Face coverings will now be required in public indoor settings, even for Monroe County residents who are fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.
That’s the basic point of a new health order approved unanimously by Monroe County’s three commissioners at their regular meeting on Wednesday morning.
The order approved by commissioners is effective at 8 a.m. Thursday (Aug. 5) and extends through Sept. 30. [Monroe County health department news release]
The Monroe County health order comes after last week’s new guidance on mask-wearing for the fully vaccinated from the Centers for Disease Control. The guidance applies to counties where there is “substantial” or “high” transmission of the virus. That’s a criterion that currently applies to Monroe County.
Not under the county’s jurisdiction, but also following the CDC’s new guidance on masks, is Indiana University.
IU’s public health officer, Aaron Carroll, stated during a noon video conference that the university would also be telling people to mask up in public spaces “for the near future.”
But nothing else is changing, Carroll said. “We’re still planning on having the same in-person classes, dining halls, football games—everything else that we were doing, we are doing.” Carroll added, “It is just that in public spaces—meaning in classrooms, and in many office spaces—we will be asking that everybody mask up.”
The county’s order was approved by the county board of health at its meeting on Tuesday morning. Action by the commissioners was required, because they have to approve local health orders, under a new law enacted by the state legislature during this year’s session. [SEA 05]
Commissioners adopted the order approved by the board of health, with one amendment. The effective date was changed from noon Wednesday to 8 a.m. Thursday (Aug. 5).
That timing change will have no impact on the mask requirement that in-person attendees will be expected to follow at Bloomington’s annexation hearing, which will be held at city hall, starting at 3 p.m. Wednesday.
Communications director Yael Ksander confirmed to The B Square that the existing city hall mask policy, which has been in place for months, applies to all visitors to the building in public spaces. It’s not contingent on the Monroe County mask mandate.
Local media have been advised by the city council’s office that due to COVID-19 distancing protocols, the seating in the council’s chambers and overflow seating at city hall could be limited. So reporters are supposed to consider arriving early.
A half dozen people spoke against the new county health order with its mask mandate, either at the county board of health meeting or the commissioners meeting.
Local attorney Scott Reynolds raised a question about the open-ended character of the draft order. It was amended to include an end date, with some benchmarks that would mean the end of the order.
Reynolds also questioned the use of the color-coded scheme used by the state health department to classify counties, instead of metrics like available hospital space.