A new law (SEA 05) recently enacted by Indiana’s legislature imposes additional requirements for local health orders to go into effect, if they are more restrictive than an order from the governor.
On Tuesday, governor Eric Holcomb vetoed the law, saying, “I am vetoing SEA 5 because I believe it will… restrict necessary flexibility in the law, and further undermine local responses to future public health emergencies.”
Monroe County’s health regulations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic have generally been more restrictive than the governor’s orders, with respect to masking and gathering sizes, among other things.
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.
Bloomington’s public bus system is about 10 drivers short of the number needed to ramp service back up to meet the needs of Indiana University students and affiliates in a post-COVID-19 climate.
“For us to be able to restore the full level of service to the IU campus, we would need to hire about 10 drivers,” Bloomington Transit general manager Lew May told the board at its monthly meeting on Tuesday.
Indiana University is resuming in-person classes in the fall.
May laid out the urgency of the hiring situation: “We’ve got about four months to go, to make those hires.”
To help with the hiring effort, at Tuesday’s meeting, BT’s board approved a series of incentives.
Incentives include: increasing the employee referral incentive from $1,000 to $3,000; implementing a new employee hiring incentive of $3,000; a $100 incentive for getting a COVID-19 vaccination.
Sign boards typically used for traffic alerts are being used to remind patrons of Kirkwood Avenue establishments to wear masks. The streetis closed to automobile traffic, to help restaurants do more business than they would, if inside dining were the only option.
“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.
Monroe County’s total allocation of awards to local businesses, nonprofits and other governmental entities using federal COVID-19 pandemic relief money is now approaching three quarters of a million dollars.
At their regular Wednesday meeting, county commissioners approved a total $64,724 in the latest round of allocations to local businesses to reimburse COVID-19 expenses. The grand total amount that’s been awarded so far now stands at $743,654.
Wednesday’s grantees included: Dimension Mill; Hive; Jerry G. Miller; Katherine James Designs; Monroe County Public Library; Nick’s English Hut, Inc; One World Catering; Pizza Express, Inc; Rainbow (Hopscotch) Bakery; The Wonderlab Museum; Upland Brewing Company, Inc;VTG Enterprises; Landlocked Enterprises, Inc; Innovative Financial Solutions; Laughlin Financial LLC; Litwin Enterprises; and BloomingPaws LLC.
On Wednesday, after Monroe County’s financial director, Brianne Gregory, presented the item, commissioners approved the allocations without a lot of extra discussion.
Board of commissioners president Julie Thomas noted that the application deadline for the grants is April 30. That means only a couple more weeks are left for businesses, nonprofits, and other governmental entities to apply for the reimbursements.
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.
Friday’s report of 54 new cases of COVID-19 for Monroe County cases is the highest number since Feb. 3.
But the rate of fully vaccinated county residents that are being added to the daily total has risen in the last couple weeks, to around 500 per day. That’s after bumping along in the low 300s for about seven weeks.
According to Indiana University’s assistant vice president for strategic partnerships, Kirk White, another boost to the number of fully vaccinated county residents will come in early May. That increase will come when people who are being vaccinated at the university’s Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall start getting their second doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
he 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.
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.