Climate scientist on last weekend’s Bloomington rain: “It’s not like this was an absolute fluke…”

As of Wednesday, the National Weather Service is predicting 4 to 6 inches more rain for Bloomington, from Friday afternoon through Tuesday evening.

That follows 5 to 7 inches of rain that fell over a shorter period last weekend, which flooded a downtown Bloomington street, overtopped a county bridge with debris, and caused the floodwaters to sweep up one car, leaving its driver dead.

Based on the daily rainfall data in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Regional Climate Center database, last weekend’s two-day total rainfall of 6.1 inches, recorded by the Indiana University campus rain gauge, ranks it the third-worst storm, since daily rainfall totals have been kept, which starts in 1895.

The 6.1 inches measured on IU’s campus was the highest two-day total in the last century.

Does last weekend’s single event prove the case for climate change?

When The B Square spoke on Wednesday with Gabriel Filippelli, professor of earth sciences at IUPUI, he said, “Each given intense rainfall event does not mean that climate change has descended on us.”

Filippelli continued, “However, when you look at the regional records and you see the number of days Indiana has had extreme rainfall events, it has gone up substantially from about the end of the 1980s on.”

The amount of extreme rainfall in central Indiana has gone up by about 15 percent since 1990, Filippelli said. He continued, “The projections are, it’s going to go up another 15 percent by 2050.”

That means extreme rainfall will continue to be likely in this area, he said. He added, “Whether climate change will make them worse or not, it’s hard to say, ”

In the context of a 15-percent increase in extreme rainfall, Filippelli assessed last weekend’s storm like this: “You know, 15 percent isn’t a lot, but it’s not like this was an absolute fluke that we’ll never see again.” Continue reading “Climate scientist on last weekend’s Bloomington rain: “It’s not like this was an absolute fluke…””

Recent Bloomington employee death a reminder of dire effects of pandemic disease, even as indicators trend better

A push for people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 was again a main talking point at Friday’s weekly press conference of local leaders on pandemic response.

Among the local sites for free vaccine distribution is Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall at Indiana University.

The message for people to take advantage of the free vaccine got some extra urgency from Bloomington mayor John Hamilton, who confirmed an earlier press release that announced the death of a city employee due to COVID-19.

On the employee’s death, Hamilton said, “That reminds us that this disease is still very much among us, and can be dire, and can bring terrible consequences.” Hamilton added, “I just want to express our sympathy and condolences to family members.” Continue reading “Recent Bloomington employee death a reminder of dire effects of pandemic disease, even as indicators trend better”

IU offers shot at free parking spot for students who get their COVID-19 vaccination

Indiana University is sticking with its policy of vaccinations for students, faculty and university staff with the start of the fall 2021 semester, but has relented on its demand for documentation.

Instead of demanding proof, IU is now trying a gentler approach—a drawing for prizes for IU affiliates who submit their documentation. The prizes vary for students, faculty and staff but include: $500 bookstore gift cards, campus dining credit, an Apple Watch, and AirPods Pro, among other items.

At Friday’s weekly press conference on local COVID-19 response, one of the prizes for students got an extra pitch from IU vice president for strategic partnerships, Kirk White: “Students will be eligible for—get this, hey—a year long free parking permit! Now what’s better than that for students?” The regular price for a student parking permit is $174.

The revision the university’s policy on vaccination  came after objections from several state legislators  and an opinion issued by the state’s attorney general. Continue reading “IU offers shot at free parking spot for students who get their COVID-19 vaccination”

Sovereign immunity means a fence for Bloomington post office

In 1914, a new building for Bloomington high school was constructed where Seminary Park now sits, between Walnut and College, on 2nd Street.

It’s the same year when Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall” was published, with its proverbial line from the storyteller’s adjacent landowner: “Good fences make good neighbors.”

In mid-May the US Postal Service started building an eight-foot-tall fence around its branch just south of the park.

With its fence construction, by the standards of the narrator’s neighbor in the “Mending Wall,” the USPS has made itself a “good neighbor” to the public park.

Some local reaction has been more along the lines of the storyteller in the poem: “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know / What I was walling in or walling out, / And to whom I was like to give offense. / Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, That wants it down.”

The image is from the Pictometry module of Monroe County’s online property lookup system.

It looks like the fence probably doesn’t conform with local zoning code. But the principle of “sovereign immunity” means the USPS, even as a lessee of the property, can build the fence the way it wants, according to Bloomington’s legal department.

Continue reading “Sovereign immunity means a fence for Bloomington post office”

IU to “stay the course” on vaccine requirement for fall, points to $10M savings compared to mitigation testing

Indiana University “certainly made the papers this week.”

That was a remark from IU’s media relations director Chuck Carney, as he turned over the mic to the university’s vice president for strategic partnerships, Kirk White, during Friday’s weekly press conference with local leaders on pandemic response.

But White led off his turn with some news that might not have made the papers—the latest dose numbers at the Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall COVID-19 vaccination clinic.

Since late March, 35,600 doses have been administered, White said. Plenty of appointment slots are available next week, which can be scheduled at the state’s online registration site, White said.

Some of the news that put IU in the papers was the letter that several state legislators sent to Indiana governor Eric Holcomb. The state lawmakers object to the university’s decision, announced last Friday, to require vaccinations for students, faculty and university staff with the start of the fall 2021 semester.

Also putting IU in the news this past week was an opinion  issued on Wednesday by Indiana’s attorney general Todd Rokita. The opinion says IU’s approach to its policy requiring a COVID-19 vaccination violates a new law passed by the state legislature this year. Continue reading “IU to “stay the course” on vaccine requirement for fall, points to $10M savings compared to mitigation testing”

Bloomington utilities board welcomes familiar face, gets quick update on rate case

At its regular meeting on Monday, Bloomington’s seven-member utilities service board (USB) welcomed Kirk White, who was appointed by mayor John Hamilton to fill Jason Banach’s seat.

The board also got a brief update on the city’s proposal to increase Bloomington’s water rates, which is currently under the standard review process by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC).

City of Bloomington Utilities (CBU) director Vic Kelson told the board about the IURC rate case review: “We’re still in the midst of discovery, and we’ve been getting a lot of questions and data requests to handle.”

Kelson added, “So we’ve been hard at work on those for the last couple of weeks. And so far, it seems to be going pretty well.” Continue reading “Bloomington utilities board welcomes familiar face, gets quick update on rate case”

Indiana University says: Get vaxxed or get axed

All Indiana University students, faculty, and staff have to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus to start the fall semester.

Some kind of decision on the topic, which was announced Friday morning, had been expected.

Two weeks ago, during Friday’s weekly press conference of local leaders on COVID-19 response, IU’s vice president for strategic partnerships Kirk White fielded a question about a possible vaccine requirement.

White said: “We don’t have a mandatory requirement, yet. But I would say that our medical response team has been studying that closely over the past couple of months.”

This Friday, White said there would be an exemption process from the requirement, stressing that it would very narrow. White said, “I’m going to have to say that that’s going to be a really tight exemption process. It will be very limited religious reasons or medical reasons.” Compared to the university’s flu vaccination exemptions, it would be more restrictive, White said.

More details about the exemption process will be posted June 15, White said.

Except for the few who are exempted, White said, the university will be taking a firm stand: “ If you are not vaccinated as a student, your registration for classes will be canceled—you will not have access to normal campus operations, be it your residence hall or classes, or anything else.”

About non-student affiliates, White added, “This will become a condition of employment—having your vaccine series completed.”

Based on White’s response to a reporter’s question during the news conference, the university is prepared to sever its relationship with tenured professors over the vaccination question. Continue reading “Indiana University says: Get vaxxed or get axed”

Vaccination rate in Monroe County trending up, pop-up clinics set for next week

The 14-day rolling average of final doses administered per day in Monroe County through April 29, 2021 stands at 902 (dark green line).

The number of final-dose vaccinations administered in Monroe County has seen a significant upward trend over the past four days.

That’s the impact of second shots of Pfizer vaccine now getting delivered at Indiana University’s Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall clinic site, after its launch at the end of March.

The 14-day rolling average of final doses administered per day in Monroe County through April 29 stands at 902.

At that rate, based on the total of 44,920 people who have been fully vaccinated so far, and a Monroe County population of 148,431, it would take about 65 days to achieve a 70-percent vaccination rate.

That would mean the 70-percent threshold—which is sometimes cited as a minimum for herd immunity—would be achieved in Monroe County on July 4.

Additional one-time local clinics are hoped to keep the momentum for vaccination going.

At Friday’s regular press conference of local leaders on COVID-19 response, county health administrator Penny Caudill announced that two pop-up clinics would be held in the coming two weeks.

On May 6 from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., a pop-up clinic will be held at the Boys and Girls Club.

On May 10, a pop-up clinic will be held at the Monroe County convention center, starting at noon. That clinic, which will target local Hispanic residents, will use the Moderna vaccine, and the follow-up second shot will be set for June 7, Caudill said. Continue reading “Vaccination rate in Monroe County trending up, pop-up clinics set for next week”

COVID-19: State tells locals to take walk-ins for shots, Assembly Hall to absorb IU Health vax clinic

The pace of COVID-19 vaccinations in the earliest phases of the rollout was availability of vaccine.

Now, hesitancy to get vaccinated could start to become a limiting factor in the rate of vaccination uptake.

That has led Indiana’s state department of health to tell local clinics to start offering walk-in COVID-19 shots, without an appointment.

Walk-ins are supposed to start on Monday (April 26). It’s still possible to make an appointment to receive a vaccine, which local officials continue to encourage.

Asked if it was a state mandate to accept walk-ins, Monroe County’s health administrator Penny Caudill described it this way: “I would say we were told that we’re going to be doing it. There wasn’t really an option.” Caudill was speaking at Friday’s weekly news conference held by local leaders on COVID-19 response. Continue reading “COVID-19: State tells locals to take walk-ins for shots, Assembly Hall to absorb IU Health vax clinic”

COVID-19 update: Get vaccinated, keep masking up, local leaders continue to say

“While it feels like COVID may be behind us, in many ways it’s not,” IU Health’s south central region president Brian Shockney said at Friday’s weekly press conference of local leaders.

Shockney added: “The best way that you can choose to help ensure our communities don’t see another surge is to make the choice to get your vaccine.”

The importance of continuing to wear a face covering, despite the ending of the statewide mask mandate, was another talking point on Friday.

Bloomington’s director of public engagement, Mary Catherine Carmichael, said about the local decision by the Monroe County board of health to continue the mask regulations: “We’re going to stick with this. We know we’re not out of the woods.”

Carmichael also encouraged restaurant patrons not to put servers in the position of playing the role of the “mask police.” She said, “Obviously, these are businesses that have signage on the doors, letting folks know…you will be expected to wear a mask. So we just ask everybody to please mind those rules. Continue to wear those masks.”

The county board of health has contracted with Security Pro 24/7 to enforce the local health regulations. That contract goes through July 1.

For Shockney and Monroe County health administrator Penny Caudill, part of the message on Friday centered on the Centers for Disease Control recommendation announced on Tuesday to suspend administration of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. That announcement came after unusual blood clots were identified in six women between the ages of 18 and 48. One of them died. Continue reading “COVID-19 update: Get vaccinated, keep masking up, local leaders continue to say”