The message for people to take advantage of the free vaccine got some extra urgency from Bloomington mayor John Hamilton, who confirmed an earlier press release that announced the death of a city employee due to COVID-19.
Indiana University is sticking with its policy of vaccinations for students, faculty and university staff with the start of the fall 2021 semester, but has relented on its demand for documentation.
Instead of demanding proof, IU is now trying a gentler approach—a drawing for prizes for IU affiliates who submit their documentation. The prizes vary for students, faculty and staff but include: $500 bookstore gift cards, campus dining credit, an Apple Watch, and AirPods Pro, among other items.
At Friday’s weekly press conference on local COVID-19 response, one of the prizes for students got an extra pitch from IU vice president for strategic partnerships, Kirk White: “Students will be eligible for—get this, hey—a year long free parking permit! Now what’s better than that for students?” The regular price for a student parking permit is $174.
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.
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.
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.
The local and regional pace of COVID-19 vaccination should be increasing, based on the additional 1,170 doses of Pfizer vaccine that Indiana’s department of health will be adding to the weekly shipment of 4,000 doses.
That was a highlight from remarks by Brian Shockney, president of IU Health’s south central region, speaking at Friday’s weekly press conference of local leaders.
Shockney said that IU Health’s Bloomington vaccine site has used 29,275 of the 31,825 doses it has received so far, which makes for a 92-percent rate. The additional 1,170 doses of vaccine will mean an extra 70 appointments per day, starting Monday, March 1.
About the state health department’s decision, Shockney said, “They’ve seen how quickly we’re able to put shots in arms.”
Indiana’s vaccine dashboard shows 11,676 people vaccinated In Monroe County so far. The 70 percent of the total population that has been used as the standard for herd immunity would work out to 103,902 of Monroe County’s 148,431 residents.
On Monday, Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s gave a noon address announcing a stay-at-home order as a way to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic virus.
A couple of hours later, elected and appointed officials from Bloomington, Monroe County, Indiana University, and IU Health, held a virtual press conference.
During his turn, Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, referred to the necessary response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a “marathon, not a sprint.” He quickly revised that description: “We’re in a marathon that starts with a sprint.”
Part of the sprint is a resolution approved last Wednesday by Monroe County commissioners, to make a request of the food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC). If the FABTAC gives its approval, the county would be able to use $200,000 of already-collected food and beverage tax revenues for economic relief of local businesses impacted by COVID-19.
Bloomington now looks like it could make a similar request of the FABTAC. It will likely be for a larger amount, because Bloomington receives 90 percent of the food and beverage tax revenues. The county receives the other 10 percent.
After announcing on Monday (July 29) that Bloomington’s farmers market would be suspended for the next two Saturdays, Mayor John Hamilton held a press conference on Wednesday morning to address the situation.
Monday’s press release gave the general background for the market closure: “Since the recent public discussion of ties between a vendor at the market and white nationalist causes and groups, the City has identified increasing threats to public safety.”
The press release also hinted at more concrete reasons: “…[I]nformation gathered identifying threats of specific individuals with connections to past white nationalist violence, present the potential for future clashes.”
At Wednesday’s press conference, when Hamilton and the city’s chief of police, Mike Diekhoff, responded to questions from the press on the topic of threats, they didn’t provide additional details on the exact nature of the threats.
Hamilton said, “The threats were enough to identify particular individuals that meant to us, we saw a threat of violence in the market. And given the realities that I talked about, we felt it was critical for public safety to hit pause.”
Hamilton led off the press conference with about 15 minutes worth of prepared remarks, then fielded questions, first mostly from the press, then from others.