Monroe County preps for veto override of new law imposing new requirements for local health orders

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.

For example, the current Monroe County health regulations, which are effective through May 28, limit gatherings to 50 people, and require masking in a range of situations.

So at Tuesday’s meeting of Monroe County’s board of heath, members got a briefing from county attorney Margie Rice on the required steps, if the governor’s veto is overridden, which they are anticipating. Continue reading “Monroe County preps for veto override of new law imposing new requirements for local health orders”

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”

$3K incentive for new Bloomington bus drivers, as ridership creeps upward from pandemic lows

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.

BT is also planning to host an on-site job fair in mid-May where applicants could be interviewed on the spot. Continue reading “$3K incentive for new Bloomington bus drivers, as ridership creeps upward from pandemic lows”

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”

Approaching $750K: Monroe County reimbursement grants to businesses using CARES Act money

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.

This is a partial list of businesses, nonprofits and taxing units that have received reimbursement pandemic relief grants through Monroe County government, sorted by grant amounts. A complete table is include below.

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 county has set up a web page with a form for applicants to fill out.

The basic purpose of the funds is to reimburse non-payroll pandemic-related expenses that haven’t been covered by some other program. Continue reading “Approaching $750K: Monroe County reimbursement grants to businesses using CARES Act money”

COVID-19 update: Upward surge of cases continues, but vaccinations accelerate

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.

White was speaking at the weekly Friday afternoon press conference held by local leaders on COVID-19 pandemic response. Continue reading “COVID-19 update: Upward surge of cases continues, but vaccinations accelerate”

“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”

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”

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”