Vaccination rate in Monroe County trending up, pop-up clinics set for next week

The 14-day rolling average of final doses administered per day in Monroe County through April 29, 2021 stands at 902 (dark green line).

The number of final-dose vaccinations administered in Monroe County has seen a significant upward trend over the past four days.

That’s the impact of second shots of Pfizer vaccine now getting delivered at Indiana University’s Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall clinic site, after its launch at the end of March.

The 14-day rolling average of final doses administered per day in Monroe County through April 29 stands at 902.

At that rate, based on the total of 44,920 people who have been fully vaccinated so far, and a Monroe County population of 148,431, it would take about 65 days to achieve a 70-percent vaccination rate.

That would mean the 70-percent threshold—which is sometimes cited as a minimum for herd immunity—would be achieved in Monroe County on July 4.

Additional one-time local clinics are hoped to keep the momentum for vaccination going.

At Friday’s regular press conference of local leaders on COVID-19 response, county health administrator Penny Caudill announced that two pop-up clinics would be held in the coming two weeks.

On May 6 from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., a pop-up clinic will be held at the Boys and Girls Club.

On May 10, a pop-up clinic will be held at the Monroe County convention center, starting at noon. That clinic, which will target local Hispanic residents, will use the Moderna vaccine, and the follow-up second shot will be set for June 7, Caudill said. Continue reading “Vaccination rate in Monroe County trending up, pop-up clinics set for next week”

COVID-19: State tells locals to take walk-ins for shots, Assembly Hall to absorb IU Health vax clinic

The pace of COVID-19 vaccinations in the earliest phases of the rollout was availability of vaccine.

Now, hesitancy to get vaccinated could start to become a limiting factor in the rate of vaccination uptake.

That has led Indiana’s state department of health to tell local clinics to start offering walk-in COVID-19 shots, without an appointment.

Walk-ins are supposed to start on Monday (April 26). It’s still possible to make an appointment to receive a vaccine, which local officials continue to encourage.

Asked if it was a state mandate to accept walk-ins, Monroe County’s health administrator Penny Caudill described it this way: “I would say we were told that we’re going to be doing it. There wasn’t really an option.” Caudill was speaking at Friday’s weekly news conference held by local leaders on COVID-19 response. Continue reading “COVID-19: State tells locals to take walk-ins for shots, Assembly Hall to absorb IU Health vax clinic”

COVID-19 update: Get vaccinated, keep masking up, local leaders continue to say

“While it feels like COVID may be behind us, in many ways it’s not,” IU Health’s south central region president Brian Shockney said at Friday’s weekly press conference of local leaders.

Shockney added: “The best way that you can choose to help ensure our communities don’t see another surge is to make the choice to get your vaccine.”

The importance of continuing to wear a face covering, despite the ending of the statewide mask mandate, was another talking point on Friday.

Bloomington’s director of public engagement, Mary Catherine Carmichael, said about the local decision by the Monroe County board of health to continue the mask regulations: “We’re going to stick with this. We know we’re not out of the woods.”

Carmichael also encouraged restaurant patrons not to put servers in the position of playing the role of the “mask police.” She said, “Obviously, these are businesses that have signage on the doors, letting folks know…you will be expected to wear a mask. So we just ask everybody to please mind those rules. Continue to wear those masks.”

The county board of health has contracted with Security Pro 24/7 to enforce the local health regulations. That contract goes through July 1.

For Shockney and Monroe County health administrator Penny Caudill, part of the message on Friday centered on the Centers for Disease Control recommendation announced on Tuesday to suspend administration of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. That announcement came after unusual blood clots were identified in six women between the ages of 18 and 48. One of them died. Continue reading “COVID-19 update: Get vaccinated, keep masking up, local leaders continue to say”

“Pandemic is not yet over,” local officials say, as Assembly Hall vax site to boost shot number by 10x next week

The weekly Friday afternoon press conference held by Bloomington area local leaders on COVID-19 response is not typically followed with a press release hammering home talking points from the briefing.

That’s one measure of how important local leaders think this message is: “We are united in the belief that the pandemic is not yet over and that it is not yet time to let down our guard.” The statement was included in the opening paragraph of Friday’s followup release.

The release came from Monroe County’s health administrator Penny Caudill, the county’s health officer, Thomas Sharp, the three county commissioners (Julie Thomas, Lee Jones, and Penny Githens), Bloomington mayor John Hamilton, IU Health south central region’s president Brian Shockney, and IU provost Lauren Robel.

At the press conference, Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, said “Governor Holcomb’s recent announcement to remove the mask mandate at the state level is terribly misguided, and unfortunate.”

While the state-level restrictions are due to be lifted on April 6, local edicts will remain.

A bright spot in the press conference included next week’s planned vaccination numbers for the new Assembly Hall site, announced by IU’s Kirk White. The numbers White talked about were high enough that it prompted a question to confirm what he said. Yes, the 7,000 doses expected for next week, for which the state’s scheduling software has opened slots, is a 10-fold increase from last week’s allocation. Continue reading ““Pandemic is not yet over,” local officials say, as Assembly Hall vax site to boost shot number by 10x next week”

Upward nudge in Monroe County COVID-19 case numbers means local health regs likely to stay in place, after governor’s April 6 end date

The dark purple line is the 7-day rolling average of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases. The height of the red line is at 21.2 cases a day. That’s the daily average below which Monroe County needs to stay in order to remain in the “yellow” category for weekly cases per 100,000 residents, in the state’s dual-metric classification scheme.

Indiana governor Eric Holcomb announced Tuesday an end to statewide COVID-19 restrictions, starting April 6.

But Monroe County health administrator Penny Caudill said on Friday that Monroe County’s regulations will remain in place for the time being.

That’s based in part on a recent uptick in positive cases in the county, which includes Indiana University’s campus.

Caudill was speaking at the weekly Friday news conference held by local officials on COVID-19 response.

Under the county board of health’s current health order, Caudill and county health officer Thomas Sharp have the “the ability to adjust restrictions—in any particular area—as required, in order to protect the public health.”

The county board of health is next scheduled to meet on April 6 at 4 p.m. Caudill said the board routinely looks at the pandemic data to make changes and adapt as numbers improve. Continue reading “Upward nudge in Monroe County COVID-19 case numbers means local health regs likely to stay in place, after governor’s April 6 end date”

Campus AAPI gathering calls on Indiana governor explicitly to recognize, denounce anti-Asian hate

Continuing on Wednesday was the local response to the killing of eight people in Atlanta last week. Six of the victims were Asian American women.

Ellen Wu, who is the director of the Asian American Studies program at Indiana University and associate professor in the department of history. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

After a Tuesday night online vigil that included recitation of original poetic works, the Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition organized a demonstration for early Wednesday afternoon at Indiana University’s Sample Gates.

At least 200 people attended the “Gathering Against Asian Hate,” which was emceed by Pallavi Rao, a doctoral student at Indiana University’s media school.

A highlight of the event was a call for Indiana’s governor, Eric Holcomb, to respond to a petition from a national Asian women’s group—to address the rise in anti-Asian sentiment across the state.

Ellen Wu, who is the director of the Asian American Studies program at Indiana University and associate professor in the department of history, told the crowd she was speaking on behalf of Indiana’s chapter of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF).

Wu described the Atlanta shootings as “anti-Asian acts of misogyny.” The victims who were not Asian also died because of anti-Asian racism, Wu said. Continue reading “Campus AAPI gathering calls on Indiana governor explicitly to recognize, denounce anti-Asian hate”

Photos: “March to End the Madness” uses basketball branding in support of homeless community

A demonstration to support Bloomington’s homeless community passes in front of Assembly Hall in the early afternoon of Saturday, March 20, 2021 (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

Shortly after 11 a.m. in Dunn Meadow on Indiana University’s campus, a demonstration tipped off in support of those experiencing homelessness in Bloomington.

Somewhere between 70 and 90 people were a part of the action at various points during the late morning and early afternoon, which would up at the intersection of 17th Street and Woodlawn Avenue, kitty-corner from Indiana University’s Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

That’s where demonstrators set up 17 blue free-standing tents.

Continue reading “Photos: “March to End the Madness” uses basketball branding in support of homeless community”

Hint of potential upward trend for Monroe County COVID-19 cases as local officials look towards ramping up vaccinations

The height of the red line is at 21.2 cases a day. That’s the daily average below which Monroe County needs to stay in order to remain in the “yellow” category for weekly cases per 100,000 residents, in the state’s dual-metric classification scheme. The “yellow” category goes from 10 to 100 weekly cases per 100,000. More than 100 cases per 100,000 would put Monroe County into the “orange” category. Even when combined with Monroe County’s best-possible score on positivity, an “orange” rating for cases per 100,000 would put Monroe County into the “yellow” category overall.

On Friday, the reports of a continued trend of low case numbers for COVID-19 included customary words of caution about continued vigilance from local officials in Monroe County.

But remarks by local officials at Friday’s weekly press conference on pandemic response also included a hint of concern about possible future trends. Continue reading “Hint of potential upward trend for Monroe County COVID-19 cases as local officials look towards ramping up vaccinations”

Bloomington Transit mulls ending pandemic-based fare-free rides

At Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Bloomington Transit (BT) board, the continuation of COVID-19 protocols, including fare-free, rear-door boarding for all bus passengers, was confirmed for another month.

It could be the last time the board votes to approve the protocols, without a date for resumption of regular service.

Board members are looking towards a resumption of regular operations by the fall. That’s when Indiana University has announced in-person classes will resume.

About 70 percent of BT’s normal, non-pandemic ridership comes from IU affiliates—students, staff and faculty. They don’t pay a fare when they board, because their rides are covered under an agreement between IU and BT.

The BT board’s next monthly meeting, in April, will include an agenda item to consider the formal question of resuming fare collection, effective as early as June 1.

The board’s decision not to collect fares—made early in the pandemic—was based on the goal of limiting the opportunity for driver-passenger COVID-19 disease spread, by allowing passengers to board through the bus rear doors. Fare boxes are located next to the driver’s seat at the front door of the buses.

On Tuesday, BT general manager Lew May reported to the board that the drivers union recommends resumption of fare collection as soon as possible.

About the union’s recommendation, May said, “They have noticed over the past year, a marked increase in the homeless population that has been using the bus as a place of refuge. And, and in some cases, they have caused some difficulty for us.”

How will the resumption of public bus fare collection affect the population of people who are experiencing homelessness, and organizations who serve them?

According to Beacon, Inc. executive director Forrest Gilmore, during non-pandemic times, the nonprofit spends about $500 a month on 50-percent discounted bus fares for its clients. That translates into 1,000 rides a month. That’s an expense that Beacon, Inc. has been able to save during the pandemic.

Back-and-forth between May and board members drew out some of the different motivations for resumption of front-door passenger boarding and fare collection. Continue reading “Bloomington Transit mulls ending pandemic-based fare-free rides”

Local officials preach COVID-19 caution as numbers level off, milestones marked

As the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the one-year mark, it’s been an occasion to mark milestones. At Friday’s weekly press conference of Bloomington area leaders, Indiana University’s director of media relations, Chuck Carney, added one of the achievements.

“We’ve collected 193.1 gallons of spit for our mitigation tests,” Carney said.

The sheer volume of saliva, which pencils out to about one hot tub, or 12 kegs full of spit, was not as important as the current positivity rate, which is just around 0.2 percent.

Numbers of deaths across the state have hit a 7-day rolling average of around 7, the lowest levels since the end of March last year, in the early stages of the pandemic.

The rolling daily average of hospitalizations is around 635, which is about as low as the early July dip, after hitting a high of more than 3,200 a day.

The infection numbers, in Monroe County and across the state, have continued to be much lower than the December peaks, but are starting to level off. Continue reading “Local officials preach COVID-19 caution as numbers level off, milestones marked”