Recent Bloomington employee death a reminder of dire effects of pandemic disease, even as indicators trend better

A push for people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 was again a main talking point at Friday’s weekly press conference of local leaders on pandemic response.

Among the local sites for free vaccine distribution is Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall at Indiana University.

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.

On the employee’s death, Hamilton said, “That reminds us that this disease is still very much among us, and can be dire, and can bring terrible consequences.” Hamilton added, “I just want to express our sympathy and condolences to family members.” Continue reading “Recent Bloomington employee death a reminder of dire effects of pandemic disease, even as indicators trend better”

IU offers shot at free parking spot for students who get their COVID-19 vaccination

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 revision the university’s policy on vaccination  came after objections from several state legislators  and an opinion issued by the state’s attorney general. Continue reading “IU offers shot at free parking spot for students who get their COVID-19 vaccination”

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”

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”

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”

Allocation of COVID-19 vaccines to IU Health bumped by nearly 30 percent

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.

By that standard, Monroe County is about 11 percent of the way to herd immunity. Continue reading “Allocation of COVID-19 vaccines to IU Health bumped by nearly 30 percent”

First Monroe County, now Bloomington, to consider food and beverage tax money as economic relief funds in COVID-19 response

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.

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Monroe County councilor Cheryl Munson and Bloomington city councilmember Steve Volan are vice president and president, respectively, of the food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC).

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.

Bloomington’s request could be made at the city council’s upcoming Wednesday meeting. A revised meeting agenda now includes a resolution that would make a request of FABTAC for the use of food and beverage tax revenues. Continue reading “First Monroe County, now Bloomington, to consider food and beverage tax money as economic relief funds in COVID-19 response”

Bloomington press conference on farmers market covers First Amendment, gun laws, possible exclusion of a vendor

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.

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Left is Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton. Right is farmers market vendor for 34 years, Linda Chapman of  Harvest Moon Flower Farm. July 31, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)

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.

Hamilton’s prepared remarks framed the issue of public safety in terms of two challenges: (1) Indiana’s permissive gun laws; and (2) “a toxic stew of bigotry and hatred, of intolerance and divisiveness, that is being brewed by many, all across the country, including our own President.” Continue reading “Bloomington press conference on farmers market covers First Amendment, gun laws, possible exclusion of a vendor”