Monroe County turns map blue for COVID cases, but still in yellow advisory

At their regular Wednesday meeting, Monroe County commissioners heard a bit of good news related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

County health administrator Penny Caudill told them the 92 confirmed positive cases for the week ending on Sunday were low enough to put Monroe County in the blue category for the state’s dual-metric classification scheme.

That’s the first time in a couple of months that the county has been blue. Blue designates the best category, which is “low community spread.”

The other metric, besides the number of confirmed cases per 100,000, is positivity rate. Monroe County has consistently scored in the best category for the positivity metric, due in part to the massive amount of mitigation testing that Indiana University has undertaken.

Mitigation testing, of randomly selected people, by its nature will show a lower positivity rate than testing of those who decide they want a test for some reason.

Based on the number of positive cases, Monroe County is still in the next-best category, but when averaged with the score for positivity rate, the county comes out blue.

Caudill also cautioned the commissioners that under the dual-metric color-coded advisory scheme, the county needs to maintain its blue status for two weeks in a row in order to be considered out from under the cautions associated with the yellow rating. Continue reading “Monroe County turns map blue for COVID cases, but still in yellow advisory”

County board of health mulls Greek house guests

No decision was reached at its Thursday meeting, but Monroe County’s board of health wrestled for around an hour with the idea of relaxing somewhat its COVID-19 regulations on communal living facilities.

The board voted to approve a motion to have county health administrator Penny Caudill and county health commissioner Thomas Sharp collaborate with Indiana University officials on a revised regulation.

The revised rule might distinguish between inside guests and outside guests of Greek houses, and would likely still prohibit guests inside buildings and place restrictions on guests who remain outside.

That revised regulation could come to the board for approval at its next meeting, now set for April 6. Continue reading “County board of health mulls Greek house guests”

Limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine in Monroe County: “We’ve been giving what we can give.”

Since Dec. 21, about 500 people a day in Monroe County have been getting their first of two required shots for the COVID-19 vaccine at the IU Health Medical Arts Building clinic.

The total number who have received that first shot now stands at 4,333.

That was the update given to Monroe County’s board of health members on Tuesday afternoon by Amy Meek, nursing supervisor for IU Health.

Based on that 500-per-day pace of COVID-19 shots, it would take a little over a year for 70 percent of the county’s roughly 150,000 residents to receive the required two doses of vaccine. The 70 percent figure has been cited as the minimum percentage needed to achieve herd immunity.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the pace of vaccination struck health board members as slow.

Asked for a breakdown of the bottlenecks, Meek said the problem is not staffing, it’s vaccine supply. “We’ve been giving what we can give.” She added, “We can’t have more appointments than the vaccine inventory that we have.” Continue reading “Limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine in Monroe County: “We’ve been giving what we can give.””

County commissioners, board of health move to beef up enforcement of COVID-19 health regs

On Wednesday at their regular weekly meeting, Monroe County commissioners approved a $25,000 contract with Security Pro 24/7 to help enforce the county board of health’s regulations, which were imposed to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic virus.

The idea initially is to focus enforcement on late night hours, according to Monroe County health administrator Penny Caudill. She said the compliance officers are supposed to “help businesses maintain that compliance, just to be there to remind people what the regulations are.”

Caudill added, “Some of the businesses have said that we get lots of out of town guests—they don’t always know what the regulations in Monroe County are.”

Among the county regulations is a non-commercial group gathering size limit of 50 people, which is larger than the city of Bloomington’s limit of 15.

The county also limits bars to offering only tabletop seating, and no bar service. That’s a regulation that could be revisited by the board of health in a couple of weeks.

On Thursday, the board of health gave its own unanimous approval of the agreement with Security Pro 24/7.

The board also took action to revise its COVID-19 regulations to allow for enforcement of its regs by Security Pro 24/7. Continue reading “County commissioners, board of health move to beef up enforcement of COVID-19 health regs”

Monroe County, Bloomington officials working towards a single mask rule for COVID-19, precise nature of rule still unclear

bordered R-OUT COVID DAILY PCT POS Monroe July 10

Will the rules on masks in the next Monroe County health order include a strict mandate for wearing face coverings when in public? Maybe.

During Friday’s weekly press conference, held by local leaders about the community’s COVID-19 response, city and county officials stayed squarely on message: They’re hoping to have a single rule for the entire county.

It’s less certain what that rule will be. City officials are pushing for the consistent rule to be something fairly robust. Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, said that he and other city officials think “having a substantial mandate is a prudent thing to do.”

At Wednesday’s meeting of the county commissioners, Monroe County’s health administrator, Penny Caudill, had previewed the idea that some kind of mask requirement would be in the county’s next health order.

Based on Caudill’s remarks at Friday’s press conference, it’s still not settled what that requirement will look like.

Caudill recognized that support for a mask mandate in the county is strong, but said it’s is not universal. “We recognize there are a large number of people who are supportive of a mask requirement, and some people wish it was in place back in March,” Caudill said.

Caudill added, “Others are clearly letting us know that they are not in support of that. So we do hope to find some balance as we look at best public health practice around face coverings.”

The next health order from health officer Thomas Sharp is expected before the end of the month, Caudill confirmed on Friday. Continue reading “Monroe County, Bloomington officials working towards a single mask rule for COVID-19, precise nature of rule still unclear”