Bloomington pandemic update: A “sense of calm” as COVID-19 case numbers subside

Just two COVID-19 patients are currently being treated in IU Health hospitals across the health provider’s south central region, which includes Bloomington, Bedford and Paoli.

Both of those patients are at Bloomington’s new hospital, according to Brian Shockney, who is president of IU Health’s south central region. Shockney was speaking at Friday’s biweekly news conference of local leaders on pandemic response.

Shockney described a change in atmosphere at IU Health’s Bloomington hospital: “For the first time, our team was truly faced with a sense of calm this past week after these two years of pandemic.”

The total hospital  in-patient census across the whole state of Indiana has dropped to 522 as of March 9, after peaking at around 3,500 in mid-January.

The rolling average of positive tests in Monroe County is just under 10 a day, and the positivity rate is under 5 percent. Those numbers put the county in the Centers for Disease (CDC) control category of “low” community spread, county health administrator Penny Caudill said at Friday’s  news conference.

Indiana University vice provost for external relations Kirk White reported on Friday that the university had just 20 cases in the last week. “That’s the lowest we’ve seen this entire academic year,” White said.

White said the university would remain “vigilant.” At least for the time being, he said, the university will continue mitigation testing. Quarantine and isolation facilities are also still “ready to roll,” White said.

Bloomington city government is also leaving some protocols in place. One of those is maintaining occupancy limits in meeting rooms at city hall and other city buildings.

In the last week, as government meetings started taking place in person or on a hybrid video-conference platform, The B Square has seen a couple of different approaches to the room occupancy limit.

Monday’s redevelopment commission meeting was held in the McCloskey conference room at Bloomington city hall, which has a limit of 11. To avoid going over that number, two city staff retired to their offices and participated in the meeting through the Zoom video connection.

At Thursday’s meeting of the utilities service board, the staff members who needed to present items to the board waited until their item appeared on the agenda, and only then entered the board room at the Miller Drive facility to take the podium.

City hall still has a protocol that requires members of the public to sign in at the front desk and wait for the relevant member of city staff to meet them in the lobby. Signage indicates that only employees are allowed past a certain point.

When will those protocols be lifted, to allow the public unfettered access to the building?

Responding to a reporter’s question at Friday’s news conference was Bloomington mayor John Hamilton, who said he expected the protocols to change “in the weeks ahead.” The continuity of city government team would be giving science-based advice on those types of changes, Hamilton said.

One indicator that local leaders are looking to return to previous routines is the wind-down of the scheduled biweekly news conferences. After Friday’s event, no future pandemic news conferences are planned.

Utilities service board meeting on Thursday, March 10, 2022. It was the first in-person meeting for the group in nearly two years.