Building “culture of compliance” preferred to punishments for Bloomington’s triple layer of COVID-19 health orders

The major COVID-19 news across the state of Indiana on Wednesday came at governor Eric Holcomb’s mid-afternoon press conference. Holcomb announced a statewide mandate for wearing face coverings to prevent the spread of the virus.

for beacon exported mask-4982908_1280The governor’s order is to be issued Thursday, and is supposed to take effect on Monday, July 27.

The governor’s order will make a failure to wear a face covering, in certain prescribed circumstances, a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a possible sentence of up to six months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.

But at the press conference, Holcomb said, “Please know the mask police will not be patrolling Hoosier streets.”

Enforcement of the governor’s mandate could be a moot point. Indiana’s attorney general on Wednesday issued an opinion that says the governor lacks the authority to criminalize a violation of the mask mandate. The opinion says it’s the state legislature that has that kind of authority. Continue reading “Building “culture of compliance” preferred to punishments for Bloomington’s triple layer of COVID-19 health orders”

Monroe County, Bloomington officials working towards a single mask rule for COVID-19, precise nature of rule still unclear

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Will the rules on masks in the next Monroe County health order include a strict mandate for wearing face coverings when in public? Maybe.

During Friday’s weekly press conference, held by local leaders about the community’s COVID-19 response, city and county officials stayed squarely on message: They’re hoping to have a single rule for the entire county.

It’s less certain what that rule will be. City officials are pushing for the consistent rule to be something fairly robust. Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, said that he and other city officials think “having a substantial mandate is a prudent thing to do.”

At Wednesday’s meeting of the county commissioners, Monroe County’s health administrator, Penny Caudill, had previewed the idea that some kind of mask requirement would be in the county’s next health order.

Based on Caudill’s remarks at Friday’s press conference, it’s still not settled what that requirement will look like.

Caudill recognized that support for a mask mandate in the county is strong, but said it’s is not universal. “We recognize there are a large number of people who are supportive of a mask requirement, and some people wish it was in place back in March,” Caudill said.

Caudill added, “Others are clearly letting us know that they are not in support of that. So we do hope to find some balance as we look at best public health practice around face coverings.”

The next health order from health officer Thomas Sharp is expected before the end of the month, Caudill confirmed on Friday. Continue reading “Monroe County, Bloomington officials working towards a single mask rule for COVID-19, precise nature of rule still unclear”

Mandatory masks by month’s end, if not sooner, says Monroe County’s health administrator

On Wednesday, health administrator Penny Caudill said the next COVID-19 health order from county health officer Thomas Sharp would have some kind of requirement for wearing a mask in public.

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Screenshot from June 8, 2020 meeting of the Monroe County board of commissioners.

The next order will be issued by the end of the month if not before, Caudill said.

The news from Caudill came during her update to county commissioners during their regular weekly meeting on Wednesday.

A new health order, without a mandatory mask wearing requirement, was issued starting July 4. That order will stay in effect, “until repealed or replaced.”

About the next health directive that could replace the July 4 order, Caudill said on Wednesday, “Final determinations have not been made,” but added, “We do expect that it will include some kind of face covering requirement while in public.” Continue reading “Mandatory masks by month’s end, if not sooner, says Monroe County’s health administrator”

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”

Column | On voting: Wear a mask for civic task

In-person early voting in Monroe County starts at 8 a.m. Tuesday at Election Central in downtown Bloomington.

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“When you do a civic task, like vote in person, wear a mask.”

The week of early in-person voting, leading up to election day on June 2, will take place in the middle of a declared health emergency. It was enacted to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Here’s a word of encouragement to those who want to perform their civic duty of voting in person: Please wear a face covering.

Put on a mask.

As of Sunday, Monroe County has seen 160 confirmed cases and 10 deaths due to COVID-19. Statewide, about 32,000 cases are confirmed and 1,800 people have died from the disease. Continue reading “Column | On voting: Wear a mask for civic task”

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?”

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”