COVID-19 update: Upward surge of cases continues, but vaccinations accelerate

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.

White was speaking at the weekly Friday afternoon press conference held by local leaders on COVID-19 pandemic response.

White stressed that the university does not consider someone to be fully protected until two weeks after the second dose. Until then, university affiliates will remain in the mitigation testing pool, White said.

White said the increase in vaccination numbers that is already being seen could be stemming from the fact that many people in Monroe County felt comfortable going to other sites, outside of Monroe County, to the IU Health site at its Paoli hospital, for example.

Some of the recent increase in vaccination numbers is coming from the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine, according to Monroe County health administrator Penny Caudill. Because there’s no lag between doses, the fully vaccinated numbers can go up quickly, she said.

Monroe County residents have been getting an average of 55 doses a day of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for the last two week. That’s based on numbers from Indiana’s department of health.

At a pace of 500 per day, it would take until early September for 70 percent of Monroe County residents to be fully vaccinated.

Friday’s report of 54 new confirmed positive cases makes 145 the total for the first four days of the week that will factor into the state’s color-coded metric. That translates into just under 100 cases per 100,000 people in Monroe County, which has a population of about 148,000 people.

The threshold for the per capita metric is 100, which means Monroe County will almost certainly be above that, putting it in the “yellow” category next Wednesday, when those numbers are calculated.

At Friday’s press conference, Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton reported another two COVID-19 cases among city employees.

Asked if spring break travel accounted for any of the recent surge in positive case numbers, Caudill said there were some reports of that, adding that a specific number was not known. Spring break travel is “certainly most likely part of what we are seeing in some of these numbers,” Caudill said.

Caudill reported at Friday’s news conference that on Tuesday, the county board of health made no significant changes to local regulations, but did add a date on which the regulations expire—unless they are extended, or rescinded earlier. That date is May 28.

One change to the health regulations involves retail food establishments. Businesses that have back-to-back booths can use a barrier instead of spacing, Caudill said.

Some other changes to the health regulations were for communal living facilities, Caudill said. One allows a communal living facility like a Greek house, have up to 15 people gathered outside, which can include guests. Up to now no guests have been allowed on the property, Caudill said.

About the extension of the regulations and the availability of vaccine, Caudill said, “We feel that we can see that light at the end of the tunnel, if we continue our prevention measures.”

Caudill added, “We have a goal date (May 28), and I ask everybody to help us meet that goal by doing absolutely everything you can, including being vaccinated as soon as you can.”