The COVID-19 pandemic data that will be updated next Wednesday by Indiana’s state department of health will not show numbers low enough for the Monroe County mask mandate to be lifted.
Lifting the mask mandate next week is already a mathematical impossibility. That’s in part because the key statistic, on which next Wednesday’s announcement will be based, has already exceeded the threshold set by the county board of health.
The threshold for lifting the mask mandate, which was affirmed by county commissioners, is no more than 50 positive COVID-19 cases per week per 100,000 in population.
For Monroe County, that translates into no more than 74 cases for the week that started Monday (Nov. 1). The numbers for the first three days of the week were: 14, 23 and 17. That three-day total of 54 left the county only an outside shot at not going over 74 for the week.
But the total for Thursday, updated on the Indiana’s department of health dashboard on Friday, was 50. That eliminated any possibility of hitting the threshold for lifting the mask mandate.
Thursday’s big number also made it uncertain if Monroe County will be able to make progress hitting another key benchmark the board of health has set for lifting the mask mandate. The other key benchmark involves the county’s weekly two-metric score. The two-metric score has to be less than 1 for two weeks in a row.
The county’s positivity rate, which is less than 5 percent, rated a zero this past, which is the best it can score. A zero contribution to the weekly two-metric score from the positivity rate looks to be on track for next week, too.
But for this past week, the weekly case count per 100 in population was above 100 (twice the number needed for lifting the mask mandate), which scores a 2 in the state’s rating system. A 2 averaged with a zero put the county’s weekly two-metric score this past week at 1. Given Monroe County’s population, to dip under 1 for next week would require fewer than 148 cases.
With 104 cases reported through the first four days of the measurement week, that means the remaining three days—Friday, Saturday, and Sunday—will need to average fewer than 15 cases a day to stay under 148.
Monroe County had a recent 3-day stretch that averaged exactly 15 cases a day on Oct. 30 (14), Oct. 31 (17), Nov. 1 (14).
If Thursday’s big number of 50 was just an inexplicable outlier, and not part of a broader upward trend, the following three days could be back down to the teens. But if it’s connected to the turn in temperatures, as people spend more time indoors, it could mean more big numbers over the next few days.
The daily high for Bloomington dropped under 60 F degrees on Oct. 27, and has not been above 50 F for the last three days.
At Friday’s weekly news conference held by local leaders on pandemic response, Monroe County health administrator Penny Caudill offered some words of encouragement as the holiday season approaches. “As we come to a time of giving, I would request that we not give each other infections, be they the flu, COVID, or any other respiratory infection,” Caudill said.
Caudill continued, “Instead, let’s give all of our efforts to giving grace and being kind. Get vaccinated, follow regulations and recommendations to reduce transmission. We will get through this.”