Monroe County synched up with governor’s order except: Mass gatherings still limited to 50

cropped facemask all Screen Shot 2020-05-29 at 1.13.46 PM
Screen grab from May 29, 2020 press conference of local Bloomington and Monroe County officials. 

The latest COVID-19-related order from Monroe County’s health officer, Thomas Sharp, issued on Thursday and effective starting Saturday, matches the requirements for Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s current order, except for one.

The one exception: In Monroe County, mass gatherings are still limited to 50 people Under the governor’s order, mass gatherings can go up to 100.

Monroe County’s order lasts through June 15.

At Friday afternoon’s press conference, Monroe County’s health administrator, Penny Caudill, described the local order as “carving out” the one difference on mass gatherings.

When Holcomb issued his first “Back on Track” order, Monroe County’s local order maintained all the precautions up to then for another couple of weeks. Local orders can be stricter, but not more lenient than the governor’s order.

For Monroe County, 12 COVID-19 deaths are reported on the state’s dashboard as of Friday.  The 12 deaths break down as 5 female, 6 male and 1 unknown. There are 2 age 50-59, 1 age 60-69, 6 age 70-79, and 3 older than 80 years. All 12 deaths are white, according to the data feed for the state’s dashboard.

The number of new confirmed cases in Monroe each day since mid-April has included one day when six new cases were reported, and five days when three or four cases were reported. But for the last six weeks, the daily report out of Monroe County has been a mix of zero, one, or two cases.

Caudill also pointed to the percentage of positive tests as showing a positive downward trend. It’s currently at 5.3 percent, she reported. The peak was in mid-April, at around 13 percent.

“How did we get here? Because we followed directions from health experts,” Caudill said. That includes general guidelines that are listed out in Monroe County’s new order:

2. General Recommendations
When individuals must interact with one another outside the home, including at work, they must observe the following precautions:
a. Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from other individuals;
b. Wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as frequently as possible, or use hand sanitizer when necessary;
c. Cover all coughs and sneezes;
d. Disinfect frequently used surfaces;
e. Share food, drinks, utensils, and office supplies and equipment (such as pens, staplers, and computer keyboards) as little as possible;
f. Increase ventilation of indoor spaces, by opening windows or adjusting air conditioning, as much as possible;
g. Hold all necessary meetings by telephone or videoconference whenever possible; and
h. Refrain from shaking hands or engaging in other physical contact with the hands or face of another person.

At the press conference, Caudill also highlighted the advice, repeated in the county’s latest health order, to wear a face covering when out in public, and it’s not possible to maintain six feet of distance to other people.

Local officials who participated in the press conference started off the meeting wearing masks as a show of support for that guideline, even though they were in some cases, isolated at home.

Caudill ticked through answers to some typical questions about what constitutes a “mass gathering.” It’s a party, she said, or some kind of event were people are invited to show up. It doesn’t include religious services like a wedding, funeral or a worship service, she said. But it does include the ancillary events to those religious services.

So the number of people who can attend a wedding is unlimited, but the number of people who can attend a wedding reception is limited by the number in the health order. For Monroe county, that’s 50 people.

Even though religious services are not subject to the mass-gathering limit, Caudill said, the governor’s order encourages that religious services continue to be conducted through live streaming video or some other “virtual” method.

The current phase in the governor’s order, and now Monroe County, is Stage 3—which means that bars (not serving any food) and playgrounds are still closed. Personal service business,—which means spas, salons, barber shops, tattoo parlors, massage salons and similar facilities—can offer services by appointment only.

Caudill said some businesses are requiring employees and customers to wear masks. She encouraged people to follow the requirements that a business puts in place.

As a part of the governor’s most recent order, evictions for nonpayment of rent can resume after July 1, 2020. Foreclosures for nonpayment of mortgages can also resume after July 1, 2020.

The governor’s order still encourages everyone to stay at home as much as practicable to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.