COVID-19 vax survey says: Ratcheting up numbers for Bloomington city workers will be a challenge

The dark green line is the rolling 14-day daily average for the number of Monroe County residents getting their final dose of COVID-19 vaccine. The number has decreased since mid-May. The rolling 14-day average as of July 5 is about 90. The trend looks like it will continue downward, because the rolling 7-day average is under 50.

The city of Bloomington has reported that about 54 percent of its workers have been vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. That’s about the same percentage as across Monroe County.

A new survey of Bloomington city workers suggests that boosting their vaccination percentage could be a challenge.

The current countywide figure of 55.4 percent is less than the goal that county health administrator Penny Caudill set for July 1. By then she had wanted to reach 60 percent of the county’s eligible residents. She’s talked about 70 percent and higher as the kind of figure that she’d like to see.

Based on the survey given to city of Bloomington employees in the last week of June, it might not be easy to boost the fraction of city workers to the levels that Caudill wants eventually to see countywide.

Of survey respondents who have not been vaccinated or declined to give their vaccination status, more than half (53 percent) said nothing would lead them to get vaccinated.

Of the same group of respondents, about one-third (31 percent) said that more data about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine could lead them to be vaccinated, according to the survey results dashboard.

One sentiment among respondents was that the city’s mask mandate should be relaxed for employees who have been vaccinated. The city of Bloomington has a requirement that people in common areas of city buildings—city workers and visitors alike—be masked, regardless of vaccination status.

One respondent wrote, “Mayor [John] Hamilton reiterates every week that regardless of [being] vaccinated or not, we must continue to wear masks.” The respondent continued, “So there is no incentive… I wish I wouldn’t have gotten vaccinated.”

Current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicate that fully vaccinated people  “can resume activities without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart…”

The CDC guidance comes with the caveat that the mask-free activity should be allowed, “except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”

Will the city’s mask requirement be relaxed for vaccinated employees, based on the survey responses?

Responding to an emailed B Square question, the city’s director of innovation, Devta Kidd, who set up the employee survey, wrote: “Because Indiana state law prohibits the use of ‘vaccination passports’ we cannot know who is vaccinated and who is not unless they volunteer that information.”

Kidd added: “For that reason, we have kept the requirement for everyone in all City buildings—both employees and residents—in common areas to wear masks.”

It was the legislature’s prohibition against “vaccination passports” that led Indiana University in early June to walk back its announced intention to require all university affiliates to be vaccinated to start the fall semester.

Indiana University announced on Tuesday that masks are not longer required on campus for those who are fully vaccinated.

Decisions on safety protocols for the city of Bloomington are reviewed by a cross-departmental continuity of city government (COCG) committee that has been meeting since March 2020, Kidd wrote.

One possible indicator that still-unvaccinated employees might not ever choose to be vaccinated is the breakdown of the survey respondents based on their vaccination status.

Of the 189 city workers who responded to the survey, about 84 percent indicated they had been vaccinated. Another 10 percent preferred not to say.

That leaves just about 10 out of the city’s roughly 850 employees who responded to the survey, and who said they were not vaccinated. The survey included questions about reasons for not getting vaccinated and ideas that would lead employees to get vaccinated.

The results of the employee survey were described by Bloomington mayor John Hamilton at last Friday’s weekly press conference held by local leaders on COVID-19 response. The city has now released the results in more detail through a Survey Monkey dashboard.

Kidd responded to a B Square question about possible concern that city policies could be revised based on such a small number of unvaccinated survey respondents.

Kidd wrote in an email, “We are considering the input of all 189 respondents and the purpose was to see if there are other ways to motivate vaccination that we weren’t already doing or thinking of.” Kidd added that the survey data “might impact some new ways in how we are presenting information, but will not be the source for any policy changes.”

The key takeaways from the survey, according to Kidd, were that people are motivated by concern for their families and coworkers first and concern for themselves second.

Another takeaway was the idea that everyone wants more freedoms. Kidd also wrote that there might be some ways to present information about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines in ways that are more “relatable.”

The survey included open-ended questions, including the first one, about what motivated employees to get vaccinated. The open-ended responses were coded manually into categories like “concern for others” (58 percent), “concern for self” (50 percent), “greater freedoms for those who are vaccinated” (24 percent), and “confidence in the science” (16 percent).

Just 6 percent of respondents mentioned that the $100 incentive offered by the city was a help in motivating them.

The actual number of city employees who have been vaccinated could be a bit higher than 54-percent. That’s the fraction of employees who as of July 1 who have documented their vaccinated status, in order to receive a $100 “wellness” incentive.

The city of Bloomington’s workforce vaccination percentage is a smidgen below the countywide  figure of 55.5 percent, which was reported on the state health department’s vaccine dashboard as of July 5.

Monroe County’s vaccination rate is better than the statewide average of under 50 percent, which was cited in Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s order last week, which extended his emergency health order for another month. The order itself says: “Critically, only 48.1 percent of eligible Hoosiers are fully vaccinated and Indiana ranks 38th of the 50 states with eligible individuals receiving at least a first dose vaccination.”

Even though Monroe County’s vaccination rate is better than the state average, it lags a lot behind that of the leading counties. The counties forming the northern ring around Marion County—Hancock, Hamilton, Boone and Hendricks—all show better than 60 percent vaccination of eligible residents. Hamilton County leads the way statewide with 68 percent of eligible residents vaccinated. Eligible residents are those older than 12.

About the survey results in the Survey Monkey dashboard, a note from the administration states that it will “consider other incentives that can be accessed equitably by those already vaccinated as well as the newly protected.”

Responding to a B Square question about what other incentives might be considered, Kidd wrote, “I don’t feel comfortable saying which ones are likely because I don’t want to set the expectation that they will happen.”

Open-ended survey question: What other ideas do you have for ways to motivate your colleagues to get vaccinated?

Responding to this open-ended question were 118 people. It was skipped by 71 people. Responses were slotted into one of the categories below by The B Square.

The original set of employee verbatim responses  provided by the city to the B Square included a mention of the name of an employee who died of COVID-19. When the name was noticed in the course of preparing the categorizations, The B Square informed the city of Bloomington about its inclusion, so that appropriate steps could be taken before the planned dissemination of the survey responses to city employees.

When the announcement was made in early June, about the fact that one city employee had died of the pandemic disease, Bloomington mayor John Hamilton said at that week’s regular Friday news conference: “So I do want to note that they are not identified by name out of respect of course, and confidentiality…”

The B Square has elided the name with an indication in square brackets. In a couple of additional places, The B Square has elided potential personally identifying information, also with an indication of the elision in square brackets.

City of Bloomington employee responses: In their own words

Pessimism about any efforts

  • some you just can’t convince
  • I don’t know. It just amazes me that people still don’t want to get vaccinated. Maybe if the City reached a certain percentage we could quit wearing masks.
  • None. In the same way you cannot force people to eat correctly, exercise, and take care of themselves, you cannot motivate people to get vaccinated, despite the fact that both have dire consequences.
  • The problem is that vaccination has been made a political issue, and for people who have made their politics their identity, nothing will ever sway them.
  • Some are just hard headed and NOT going to do it
  • Hit them with sticks? Ban them from watching “Fox News”? Remind them to be adults? Remind them to not be selfish jerks?
  • There is nothing that will motivate those persons who choose not to receive the vaccine. They just aren’t considering the whole picture.
  • No added suggestions. How do you motivate someone who is hard headed, even after you loose a coworker.
  • Don’t. If they want it they will get it. Why do we have to pander to those who are scared to be around other yet won’t get vaccinated
  • It’s hard to change a mind that lacks education
  • Who hasn’t had the chance yet, if they wanted?
  • Not sure. So many are very much against it and extremely untrusting of the whole thing. Even folks who are not “anti-vaxers” normally seem to really have an issue with this. Not sure there is a way to change their minds.

It’s a matter of personal choice

  • There is enough information available for everyone to educate themselves. If they have not already done so it is unlikely they will do so now….
  • Just leave us alone. We are adults and can make our own decisions.
  • None, if they are like me I understand. Maybe not making people feel guilty for not getting it if they have a good health reason.
  • I wouldn’t. Everyone who wanted to be vaccinated has had plenty of opportunities to do so. If more research comes out people still have resources available to them.
  • Their body, their choice. I wouldn’t push my beliefs or try to persuade someone into injecting a vaccine that isn’t fda approved. I took the vaccine thinking I could return to normal. That hasn’t been the case.
  • It’s a rights-to-privacy issue. Not sure you can without violating someones 14th amendment protections.
  • Honestly I don’t think there is much we can do at this level of individual division. If the City gives chocolates, gifts extra PTO, etc to the vaccinated, and it just keep mounting, I assume you’d get people on board just to get the perks. But the ‘perks’ need to be significant enough to outweigh their ‘risks’, and that is going to look different per employee. I do feel though, the more breadth of covid vaxxed perks the City offers, the more likely you’d be to get compliance.
  • Not ok to motivate they can choose for themselves.
  • None it is one’s decision if they want it or not.
  • We should not be trying to motivate others to get vaccinated. It’s called coercion and it’s illegal. It is one up to each individual. Several have deeply held religious beliefs also.
  • i think it is wrong to “talk them into it”
  • Letting people make their own decisions about what makes them feel safe rather than preying on their financial instability to make them do something they may not feel certain of
  • We shouldn’t be pushing people to get a vaccine or to make them feel like they HAVE to get one. That is the issue.
  • Nothing. It is their health and should be their choice.

Vaccination should be required

  • Require vaccinations to work at the City.
  • Require it.
  • make them come back to work in the office, mandatory. They’ve had ample time to get vaccinated now they are at their own risk.
  • Tell them it is time to come back to work!! Maybe that will motivate them to get the shot!
  • Remove them from the workplace until they comply and get vaccinated
  • get a shot or get a new job.
  • Make it mandatory! I know, the State won’t let you do that, but it’s still what I think should happen!
  • Open up City Hall and tell everyone they need to get vaccinated. As long as they are working from home they are not concerned about being vaccinated.
  • require vaccination.
  • mandate it
  • We need to require it for positions that deal with the public. They should expect that we are doing that and keeping them as safe as we can be.
  • If it is possible, requiring vaccination at least for some stuff like in-office shifts (coming to the office) so unvaccinated people works from home more (if their jobs allow)
  • Make it mandatory or no one else here at [work location elided] will get it.
  • Not sure if it’s morally responsible to mandate a vaccination, but the employees who aren’t vaccinated are being irresponsible and not contributing towards herd immunity. Shame and a vaccine mandate may not work, but I’ve sure been daydreaming about it.

Relax behavioral requirements (masking), if vaccinated

  • Let us not wear mask if fully vaccinated!!!
  • reward vaccinated by easing restrictions; retain them for unvaccinated (or those who don’t disclose their status). it’s how we protect our health
  • Consider removing the mask policy for employees who choose to show proof of vaccination.
  • Removing restrictions on mask once the City (COB Employees) reaches a certain level of vaccination 85%. Make it a “company” goal.
  • Further relaxation of employee mask requirements, barriers to gathering for interdepartmental meeting, etc.
  • Allow no masks for those who are vaccinated
  • Require unvaccinated staff to continue to wear masks until they prove they have been vaccinated. I really don’t like labeling people, but I do not know how long my vaccination will last so I need to know the people around me are taking precautions NOT to infect others around them.
  • The CDC has stated that if you are fully vaccinated you do not have to wear a mask. We have followed CDC guidelines so far, however we are still required to wear masks at City Hall. I agree with wearing a mask if meeting with a member of the general public, but if generally working in the office or walking the hallways we should be able to do so without a mask. Maybe lifting of the mask mandate would encourage more people to get vaccinated.
  • Letting employees who have been vaccinated have the option of not wearing a mask.
  • The fact that we are still wearing masks in City Hall after being vaccinated is discouraging others to actually get vaccinated. If I would I have known we were still going to have to endure wearing a mask, I would not have gotten vaccinated. I did not want to receive a new vaccine because we do not know what kind of long term effects it might have. I know several people that have expressed the same thing and are not going to get it because the mask mandate here has not changed. You can attend NBA games, go to bars, and amusement parks without a mask but yet we work in a partially empty building and still wear one??
  • Dropping mask mandate for those that have been vaccinated
  • Until there are privileges for those who are vaccinated or penalties for those that are not, I don’t think anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated will be moved to get vaccinated.
  • I think the requirement of wearing a mask to be dropped for those that are vaccinated is the best we can do, at this point. Short of increasing the reward, but that wouldn’t be fair to those that already have received the vaccine.

Non-financial-based attempts to persuade

  • A campaign that may involve aspects of those previously mentioned. Something to tie it all together. Maybe some branding, a slogan, logo…
  • Suggest that on a specific day or during a specific week, managers gather their staff for a brief open and honest discussion/appeal on why it is an important thing to do.
  • More product information
  • Less false information from social media.
  • Just continuing the efforts at appeals and information the city has been doing thus far.
  • “Free Lunch” Lunch & a presentation by medical professionals & an opportunity to listen to employees concerns & field their questions. Have an on-site chance for vaccination after lunch.
  • I respect those who want to ‘wait and see’ it is a scary time, and this stuff is brand new. I’m not trying to push anyone into doing anything they dont want to do. however misinformation is spread, and i imagine that is the real reason why we cannot drive our vaxxed numbers higher. if only fox news ran pro vaxx ads. maybe they do, but i wouldn’t know because i don’t poison myself or my family by watching that or television for that matter. best of luck team, we’re all doing the very best we can. thanks for your efforts as well.
  • More information about the return-to-work planning progress and preferences. You may have more people vaccinated who are not disclosing because of distrust of what you will use this information for. There has been no information or conversations with or input from staff about an anticipated timetable or flexibility in returning to work.
  • Walk in clinic on site is my #1 hope. [health information elided] The on-site clinic will grab those people who do not oppose it strongly, just have not been impacted enough by the pandemic to be motivated to get it. How they can not be motivated after [employee name elided] died is very confusing to me, but I am not in their heads…
  • I think at this point most people have made up their minds on the vaccine. They have either gotten it, or don’t want to. I think the way to motivate is to let people know just how many of their colleagues have gotten the shot. The more it is seen as a social norm, the more the opinions of the unvaccinated are going to be swayed.
  • The focus needs to be on helping the community. Many people do not want to be vaccinated for personal reasons. So focusing on stories to show the broader impact. Stories of people who had severe illness, or worked at the hospital or other agencies will assist.
  • I had no clue that you could take time to go get a shot!!!! I scheduled it for after work hours at a pop up clinic
  • All previous ideas and information on the health implications of “Long COVID” documented by existing literature.
  • I think that letting folks know how many of the people in their department are vaccinated would help motivate some. Perhaps offering rewards, such as the department-by-department employee appreication cookouts I mentioned in the last section would be motivating. However, from what I’ve read, folks who are holding out at this point are mostly swayed by hearing from people they trust (their family doctor, for example) and by getting solid facts about the efficacy and safety of the vaccine. I’m not sure if the City could bring in a panel of local general practitioners to speak about this in a town hall, and maybe answer questions? That might convince some.
  • Make it a fun challenge between departments. Show videos of coworkers who got sick with COVID if they are willing to do that.
  • A leaderboard – could be a simple pie chart like at [link] that shows the number of vaccinated vs. the total number of employees.
  • Civilians might be interested in some extra PTO to use for side effects. Lots of people around here have recounted how terrible they felt after the vaccine, and people are always very protective of their PTO. As far as police officers, you could possibly get co-workers who are well respected to encourage people to get vaccinated, though I think this would be much more effective informally and face-to-face rather than any kind of formal video or marketing. The officers do not seem to feel supported by the mayor, and him repeatedly encouraging them to do anything for “safety” is probably going to fall on deaf ears. I think my co-workers certainly feel that BPD is at risk, but COVID isn’t the threat they are worried about. If we could boost morale and increase staffing, I think people could give more attention to bigger picture issues like COVID. Without that, they would need to see that COVID is a serious threat >right here, right now< for it to take precedence over other pressing threats. They are driven to protect people, so maybe publishing profiles of actual people in Bloomington who got very sick or died from COVID recently would motivate them to get vaccinated.

Incentives (including financially based)

  • Have weekly/monthly drawings of prizes were only vaccinated individuals are eligible to win. Not sure if the City can do it but the chance to win an additional vacation day off would be a nice incentive.
  • I think the financial incentive is the best idea. But obviously some people do not believe it is safe to receive the vaccine. Repeatedly saying that is safe and showing the science behind it may help.
  • Prize or activity for departments once they achieve 80-100% vaccination level. Possibly all get a day off, get a day to do a group activity or a group lunch. Something to encourage each department to encourage each other to get the vaccine.
  • Maybe a cook out and have it based around vaccinations and have games and door prizes?
  • Perhaps a drawing for additional vacation time/PTO?
  • Add the vaccination to the health related items (along with health fairs, annual exams, flu shot) that an employee gets credit for and receives a gift card at the end of the year.
  • Ask IU Athletics for some football and basketball tickets for a raffle.
  • Add 80 hours of PTO to there time.
  • Incentives: cash, gift cards, raffle, trips, PTO…
  • I think offering a day of PTO in exchange for proof that you spent the day going to get your vaccination is a great idea.
  • Newly vaccinated into a drawing for a paid week off. Have more than one winner — say 2.
  • None. A lottery is really the only idea that I think will motivate people to get vaccinated. I have not yet met a single person who works for the COB or elsewhere that would be motivated to get the vaccine if they saw a video of a colleague talking about it, or who will change their minds with more data. At this point, people will only get it if there is a potential for them to win a serious reward.
  • Raffle off prizes for those who are fully vaccinated.
  • Lottery seemed to work well in Ohio… Mandatory vaccination policy Better enforcement of the rules we DO have (many employees not wearing masks during worst of pandemic. How about some disciplinary action?)? Many people have good, personal reasons for not being vaccinated. Not sure what the answers are.
  • I know the compensation that was delivered to the people who got them was rewarding
  • Another monetary incentive, drawing, raffle, gift cards, etc.
  • I don’t feel that they should receive any MORE of an incentive than I received when I got my shot in a timely manner.
  • More money and extra PTO for getting vaccinated. Hire a Trump impersonator to tell everyone the vaccine is safe and they are not worth tracking.
  • Can’t go wrong with PTO
  • I stand by the money train. Money motivates people. Some people are stubborn but I think money will do the trick. Imagine if you gave a million dollars to anyone who got vaccinated. You would have 100% compliance. Now paying a million is not an option of course but find the number that works. I personally think that starts at $500 and more likely would be successful if it was $1000. The cost in healthcare savings alone would be worth it. Some people are just stubborn and are not going to do it unless something truly motivates them.
  • Awarding an additional PTO day (or even simply an additional 4 hours of PTO time) for those employees that have officially received their COVID-19 vaccine.
  • At this point, I feel like people may be influenced by additional benefits rather than stories about how Covid has affected others.
  • more PTO for vaccinated employees
  • A lottery with a BIG incentive. Something substantial. States that have done this have seen a real increase in vaccinations. Maybe you could get a business (e.g Cook, Catalent) to donate a trip, a large ticket item, or sum of money. Those who are STILL not vaccinated are choosing not to. You need to make it worth their while to do so, and $100 (taxable) won’t do it.
  • Vaccine lotteries seem to be effective in other localities. Offers of extra PTO, extra cash incentives, and other privileges could help. A commitment to lifting mask requirements and other restrictions if we hit a certain target (e.g. 70%) may also be a good incentive.
  • Comparing vaccination rates for different departments and have some award for fully vaccinated departments
  • Added benefit time (in PTO hours)
  • Offer a day off from work
  • I certainly don’t think you should give the folks who are holding out any additional incentives than all of the other employees received. That would certainly not be fair to those who were good stewards and did their part to get vaccinated sooner. That would be like rewarding bad behavior in a child.


  • Separate non-vaccinated employees’ work spaces from vaccinated employees.
  • A lot has changed and many people have experienced the value in being able to work from home like using less gas, spending less on lunches, reduction in childcare costs because they can be home afterschool and the freedom to work outside on a nice day. Allowing it to be up to the specific departments if they require the staff to be in the office or offering 1 full day/week or 2 half days/week to be remote if the department staffing levels can accommodate it.
  • None. I would rather promote general health, wellness and good diet.
  • None
  • Just move on. It’s over.
  • Not really sure because I would have to find out their reasons for not getting vaccinated. I continue to work primarily remotely and therefore have not had much occasion to talk with colleagues about whether or not they have been vaccinated. The colleagues I work with the most HAVE been vaccinated; I have not been able to have a conversation with someone who hasn’t been. Assuming that was someone might be hesitant due to misinformation online about the vaccines, I would talk about my minimal side effects after getting both vaccines; the peace of mind that I have, feeling much safer about being around others now (and noting that a young, healthy relative of mine was hospitalized for COVID last year and has since recovered but with permanent lung damage); and I would note the nice benefit of the $100 incentive from the City.
  • not sure
  • Good question.
  • I’m frankly a bit stumped by this question. I don’t understand the holdouts. Perhaps a messaging strategy leveraging affinity groups to the individuals (churches, etc.) could help.
  • N/A
  • None
  • I have nothing further to add from the suggestions on the last question.
  • I think the suggestions that I previously read were all great ideas. I would like to be more helpful and provide additional suggestions, but I really don’t have any other ideas.
  • None
  • Send out a survey to find out why people who do not want to get vaccinated haven’t. Also, I’m uncomfortable working with people who want to stay unvaccinated and wish they knew that.
  • none
  • I think everyone in the department is fully vaccinated. See previous answer.
  • I do not have a separate idea than the ones offered, however I would like to point out that I have seen many employees receive the free Flu shots that the city provided yearly prior to Covid. I believe that using that same process for Covid would motivate people to get it simply out of convenience.