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”

Hoosier state hangs some numbers on prep for COVID-19 patient surge, makes plea for more PPE

Barchart COVID-19 cases Indiana March 30

After initially declining to provide numerical descriptions of medical resources available to treat COVID-19 patients in the state, Indiana officials have started to quantify some of the ways they’re preparing for the expected surge in patient numbers.

They’re also asking for help in getting more personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers. Continue reading “Hoosier state hangs some numbers on prep for COVID-19 patient surge, makes plea for more PPE”

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”

Bloomington firefighter tests positive for COVID-19

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A Bloomington fire station on March 28, 2020. The city’s press release did not release information identifying the station where the COVID-19 firefighter worked. This photo shows the station on 4th Street in downtown, and is included only to identify the topic of the story, not to suggest that it was the 4th Street station where the firefighter was assigned. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon.)

In a statement released Saturday evening (March 28), the city of Bloomington has confirmed it learned earlier the same day that a Bloomington firefighter has tested positive for COVID-19.

According to the press release, the firefighter was one of three firefighters recently quarantined after potential or confirmed exposure to the COVID-10. It was five days earlier, on March 23, when BFD was notified of the firefighter’s confirmed exposure.

And at that point, the firefighter was immediately isolated from on-duty crews and placed on self-quarantine at home, according to the press release. Continue reading “Bloomington firefighter tests positive for COVID-19”

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 governor on when stay-at-home order might change: “I will be listening to doctors, physicians, scientists, law enforcement…”

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Screen grab from Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s March 26, 2020 press conference on COVID-19 updates. In the right of the frame is ASL interpreter Andy Rork.

The daily 2:30 p.m. press briefings that Indiana governor Eric Holcomb is now providing are made accessible to the Deaf community by ASL interpreter Andy Rork.

Not needing Rork’s translation at this Thursday’s briefing, was Holcomb’s answer to a reporter’s question, about the people he’d look to for guidance on lifting or extending his stay-at-home order. The order had gone into effect two days earlier. Continue reading “Indiana governor on when stay-at-home order might change: “I will be listening to doctors, physicians, scientists, law enforcement…””

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”

From grass roots, to government, to industry—Bloomington concerned about face masks to guard against COVID-19

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Kelly Clark accepts a donation of freshly-sewn fabric face masks to the Bloomington Indiana Fabric Mask Drive at a downtown Bloomington parking lot on Thursday evening. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

A virtual press conference on Monday featured various government officials, who talked about local measures that are being taken to address the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s so far claimed 17 lives in the state.

During the conference, Bloomington city councilmember Dave Rollo posed a question: Could the Monroe County health department issue a declaration saying that grocery stores cannot prohibit their workers from wearing masks to protect themselves and others from infection with COVID-19?

Rollo didn’t get an answer to the question at the press conference—a technical glitch prevented some county officials from joining the call.

Whether grocery store workers are allowed to wear face masks is just one part of the issue Rollo raised. Continue reading “From grass roots, to government, to industry—Bloomington concerned about face masks to guard against COVID-19”

Monroe County, Bloomington both putting food and beverage tax money towards COVID-19 economic relief

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Screen grab of the March 25, 2020 meeting of the Monroe County council, conducted on the videoconferencing platform Zoom.
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Screen grab of the March 25, 2020 meeting of the Bloomington city council, conducted on on the videoconferencing platform Zoom.

Added together, Bloomington and Monroe County’s respective shares of unexpended food and beverage tax revenues, collected countywide since early 2018, stand at around $5.7 million.

In separate actions over the last week, Bloomington and Monroe County elected officials have taken steps towards appropriating $2.2 million of that money for relief of businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

By early Wednesday, March 25, COVID-19 had claimed 14 lives in the state of Indiana. Continue reading “Monroe County, Bloomington both putting food and beverage tax money towards COVID-19 economic relief”