Pandemic notebook: Reporting delay means hiccup in decreasing trend, city sanitation crews get thanks

The decreasing trend in positive COVID-19 numbers, after a plateau, hit a hiccup statewide and in Monroe County, based on numbers updated on Friday by Indiana’s state department of health.

According to the state’s department of health, the number of cases reported for Thursday, Jan. 27, included 4,705 cases statewide that were “delayed in processing and otherwise would have been included over the course of this week.”

Incorporating the new cases for Thursday into the rolling 7-day average for Monroe County meant that 490 replaced the 335 cases from 8 days ago in the calculation. That bumped the rolling daily average for the county from 236 to 258. That leaves the rolling average still 30 cases a day lower than the peak of the rolling average a couple of weeks ago.

The 490 cases were the most reported in Monroe County on any one day of the pandemic so far. It’s not clear if Indiana’s department of health will eventually try to allocate the positive test numbers reported for Jan. 27 to the dates when they should have been reported.

Even if the positive case numbers might have turned the corner and are headed downward, health officials continue to warn that the virus is quite prevalent and that people should get vaccinated, wear N95 masks, and avoid unnecessary face-to-face interactions.

Brian Shockney, who’s president of IU Health’s south central region, said at Friday’s regular news conference, “We still have to remember that a significant decrease in the prevalence of this virus would still surpass previous levels of infection, hospitalizations, and deaths.” He added, “If this decrease is sustained for the next several weeks, the virus is still circulating and just as potent as it was on the climb up to these record pandemic levels.”

The surge that has been caused by the Omicron variant over the last six weeks can be seen in the sheer number of infections among city of Bloomington workers. In January, a total of 102 city workers reported positive COVID-19 tests. That’s almost three times the next-highest monthly number, which was 37 cases in December 2021.

Of the 102 January cases, 14 were among public works employees, which include sanitation workers. In late September 2021, curbside recycling service was suspended for a week because of workers who were out due to COVID-19.  But trash and curbside recycling pickup has not been missed during the recent surge, when case numbers among city employees have been five times the September level.

Responding to a reporter’s question during Friday’s regular news conference, Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, thanked the city’s sanitation workers, some of whom had worked a double shift the past week, and those in other departments who had pitched in. The mayor described how the “head of the department” had climbed onto the back of one of the trucks to help out.

Director of public works Adam Wason confirmed to The B Square that on Thursday he’d helped on a collection route. The sanitation crews were at about half their normal strength, Wason said, but they wanted to avoid letting the work spill over into Friday. The normal sanitation pickup week runs Monday through Thursday.

Wason said eight workers from sanitation stayed on longer than they were scheduled, and some workers from the street division stepped up to get the rest of the routes completed on Thursday.