Sheer number of COVID-19 cases has health care system struggling

The rolling average of positive COVID-19 cases in Monroe County now stands at about 152 per day. That’s almost twice the average this time last year. It’s also about 1.5 times the previous pandemic high point for the county, which came in November 2021.

It’s the same picture across all of Indiana. The rolling average of positive cases across the Hoosier state is 10,227, nearly twice the 5,500 average daily cases at this time last year.

Even if the infections caused by the Omicron variant of the virus might be comparatively milder, it’s their sheer number, and the likelihood of spread to vulnerable populations, that is still putting more people in the hospital. And that’s putting a continued strain on statewide and local health systems.

President of IU Health’s south central region, Brian Shockney, put it this way at a news conference of local leaders held Friday: “Omicron is hitting a high number of people and spreading fast to those immunocompromised patients. And they are what we can see in the initial stages here are getting hospitalized.”

Shockney continued, “IU Health is caring for its highest number of patients of the pandemic to date.” He added, “70 percent of these patients are unvaccinated.”

For the watching public, Shockney repeated what has become a kind of mantra: “Get vaccinated. Get boosted. Get tested.” Continue reading “Sheer number of COVID-19 cases has health care system struggling”

Pandemic notebook: Highest ever rolling daily case average for Hoosier state, vaccine clinic in Bloomington Jan. 5 to Jan. 8

The datasets maintained by Indiana’s state department of health were updated Monday afternoon, with the COVID-19 numbers from the previous four days.

Indiana’s rolling average of daily positive test results now stands at 8,175 as of Jan. 2. That’s an all-time pandemic high, eclipsing the previous absolute peak of 6,895 on Dec. 6 of 2020.

In Monroe County, the rolling average now stands at 105 cases a day. That’s not the all-time high. But it’s in the neighborhood of the absolute peak of 114 on Nov. 20, 2020.

A COVID-19 vaccination and testing clinic that’s open to the public is being held from noon to 8 p.m. for four days on Jan. 5, Jan. 6, Jan. 7 and Jan. 8 at 800 N. Indiana Ave. in Bloomington. The location is between 11th and 12th streets. Continue reading “Pandemic notebook: Highest ever rolling daily case average for Hoosier state, vaccine clinic in Bloomington Jan. 5 to Jan. 8”

COVID-19 update: Confirmed cases, hospitalizations same level as last year, Holcomb looks for help convincing Hoosiers to get jabbed

At a Wednesday afternoon news conference, Indiana governor Eric Holcomb announced he had extended his emergency health order another month.

It allows local units of government to impose their own more restrictive regulations to try to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus. But the governor’s order does not itself include restrictions like a mask mandate.

Joining Holcomb at the news conference were Lindsay Weaver, the chief medical officer for Indiana’s department of health, and Kristina Box, the state’s health commissioner.

Box delivered a grim outlook at roughly the one-year mark for the arrival of the first COVID-19 vaccines in Indiana. “We once again are facing a very bleak situation with this pandemic. Our COVID-19 hospital census is at the highest level in an entire year,” Box said.

Despite the availability of the vaccine for a year, the situation now looks a lot like last year. Continue reading “COVID-19 update: Confirmed cases, hospitalizations same level as last year, Holcomb looks for help convincing Hoosiers to get jabbed”

Pandemic notebook: Monroe County racks up 100 cases for one day in last update before Christmas

Indiana’s COVID-19 dashboard recorded 100 positive cases for Monroe County on Tuesday, Dec. 21.

That’s the highest daily total the county has seen since early January. It’s the 19th time Monroe County has hit triple digits for a day, since the county’s first positive case was identified on March 21, 2020.

The dashboard won’t get updated again until Monday, Dec. 27. The tentative date for the next news conference hosted by local leaders about their response to the pandemic is Thursday, Dec. 30.

One topic that could come up at the news conference is the vaccination status of local government employees.

A Jan. 4 deadline for vaccination or testing has been set by U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for employers with more than 100 workers. Under the OSHA requirement, employees would have to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4, or get a weekly test for the virus.

Recent judicial activity related to that deadline includes a 2-1 decision by a panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of the Biden administration’s OSHA requirement. Continue reading “Pandemic notebook: Monroe County racks up 100 cases for one day in last update before Christmas”

Monroe County sees COVID-19 cases rise: “…could be our worst surge yet—it’s terrible.”

At Friday’s news conference of local leaders on COVID-19 pandemic response, Bloomington mayor John Hamilton reacted to the relatively positive picture that Indiana University health officer Aaron Carroll had just painted about the situation on campus.

“I’m really just echoing what Dr. Carroll said, which is: Probably one of the safest places to be is on campus. And that their experience is different from the experience of the community as a whole.”

The difference between the world of the campus and the broader community was something Carroll was quick to confirm. Carroll said, “I completely agree.” Carroll added, “Indiana is in a surge, there is no question. And looks like it could be our worst surge yet—it’s terrible.”

One measure of the increasing level of concern about pandemic trends was the fact that Friday’s news conference was held at all. It was supposed to be an off week in the every-other-week schedule of media calls. Continue reading “Monroe County sees COVID-19 cases rise: “…could be our worst surge yet—it’s terrible.””

A look ahead at some Monroe County offices up for election in 2022

In 2021, voters enjoyed their regular respite from local political races, which comes in the year following a presidential election.

In 2022, voters will be choosing several positions in Monroe County government.

The positions include four different seats on the county council, three circuit judges, one county commissioner, as well as assessor, clerk, prosecuting attorney, recorder and sheriff.

Monroe County went decisively for Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential race. Biden received about 63 percent of votes compared to 35 percent for Donald Trump.

All county positions except the four county council seats are elected countywide, which means Democrats have a significant advantage in the fall general elections.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be any choices for voters in November. Continue reading “A look ahead at some Monroe County offices up for election in 2022”

Monroe County OKs $1K vaccination incentive for each employee as pandemic continues surge

At its Tuesday work session, the Monroe County council approved a $1,000 reward for each full-time employee who can show they have been vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.

Part-time employees are also eligible for a $500 payment, if they can show they’ve been vaccinated.

The latest report for Monroe County, included with the state’s pandemic dashboard update on Wednesday, shows 49 new positive cases for the last day of November. That nudges the 7-day rolling average up to around 32 cases a day.

A recent single-digit day—9 positive cases reported on Nov. 26—has helped to drop the rolling average from its most recent peak of around 40. Three days from now, when that lower figure falls out of the rolling average, an upward trend could be more apparent in the data chart.

The county’s pattern for positive cases looks like it could be following the statewide trend, which seems to be echoing last year’s Thanksgiving dip followed by another rise.

In the last 30 days, Monroe County has seen 17 deaths due to COVID-19.

Continue reading “Monroe County OKs $1K vaccination incentive for each employee as pandemic continues surge”

Monroe County commissioner Githens declares bid for District 62 house seat

Monroe County commissioner Penny Githens has announced a run for the District 62 seat in the Indiana legislature’s house of representatives.

Elections for the 100 state house seats take place in 2022.

The formal announcement came on Sunday afternoon, at a gathering of around 40 people at the Monroe County Democratic Party’s headquarters on Madison Street in downtown Bloomington.

Campaign themes that Githens highlighted on Sunday included the need to increase wages, recruit young people to the teaching profession, provide adequate childcare, and expand treatment for mental health issues and substance use disorders.

Githens told The B Square she will not be resigning from the Monroe County board of commissioners, in order to make the run for the District 62 seat.

Sunday’s announcement by Githens was attended by several former and current elected local officials. Continue reading “Monroe County commissioner Githens declares bid for District 62 house seat”

School files lawsuit against Monroe County over pandemic mask mandate citation

Seven Oaks Classical School is again challenging its citation for violation of the county’s indoor mask mandate, which is connected to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This time the challenge comes in papers filed with the Monroe County circuit court.

The county has enacted a mask regulation to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In August, the school was cited by the county for violation of the mask mandate and fined $250.

After hearing the school’s appeal, commissioners upheld the citation, but waived the fine.

In the action now filed with the circuit court, Seven Oaks is challenging the denial of its appeal.

The court challenge is based on three separate allegations, one of them that Monroe County commissioners violated Indiana’s Open Door Law. Continue reading “School files lawsuit against Monroe County over pandemic mask mandate citation”

Pandemic notebook: Surge subsiding, but slowly

The current surge in COVID-19 case numbers seems to be past its peak statewide and in Monroe County.

But  IU Health south central region president Brian Shockney said on Friday that this one seems to be a little different from previous surges.

That’s because hospitalization numbers are decreasing more slowly after hitting their peak. He was speaking at the weekly news conference of local leaders on pandemic response.

Shockney said IU Health’s facility has continued to see a steady volume of COVID-19 patients over the past few weeks. “We’re seeing a longer tail in this surge than previous surges,” Shockney said. He added, “We may be coming out of this surge for a longer period of time than previously thought.” Continue reading “Pandemic notebook: Surge subsiding, but slowly”