Enforcement by city, county against encampments in different locations Thursday night: 1 tent remains at Seminary Park

Seminary Park

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During a Thursday night meeting of Bloomington city council’s four-member public safety committee, to hear public comment about the houseless encampment in Seminary Park, Monroe County sheriff’s deputies were patrolling county land further south off Rogers Street.

At Seminary Park, after the committee meeting ended around 9 p.m., word had already spread about two arrests made on the county’s property, which includes 87 acres that front Rogers Street north of Cherokee Drive.

A couple hours later, Seminary Park would see its own, second enforcement action of the day.

Updated at 12:22 p.m. on Jan. 15. The city of Bloomington issued a statement on the topic. “The City will continue actively collaborating with the entire community and region, including other governmental entities (Monroe County government and township trustees) service providers, those with lived experience, faith communities, and philanthropic agencies, to identify short- and long-term alternatives for our residents experiencing homelessness.”

The statement includes information about where the people’s belongings had been taken: “Switchyard Park maintenance building at 1601 South Rogers Street where they may be retrieved today from 8:30 a.m.- 5:30 p.m. and Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m.- 5:30 p.m. starting next week.” The statement also says, “Anyone seeking information about available services including emergency shelter may call 211.”

Monroe County land

This aerial image of the county-owned property off Rogers is from the Monroe County online GIS system.

Continue reading “Enforcement by city, county against encampments in different locations Thursday night: 1 tent remains at Seminary Park”

Monroe County adds $90K to CARES pass-through distribution, brings total to $460K

Monroe County has now passed through nearly half a million dollars to local businesses and government entities from its total $4.7 million CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act allocation.

At their Wednesday meeting, county commissioners approved another $90,516 in reimbursements, bringing the grand total to $459,901.

The county’s program started with the county government acting as a clearinghouse of sorts, by passing through to the state the claims submitted by local businesses and governmental units—like the library and townships—for non-payroll expenses related to COVID-19.

The state eventually asked the county to submit the county’s own expenses for public safety, which were enough to get reimbursement to the county of the whole $4.7 million. Continue reading “Monroe County adds $90K to CARES pass-through distribution, brings total to $460K”

Limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine in Monroe County: “We’ve been giving what we can give.”

Since Dec. 21, about 500 people a day in Monroe County have been getting their first of two required shots for the COVID-19 vaccine at the IU Health Medical Arts Building clinic.

The total number who have received that first shot now stands at 4,333.

That was the update given to Monroe County’s board of health members on Tuesday afternoon by Amy Meek, nursing supervisor for IU Health.

Based on that 500-per-day pace of COVID-19 shots, it would take a little over a year for 70 percent of the county’s roughly 150,000 residents to receive the required two doses of vaccine. The 70 percent figure has been cited as the minimum percentage needed to achieve herd immunity.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the pace of vaccination struck health board members as slow.

Asked for a breakdown of the bottlenecks, Meek said the problem is not staffing, it’s vaccine supply. “We’ve been giving what we can give.” She added, “We can’t have more appointments than the vaccine inventory that we have.” Continue reading “Limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine in Monroe County: “We’ve been giving what we can give.””

Monroe County starts 2021 with another death due to COVID-19

On Sunday, Indiana’s department of health dashboard noon update recorded one additional death in Monroe County due to the COVID-19 pandemic virus. It came on the first day of the year.

That brings Monroe County’s total COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic to 98. The first one was recorded on April 11.

About half of Monroe County deaths, 46 of them, have been recorded since the start of December of last year.

The current trend for deaths in Monroe County looks like it is dropping from its peak of 14 cases, which came during the week of Dec. 7, to half that for the most recent full week.

Statewide, the rolling 7-day average daily number of deaths is also showing a downward trend, from a peak of around 85 in mid-December, to about 70 by the end of the year. Continue reading “Monroe County starts 2021 with another death due to COVID-19”

Incremental progress for COVID-19 vaccination in Monroe County, pre-filed pandemic bills for 2021 legislature panned by local officials

At a press conference on Wednesday, Monroe County commissioner Julie Thomas called COVID-19 vaccine distribution a “hurry-up-and-wait” situation. She said in her household the question comes up every other day: “Is it here yet? Is it our turn yet?”

Map is from Indiana’s COVID-19 vaccination dashboard. The image links to the dashboard.

For most people, the answer is no.

But Brian Shockney, who’s president of IU Health’s southwest region, reported that so far in Monroe County, 3,000 frontline medical workers had received their first shot of the two-dose vaccine.

That includes some paramedics, firefighters and law enforcement officers, who render medical aid, if they’re first on the scene.

Monroe County’s emergency manager Allison Moore said that in addition to notifying news outlets, the county would be using its emergency alert system to tell residents when the vaccine becomes generally available.

The regular news conference of local leaders on COVID-19 response was shifted from Friday to Wednesday this week due to the New Year’s holiday.

Also at the news conference, pandemic-related legislation that’s been pre-filed for the 2021 General Assembly session got a reaction from local officials. It was mostly negative.

One resolution that’s been pre-filed would put an end to Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s executive order declaring a health emergency [CR 2].  Another bill includes a 14-day limit on the duration of COVID-19 health orders that are issued by a county health officer—unless they’re approved by the county executive [SB 48]. A third piece of legislation would allow a pharmacist or pharmacy technician to administer the COVID vaccine [SB 47].

About the first two bills, Bloomington’s mayor John Hamilton gave an initial take: “This looks to me like a group of people that are looking to say no, when we need to be saying yes.” He continued, “My goodness, this legislature does not need to try to slow things down or make it more difficult.”

About the state’s legislators, Hamilton added, “Here’s something they could do. They could fund our public health system appropriately!”

Continue reading “Incremental progress for COVID-19 vaccination in Monroe County, pre-filed pandemic bills for 2021 legislature panned by local officials”

Indiana COVID-19 positivity rate impacted by software error, fix will mean higher rates

Positivity rates will be changing on Indiana’s COVID-19 dashboard starting Wednesday next week (Dec. 30), but not due to differences in the number of actual positive tests.

At Governor Holcomb’s Wednesday press conference, Indiana’s health commissioner Kristina Box said that a software error had caused an error in past calculations. Statewide the numbers will increase by 2 or 3 points after the fix is made, she said. Counties will also see an impact.

The rolling average positivity rate in Monroe County is now about 5 percent, or about half of the statewide rate. The upward and downward trends for Monroe County and the state are roughly parallel, except for period when Indiana University students were returning to campus.

The rates that are now to be re-calculated show the same trends as those that were previously reported, according to Box, even if the absolute value of the numbers is different.

The new calculations would not have affected decisions that were made, Box said. Data on hospital resources and number of cases or deaths was not affected by the error, Box said. Continue reading “Indiana COVID-19 positivity rate impacted by software error, fix will mean higher rates”

Sheriff: First 4 COVID-19 cases reported at Monroe County jail

 

In a press release issued Tuesday afternoon, Monroe County’s sheriff, Brad Swain, reported the first four confirmed COVID-19 cases among the county jail’s population.

According to the news release, the first two cases were identified last week, when two cellmates in a medium security cell block reported symptoms to medical staff. Both inmates were transferred to medical cells for observation, and tested positive.

A few days after that, according to the news release, two inmates from a different cell block had symptoms that led them to be tested, and those tests were both positive.

According to the news release, the inmates who tested positive have either mild or no symptoms, and “there is little present concern about their health being in danger.” Continue reading “Sheriff: First 4 COVID-19 cases reported at Monroe County jail”

COVID-19 update: Vaccine arrives as Monroe County adds to death count

At Friday’s weekly press conference of local leaders to talk about response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the counterpoint to the increasing number of deaths was news from IU Health that the first 15 doses of vaccine had been administered in Monroe County.

According to Brian Shockney, who’s president of IU Health’s south central region, the 15 “frontline healthcare heroes” who received the vaccine Friday morning amounted to a “practice run.” Starting Monday, Shockney said, IU Health will be vaccinating up to 350 people per day in Bloomington and over 150 per day in Paoli.

Shockey stressed that it’s the number of people who are being vaccinated that is important, not the number of doses that are being shipped. He pegged 70 percent as the minimum fraction of the population that need to get the vaccine to achieve widespread immunity to COVID-19.

Leading off the press conference was Bloomington’s mayor John Hamilton, who talked about the increased number of COVID-19 deaths the county has seen recently. After long stretches in the summer when no deaths were recorded, the county has seen an average of two COVID-19 deaths a day over the last few days, he said.

Another way to think about the recent upward trend for COVID-19 deaths is that half of the 79 deaths in Monroe County have come since Nov. 4. At around 53 per 100,000 residents, that number still makes for one of the lowest per capita rates among the 92 counties in the state of Indiana. Continue reading “COVID-19 update: Vaccine arrives as Monroe County adds to death count”

Bloomington’s Seminary Park action spurs “Hands off Homeless” rally, call for funding of grassroots efforts

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On Friday evening, about 200 people gathered on the southeast corner of the Monroe County courthouse square to respond to the city of Bloomington’s action on Wednesday night, to remove a group of a dozen and half tents and people from Seminary Park.

One demand that was read aloud by Marc Teller, who’s with the Bloomington Homeless Coalition, is to set up a place for the unhoused to camp that is more centrally located with better access to services.

Another demand read aloud by Teller is for the government money that was allocated to Wheeler Mission—to re-open the women’s shelter, which had closed over the summer—to be transferred to Hotels for Homeless. Teller reported that on Wednesday night, 17 Seminary Park campers had been taken in by Hotels for Homeless.

Advocate for the homeless Janna Arthur, who was a write-in candidate for Monroe County council this year, said, “No one was left behind—because of Hotels of Homeless.”

The grassroots organization, founded over the summer, has become eligible for city of Bloomington social services funding (Jack Hopkins) through fiscal sponsorship by New Leaf-New Life.

At Friday’s rally, local activist Vauhxx Booker used his time addressing the crowd to encourage people to donate directly to the group through its PayPal link. Continue reading “Bloomington’s Seminary Park action spurs “Hands off Homeless” rally, call for funding of grassroots efforts”

Removal of people, personal property from Bloomington’s Seminary Park prompts question: What, if anything, is an encampment?

 

When it was founded in 1825, the school that stood on what’s now a park, at 2nd and Walnut streets in Bloomington, taught just two subjects, both heavy with vocabulary study—Greek and Latin.

What’s the right word to describe Seminary Park over the last few weeks?

It was at least a community of people.

They spent the day socializing around tents and stacks of belongings draped in tarps. For most of them, that meant garden-variety small talk, about the weather, gossip, or other mild pursuits. For a few, it meant a transaction for illicit substances. For a couple, it included brawling on the ground, getting in as many punches as they could, before getting separated by a recognized peacemaker in the group.

Several complaints are logged in the city’s uReport system about camping in Seminary and Switchyard parks.

What had become increasingly visible over the last few weeks is no longer there.

On Wednesday night, Seminary Park was the site of action taken in a coordinated effort between Bloomington police department’s downtown resource officers, its social worker, and staff from two area nonprofits, Centerstone and Wheeler Mission. Continue reading “Removal of people, personal property from Bloomington’s Seminary Park prompts question: What, if anything, is an encampment?”