Local officials preach COVID-19 caution as numbers level off, milestones marked

As the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the one-year mark, it’s been an occasion to mark milestones. At Friday’s weekly press conference of Bloomington area leaders, Indiana University’s director of media relations, Chuck Carney, added one of the achievements.

“We’ve collected 193.1 gallons of spit for our mitigation tests,” Carney said.

The sheer volume of saliva, which pencils out to about one hot tub, or 12 kegs full of spit, was not as important as the current positivity rate, which is just around 0.2 percent.

Numbers of deaths across the state have hit a 7-day rolling average of around 7, the lowest levels since the end of March last year, in the early stages of the pandemic.

The rolling daily average of hospitalizations is around 635, which is about as low as the early July dip, after hitting a high of more than 3,200 a day.

The infection numbers, in Monroe County and across the state, have continued to be much lower than the December peaks, but are starting to level off.

For the state of Indiana, the 7-day rolling average of confirmed positive cases is now around 820 per day. Numbers that that low haven’t been seen since around mid-July to the end of September.

For Monroe County, the 7-day rolling average of confirmed positive cases is now around 16 per day, which is about what it was in mid-July. But the countywide rolling average has stayed pretty steady for about the last month.

In urging continued vigilance with various precautions like mask wearing, physical distancing, and avoidance of large groups, Bloomington mayor John Hamilton, on Friday quoted Centers for Disease Control director Rochelle Walensky’s remarks to NBC News. “We have to be humble with this virus. Every time we felt like we had it under control, we had an enormous surge,” Walensky said.

Hamilton noted that Bloomington’s gathering size limit is still 15 people.

Monroe County health administrator Penny Caudill noted that the most recent week’s total number of cases was slightly up from the previous week’s. “I’m not saying that that is cause to be alarmed, but it is caused to be cautious,” she said.

Caudill added, “We will need people to continue to practice these public health measures so that we can continue to see downward trends.”

Brian Shockney, who is president of IU Health’s south central region, noted that the leveling off at low numbers of patients does not mean there are no patients. “We continue our leveling off of COVID-19 inpatients here in Monroe County and across the south central region…” He continued, “It’s not a disappearance of COVID-19 patients. The virus is still with us.”

Shockney added, “It’s causing very serious conditions, in our friends and our family members and in our neighbors. We have to continue to be diligent.”

Some other milestones were ticked through at Friday’s press conference by Indiana University’s assistant vice president for strategic partnerships, Kirk White: 360,000 mitigation tests across all campus locations; 290,000 reusable cloth masks; and 36,000 bottles of hand sanitizer.

White reported that the university had logged about 1.2 billion meeting minutes on the Zoom video conferencing platform.

That’s more than 2,000 years worth of meeting time. If someone were paid $15 an hour to sit through those 1.2 billion minutes it would work out to about $300 million.

Vaccination news out of Friday’s press conference included a date for the start of Indiana University’s mass vaccination site at Assembly Hall: March 29. It will be the Pfizer vaccine that’s used at Assembly Hall. That means two shots are required. Scheduling for the second shot is done by the vaccinator at the time the first shot is given.

Scheduling for the first shot can be done by anyone who is eligible for the vaccine. The current age limit allow people as young as 50 years old to receive the vaccine.

White said he expected that sometime in the next week Assembly Hall would be available as a location for appointment scheduling on Indiana’s statewide appointment system.

The appointment scheduling interface features two ways to navigate to a possible appointment. One way is to click the big blue button that says: “Find Next Available Appointment.” Another way is to click on individual dates to see if any times are available on that date.

Video: Finding the earliest available vaccination appointment