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 board voted to approve a motion to have county health administrator Penny Caudill and county health commissioner Thomas Sharp collaborate with Indiana University officials on a revised regulation.
The revised rule might distinguish between inside guests and outside guests of Greek houses, and would likely still prohibit guests inside buildings and place restrictions on guests who remain outside.
Good news tempered with caution about the persistent presence of the pandemic virus was again the theme of this Friday’s weekly press conference on COVID-19 response, held by Bloomington area leaders.
Probably the most significant news out of Friday’s news conference was the fact that Monroe County’s public vaccination site will transition in April from its current location at the county’s convention center to Indiana University’s Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, the school’s basketball venue.
That news came jointly from Indiana University’s assistant vice president for strategic partnerships, Kirk White, and Monroe County’s health administrator, Penny Caudill.
People who get their first shot at the convention center in March will still be able to get the second dose scheduled for the convention center location, Caudill said. IU Health’s vaccination site at its Medical Arts building will continue to offer vaccinations.
To dispense the COVID-19 vaccine, White said IU would use a logistical setup at Assembly Hall similar to the one it deployed for its mass flu vaccination clinic. The initial COVID-19 vaccine supply will not support the full capacity of that setup, White said. “We feel confident that if we had the supply, we could probably run upwards of 2,000 people through in a day.”
Another bit of good news: Brian Shockney, president of IU Health’s south central region, reported that starting March 8, all IU Health hospitals will begin allowing visitors for COVID-19 patients. Shockney said COVID-19 patients will be able to designate two close contacts as visitors, and one of the two designated visitors will be able to visit per day.
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.
In the state of Indiana and Monroe County, the COVID-19 pandemic numbers continue to slide down the other side of the peaks that were climbed starting in mid- to late-October of 2020.
The most recent rolling 7-day daily averages for Indiana deaths (19), hospitalizations (1,274), confirmed positive cases(1,621) are the lowest the state has seen since mid-October. The same is true for confirmed positive cases in Monroe County (31).
Dispensing every drop of vaccine that they are allocated has become the main focus for local health officials. That’s the basic picture that emerged from Friday’s weekly news conference held by local officials on pandemic response.
Right now the main barrier to vaccinating more people is the amount of vaccine available. IU Health is currently allocated about 4,000 doses a week, and Monroe County’s clinic is getting around 800 doses a week. The current pace of full vaccinations—two doses are required—would put Monroe County at the 70-percent herd-immunity threshold around mid-November.
Brian Shockney, who’s president of IU Health’s south central region, which includes Bloomington and Monroe County, said on Friday: “My personal and professional plea to each of you is to get the vaccine when your opportunity comes.”
Registration for vaccination appointments, which are currently limited to frontline healthcare workers and those older than 70, can be done online, or by calling 211.
Shockney followed up a few minutes later with a challenge: “I put a challenge out: Let’s be the first county to achieve herd immunity.” In ballpark numbers that would translate into 70 percent of Monroe County’s population of about 148,000, or 103,600 people.
Indiana’s state department of health announced mid-week that people 80 years and older are now eligible to register for an appointment to receive the vaccine. That was the main newsy bit at Friday’s press conference of local leaders about response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Up to now, just frontline healthcare workers have been able to get the vaccine.
As the first of the vaccine doses start to get distributed in Monroe County, the number of confirmed cases for the first week of the year has seen a recent upward trend. After trending downward for the last four weeks of the year, from a rolling 7-day average of around 100 cases to the mid-40s, the rolling average is now back up to around 75.
The adding up of raw case numbers was highlighted by Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, at Friday’s health conference. Hamilton ticked through the stats for the number of city employees who have received a positive COVID-19 test.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Monroe County commissioner Julie Thomas called COVID-19 vaccine distribution a “hurry-up-and-wait” situation. She said in her household the question comes up every other day: “Is it here yet? Is it our turn yet?”
For most people, the answer is no.
But Brian Shockney, who’s president of IU Health’s southwest region, reported that so far in Monroe County, 3,000 frontline medical workers had received their first shot of the two-dose vaccine.
That includes some paramedics, firefighters and law enforcement officers, who render medical aid, if they’re first on the scene.
Monroe County’s emergency manager Allison Moore said that in addition to notifying news outlets, the county would be using its emergency alert system to tell residents when the vaccine becomes generally available.
The regular news conference of local leaders on COVID-19 response was shifted from Friday to Wednesday this week due to the New Year’s holiday.
One resolution that’s been pre-filed would put an end to Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s executive order declaring a health emergency [CR 2]. Another bill includes a 14-day limit on the duration of COVID-19 health orders that are issued by a county health officer—unless they’re approved by the county executive [SB 48]. A third piece of legislation would allow a pharmacist or pharmacy technician to administer the COVID vaccine [SB 47].
About the first two bills, Bloomington’s mayor John Hamilton gave an initial take: “This looks to me like a group of people that are looking to say no, when we need to be saying yes.” He continued, “My goodness, this legislature does not need to try to slow things down or make it more difficult.”
About the state’s legislators, Hamilton added, “Here’s something they could do. They could fund our public health system appropriately!”