Monroe County board of health elevates COVID-19 health order to regulation status: $500 fine possible

A regulation adopted unanimously by Monroe County’s board of health on Tuesday night is based largely on same the wording of an order issued late last week by county health officer Thomas Sharp. Both are meant to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The regulation takes effect at noon on Wednesday, July 22, but puts off some of the requirements until July 31. The requirement on face coverings is effective at noon, Wednesday, sooner than the other requirements. That sequence follows the same pattern as the health order did, which was issued last week.

In practical terms, the regulation has a status that allows for enforcement and punishment with a fine. Under the county code, the violation of a board of health regulation is a Class C ordinance violation. And a Class C ordinance violation carries with it a possible fine of up to $500. [Updated 11:11 a.m. on July 22, 2020. The board of county commissioners adopted an executive order at their regular meeting directing the sheriff to enforce the health board’s regulation.]

But the regulation approved Tuesday recommends that individuals, as opposed to groups, be fined $50. Group violations are recommended to be fined at a higher, unspecified amount.

The county regulation on wearing a face covering is something that can be enforced less than 24 hours after it was approved by the board of health on Tuesday evening. Continue reading “Monroe County board of health elevates COVID-19 health order to regulation status: $500 fine possible”

COVID-19 Update: Monroe County issues separate order; mayor announces positive antibodies; mask mandate mulled; more tests, confirmed cases

On Thursday, Monroe County’s health officer issued a separate COVID-19 order that is slightly more restrictive than the statewide directive.

The local order starts July 4.

The local health order includes a requirement that businesses post signs encouraging their patrons to wear masks, but does not mandate the wearing of masks.

Local officials are mulling the possibility of following the lead of some other Indiana jurisdictions—St. Joseph, Elkhart and Marion counties—by imposing a requirement that masks be worn when residents are in public. But their preference is to get voluntary compliance.

At their regular weekly press conference on Thursday, pushed up a day due to the July 4 holiday, local officials praised Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s decision the previous day to pause his Back on Track plan. Holcomb issued a 4.5 version, instead of adopting Back on Track 5.0.

The day before that, Holcomb had extended to July 31 a previous order halting evictions due to non-payment of rent. As a part of the same extended order, utility shutoffs were suspended until Aug. 14.

The new local health order was issued on the same day when Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, announced he had tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies. That’s likely due to having been infected back in April, despite having twice tested negative back then.

Increased testing in Monroe County—from a 7-day rolling average of around 100 a day in the first part of June, to closer to 150 a day in the second half of the month—has come with the highest number of positive cases since the pandemic started.

The current 7-day rolling average is around 6 new confirmed cases a day after staying under 2 from late April to mid-June. The rate of positive tests has nudged upward, but not in a dramatic way. Continue reading “COVID-19 Update: Monroe County issues separate order; mayor announces positive antibodies; mask mandate mulled; more tests, confirmed cases”

Monroe County health department: Decision on extension of May 15 stay-at-home order to use science and data plus questions and reasoning

Based on Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s “Back on Track” order issued on May 1, as soon as this Monday (May 11), it would have been possible to sit and drink a pint at restaurants in Bloomington and elsewhere in Monroe County.

Barchart COVID-19 cases DAILY COUNTIES MONROE For May 10 Report

The restaurants would have needed to limit the number of customers to 50 percent of capacity.

But on the same day that Holcomb announced his phased-in reopening plan, local officials announced an order from Monroe County’s health officer saying that conditions from the existing stay-at-home order would remain in place through May 15. That means for a little while longer, Monroe County residents will be eating and drinking at home.

How much longer? And when will a decision be made on a possible extension of the county’s order past May 15?

At last Friday’s press conference, county health administrator Penny Caudill said, “We can’t make it too early, but we do want to make it as early as we can, to give people a chance to plan. But we also have to follow the information and the data.”

Caudill said public health decisions are “based on science and data, but they’re not based on those things without questions and reasoning.” Continue reading “Monroe County health department: Decision on extension of May 15 stay-at-home order to use science and data plus questions and reasoning”

Column: On the normalcy of local COVID-19 response

Early Friday afternoon, Monroe County’s health administrator, Penny Caudill,
sent out a press release announcing the county’s first confirmed case of COVID-19, the pandemic virus that’s spreading across the world.

It was a student seen a week earlier by Indiana University Health Center, whose positive test was reported to the center just that morning.

The student, who lives off-campus, self-isolated for the week while the test was being processed. The student health center sent the test to LabCorp, a private lab in Burlington, North Carolina, according to the student health center’s medical director, Beth Rupp.

The COVID-19 infection that was reported on Friday appears to be a case contracted in Monroe County. Rupp told a group of reporters on a Zoom video conference call on Friday that the student had not travelled recently and had no known exposure.

Rupp confirmed that LabCorp reported the positive result to the health center on Friday morning. Rupp said her first step was to contact the patient. After that, the student health center notified Caudill, as Monroe County’s health administrator.

Caudill was a part of Friday afternoon’s press conference call, which was organized by Indiana University’s director of media relations, Chuck Carney. Continue reading “Column: On the normalcy of local COVID-19 response”

Ribbon cut for Monroe County family planning clinic entrance art

Speaking into a PA microphone Friday afternoon, standing just south of the 7th and College intersection in downtown Bloomington, Penny Caudill said, “We walk into work and we smile!”

Cropped mural 08.01.2019 IMG_0230
On Thursday (Aug. 1, 2019), artist Gypsy Schindler, applies a clear coat to her mural along the entrance ramp to the lower level of the Monroe County Health Building, which stands on the southeast corner of 6th Street and College Avenue. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Caudill, who’s Monroe County’s health administrator, was talking to artist Gypsy Schindler, who just recently completed a mural on the wall that leads along the ramp to the lower-level entrance of the county’s health building. The art depicts kids playing—riding bicycles, kicking a soccer ball and jumping rope.

A ribbon cutting for the mural was the main event for the health department open-house on Friday. It was part of the “Ramp Up Awareness” project for the Futures Family Planning Clinic, which is housed on the lower level of the health building. Continue reading “Ribbon cut for Monroe County family planning clinic entrance art”