reading “COVID-19: Sidewalks still getting built; Bloomington Transit buses still running, with 90 percent fewer riders”

As Indiana braces for surge, state officials mum on number of ICU beds and ventilators for COVID-19 patients, as partial picture for beds starts to emerge in Bloomington area

Barchart COVID-19 cases Indiana March 28

A numerical tally of specific hospital resources that are available to treat Indiana’s COVID-19 patients is not information that state health officials are eager to provide.

When asked at the daily press briefing on Thursday, for the number of ventilators and intensive care unit (ICU) beds that are available, Kristina Box, the state’s health commissioner, declined to say. She cited the confidentiality that hospitals expect when they submit their information to the state.

The question was again rebuffed at Friday’s briefing. On both days, there was some hint that a breakdown of aggregated region-by-region numbers could made available, so that the resources available at a specific hospital would not be revealed.

Shelli Yoder, who’s vying with John Zody and Trent Feuerbach for the Democratic Party’s nomination in the race for the District 40 state senate seat, issued a press release on Saturday morning calling on Indiana’s governor, Eric Holcomb, to release the numbers. The press release says Yoder has sent a letter to the governor that among other things states:

The people of Monroe County are demanding to know:
(1) How many critical care beds do we have available?
(2) How many ventilators do we have available?
(3) What types of healthcare equipment to keep our medical professionals and
frontline responders safe do we have available?

The push for more information comes as the number of cases continues to climb. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Indiana has about doubled (x 1.9) in two days, from 645 on March 26 to 1,232 on Saturday, March 28. The number of tests has increased by a similar factor, for the same period, from 4,651 to 8,407.

In the same two-day period, the number of Hoosiers killed by COVID-19 almost doubled, from 17 to 31.

Continue reading “As Indiana braces for surge, state officials mum on number of ICU beds and ventilators for COVID-19 patients, as partial picture for beds starts to emerge in Bloomington area”

$2.2M in food and beverage tax money now queued up for Bloomington, Monroe County COVID-19 economic relief, pending guidance from state’s board of accounts

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Screen grab of the March 27, 2020 meeting of the food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC), which was conducted on the videoconferencing platform Zoom.

At its Friday afternoon meeting, the food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC) unanimously approved a request to use $2 million in already-collected tax money to assist businesses inside the city of Bloomington that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The request came from Bloomington’s city council, which voted unanimously on Wednesday to make the request of the FABTAC.

Friday’s vote by the FABTAC concludes, for now, its role in the effort to use proceeds of the 1-percent tax to provide economic support to businesses impacted by COVID-19.

Previously, the FABTAC had approved a request from Monroe County commissioners to use $200,000 of the county’s share of the money to assist businesses outside the city of Bloomington.

Details on the distribution of the money will now be sorted out by the city and the county for their respective shares. Continue reading “$2.2M in food and beverage tax money now queued up for Bloomington, Monroe County COVID-19 economic relief, pending guidance from state’s board of accounts”

Indiana’s stay-at-home order allows for outdoor recreation, governor still wants people to keep distance between each other

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Looking south in Switchyard Park on Thursday, March 25, 2020. The yellow caution tape wrapped around the playgrounds and exercise stations means they’re are off limits. The B-Line Trail in the right of the frame is open for walking, running, and bicycling. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

At a 2:30 p.m. press conference on Thursday, Indiana’s governor Eric Holcomb was asked by a reporter to respond to criticism that his stay-at-home order didn’t go far enough.

The order is supposed to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, which has killed 17 people so far in Indiana since the first case was confirmed on March 6. Three weeks later the number of confirmed cases stood at 645.

The order, which went into effect on Wednesday, allows for a raft of exceptions, for businesses considered “essential”—including retail stores that sell alcoholic beverages and businesses that provide real estate services.

Was the order having an impact? Holcomb’s answer: Yes.

Holcomb’s response included the fact that his stay-at-home order has a requirement on the continued operation of essential businesses. They’re supposed to continue to operate only if they can maintain a six-foot distance between people, including customers standing in line, a concept that’s now called “social distancing.”

Holcomb applied the same social distancing concept to outdoor recreational activities. Allowed under the stay-at-home order are, for example, walking, hiking, running, or bicycling.

Holcomb encouraged people who go outside, especially on days like the one the day before, when skies were sunny and temperatures hit the mid-60s.

Holcomb said, “Yesterday was a great day to be outdoors, and I encourage people to get out and walk their dog.” He immediately added, “Or get out and walk their cat, if they want.” Continue reading “Indiana’s stay-at-home order allows for outdoor recreation, governor still wants people to keep distance between each other”