Quick update: Masks available for June 2 voters, blood drive details dialed in for June 23

Monroe County in-person voting sites on June 2 will have masks available for voters who want to wear one. And the details for a June 23 blood drive at the Monroe County convention are now set. Appointments can be made for times between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Monroe County convention center.

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Screen shot of May 29, 2020 press conference with local leaders, conducted on Zoom. Highlighted on the screen is Monroe County’s emergency management director, Allison Moore.

Those two items were among the news nuggets passed along by Monroe County’s director of emergency management, Allison Moore, at Friday’s weekly press conference on COVID-19 response issues.

On Friday, Moore reported that the county is expecting next week another drop of personal protection equipment (PPE)—like masks, gloves and sanitizer—from the state’s department of homeland security.

She also said that 1,000 surgical masks had been delivered to Monroe County’s Election Central, to be distributed to voters who want to vote in person. The state’s election division had earlier provided every county with some PPE to equip election staff, but not voters. Continue reading “Quick update: Masks available for June 2 voters, blood drive details dialed in for June 23”

Monroe County synched up with governor’s order except: Mass gatherings still limited to 50

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Screen grab from May 29, 2020 press conference of local Bloomington and Monroe County officials. 

The latest COVID-19-related order from Monroe County’s health officer, Thomas Sharp, issued on Thursday and effective starting Saturday, matches the requirements for Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s current order, except for one.

The one exception: In Monroe County, mass gatherings are still limited to 50 people Under the governor’s order, mass gatherings can go up to 100.

Monroe County’s order lasts through June 15.

At Friday afternoon’s press conference, Monroe County’s health administrator, Penny Caudill, described the local order as “carving out” the one difference on mass gatherings.

When Holcomb issued his first “Back on Track” order, Monroe County’s local order maintained all the precautions up to then for another couple of weeks. Local orders can be stricter, but not more lenient than the governor’s order. Continue reading “Monroe County synched up with governor’s order except: Mass gatherings still limited to 50”

Food and beverage tax revenues start to show COVID-19 impact

New2 R Output FOOD AND BEVERAGE REVENUE BY MONTH YEAR OVER YEARThroughApril2020

The impact of Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s initial stay-at-home order, which was effective starting March 25, is starting to show up in food and beverage tax revenue reports for Monroe County.

In the April report delivered to food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC) members at their regular meeting on Tuesday, revenues from the 1-percent tax were $204,681.

That’s down about 30 percent from the $291,297 reported for April in 2019.

An April report of food and beverage tax revenues will reflect collections made in March, based on discussion as the meeting. Continue reading “Food and beverage tax revenues start to show COVID-19 impact”

Monroe County June 2 primary election update: 18K absentee ballots sent so far; early in-person voting starts Tuesday

According to Monroe County election supervisor Karen Wheeler, 17,997 absentee ballots had been sent out to voters as of Friday and 6,517 of them received by her office.

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Monroe County’s Election Central at the corner of 7th and Madison streets in downtown Bloomington on May 23, 2020 (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

When The Square Beacon touched base with Wheeler on Saturday morning, she said about 5,000 more ballots still need to be sent out. That will make about 23,000 total absentee ballots for this year’s primary election. Election day is June 2.

A lot of voters waited until close to the deadline to apply for an absentee ballot. The deadline for turning in ballot applications was Thursday, May 21. The voted ballots themselves have to reach the clerk’s office by noon on primary election day, June 2. Voters who receive their ballots later next week, and are concerned that their mailed ballot might not arrive in time, can turn in their ballots in person at Election Central.

The roughly 1,300 ballots that have been processed every day for the last week is about twice the number Wheeler had previously described as the office’s maximum daily capacity. She said previously she’d be looking to recruit county employees who had been ordered to stay home from work during the COVID-19 health emergency.

On Saturday, she said about 20 people were working inside the Election Central building at 7th and  Madison streets. They’ll need to work Sunday, Monday, and probably Tuesday, too, Wheeler figured.

“It’s been intense,” Wheeler said. Continue reading “Monroe County June 2 primary election update: 18K absentee ballots sent so far; early in-person voting starts Tuesday”

Bloomington city hall opens in limited way on Tuesday, mask wearing promoted by #WearItBtown

Bloomington’s city hall, closed to the public since the third week of March, will re-open in a limited way next Tuesday, the day after Memorial Day.

The city’s mayor, John Hamilton, gave a reminder about the limited re-opening at Friday afternoon’s weekly press conference. Local leaders give updates on COVID-19 issues every Friday at 1:15 p.m. through an event live-streamed on the city’s Facebook page.

Hamilton stressed that the city is still encouraging residents who need to do business with the city to take advantage of services by phone or the city’s website, if possible.

Among the new protocols at city hall is a requirement that visitors wear a face covering. For people who don’t have one, a free mask will be provided. Continue reading “Bloomington city hall opens in limited way on Tuesday, mask wearing promoted by #WearItBtown”

Monroe County’s total food and beverage COVID-19 relief nudges towards $200K as board gets updates on blood drive, mask promotion

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Screen shot from the May 20, 2020 meeting of Monroe County’s board of commissioners, which was conducted on the Zoom video conferencing platform.

At Wednesday’s regular meeting of Monroe County’s commissioners, another $5,000 COVID-19 relief grant was made to a tourism-related business outside Bloomington city limits, using food and beverage tax proceeds.

The breakdown for Pili’s Party Taco’s use of the $5,000 grant is: $1,800 rent; $1,200 insurance (truck and supplies); and $2,000 for employee salaries.

The board also got an update on an upcoming blood drive, a mask-wearing promotion, and a comprehensive county planning update. Continue reading “Monroe County’s total food and beverage COVID-19 relief nudges towards $200K as board gets updates on blood drive, mask promotion”

Bloomington Transit board OKs shift to slightly bigger gear related to COVID-19 reopening

At its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday night, the five-member Bloomington Transit board approved a two-phase reopening plan for public bus service in the city.

The plan sets June 1 as the date when something closer to a normal summer break schedule will resume.

Public buses in Bloomington have still been running during the state’s COVID-19 emergency orders, but using a modified Saturday schedule every day. That reduces the number of service hours by about half compared to normal levels this time of year.

Schedules are posted on BT’s website. Realtime bus locations, when they are running, are available through the mobile app DoubleMap.

During the first phase of BT’s reopening plan, passengers can continue to ride the bus fare-free and board through the rear door. Through the first phase, drivers will continue to receive time-and-a-half hazard pay. Continue reading “Bloomington Transit board OKs shift to slightly bigger gear related to COVID-19 reopening”

Monroe County’s new COVID-19 health order on reopening: Will local officials eat their own cooking?

A new COVID-19 health order issued on Thursday by Monroe County’s health officer Thomas Sharp goes into effect starting Saturday, May 16.

In broad strokes, it puts the county in Stage 2 of Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s “Back on Track” plan announced on May 1, with a key difference: Monroe County will stay in Stage 2 an extra week compared to the governor’s plan—that is, through May 31.

One effect of the county’s order is that restaurants can open for dine-in services, at 50 percent capacity. Another effect is that barbers and hairstylists can also open for business. Any business that opens has to follow guidelines in the governor’s order. Continue reading “Monroe County’s new COVID-19 health order on reopening: Will local officials eat their own cooking?”

“You are safest at home,” says Monroe County’s health administrator, but science plus art means re-opening start

Monroe County’s health administrator Penny Caudill said Wednesday that last week’s local health emergency order on COVID-19 would likely be replaced at week’s end with one that allows barbershops and hair salons to re-open and restaurants to offer dine-in service, starting Saturday, May 16. [Updated: May 14, 2020 at 4:35 p.m. The order has been issued.]

The county’s current order is stricter than Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s “Back on Track” plan  announced May 1.

The local order—which was also issued on May 1, and maintained the same kind of business closures and stay-at-home directives as the governor’s “Hunker Down, Hoosiers” order had—is set to expire at the end of the day on Friday.

The new local order is expected to be effective through May 31, Caudill said.

Caudill made the announcement at Wednesday morning’s county board of commissioners meeting. She said that the new order is still in draft form and could change if there are new developments between now and Friday. Continue reading ““You are safest at home,” says Monroe County’s health administrator, but science plus art means re-opening start”

Ellettsville town council would like better heads-up from county health officials on next COVID-19 quarantine decision

On May 1, Monroe County’s health department issued an order extending COVID-19 countermeasures that keep restrictions on businesses and gatherings in place for another two weeks, through May 15.

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Screen grab from the May 11, 2020 meeting of the Ellettsville town council meeting.

When a decision is made on extending or rescinding that order—which currently ends at midnight this Friday—Ellettsville town councilmembers are hoping for better communication than they got about the May 1 announcement.

The health department’s May 1 announcement came after Indiana’s governor, Eric Holcomb, had issued his own order outlining a phased-in “Back on Track” program earlier that day.

That means for about a week now Monroe County has been under tighter restrictions than most of the rest of the state. Those tighter restrictions will continue at least through Friday at the end of this week.

The county health department’s order applies to the whole county, including the city of Bloomington and the town of Ellettsville.

The wording of the document included Bloomington and Ellettsville.  According to the order, the health department’s decision was made after “consultation with the Mayor of the City of Bloomington, the Monroe County Board of Commissioners, and representatives of the Town of Ellettsville,”

But Ellettsville town councilmembers found out about the May 1 decision the same way that many of their constituents did—by reading about it in the newspaper. At Monday’s town council meeting, councilmember Scott Oldham said, “We were kind of left on the outside.” Continue reading “Ellettsville town council would like better heads-up from county health officials on next COVID-19 quarantine decision”