COVID-19: Bloomington mayor cuts crowd size limit to 15 after university students flout 50-person max

In a joint press release from Bloomington mayor John Hamilton and Indiana University provost Lauren Robel, it was announced mid-day Friday that the mayor is imposing a 15-person limit on the size of gatherings.

That’s smaller than the previous 50-person limit specified in the current health order for Monroe County, which is meant to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic virus.

The message in the press release warns: “Sanctions for students who do not adhere to IU’s COVID-19 health and safety precautions will be swift.”

The university has implemented a policy on violations of COVID-19 prevention protocols that includes punishments like suspension or expulsion from the university.

The current Monroe County health order, issued by health officer Thomas Sharp on July 22, limits non-commercial gathering to 50 people.  The county’s order is in effect until rescinded.

The mayor’s order, limiting gathering sizes for non-commercial events to 15 people, is effective immediately, starting at noon, Aug. 21. It’s effective until it’s rescinded.

It was events like a large party that took place on Wednesday— just south of 3rd Street on Atwater Avenue, near Indiana University’s campus—that prompted Bloomington’s mayor to act.

Similar events led Indiana University president Michael McRobbie to post a letter to students  that described “recent parties and large gatherings hosted by IU students that have violated county regulations and put our campus communities at risk.”

McRobbie’s post concluded: “Right now, there are people on social media posting about how irresponsible students are going to force us all back online. They think it is inevitable. Prove them wrong.”

The Monroe County crowd-size limit of 50, and the new limit of 15 in Bloomington, are significantly smaller than the 250 people allowed by Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s Stage 4 order,  which was issued on June 11, and followed by a Stage 4.5 order,  a first extension,  and a second extension of Stage 4.5. The most recent extension was issued on July 30 and is effective through Aug. 27.

The governor’s orders include a provision that allows local jurisdictions to impose stricter measures if they choose. It’s that discretion that allows Monroe County’s health officer to impose the 50-person limit. It also allows Bloomington’s mayor to ratchet that down to 15.

Hamilton has previously shown a willingness to exercise his own discretion  in connection with COVID-19 orders, by imposing the 50-person limit on crowd sizes a week earlier, on July 23, than the county health officer.

According to the mayor’s office, Hamilton’s authority to issue the order is based on a part of Indiana Code that gives a local government general powers to ensure public safety [IC-36-8-2-5]  and the statute that covers home rule [IC 36-1-3]

One thought on “COVID-19: Bloomington mayor cuts crowd size limit to 15 after university students flout 50-person max

  1. Has anyone thought of testing hte constitutionality of things like this 15-person max in court? Has anyone in any state tested governors’ powers to declare emergencies that last for many months, and to issue decrees that so often seem to lack a rational basis and be arbitrary and capricious?

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