Monroe County hits one benchmark for pandemic cases, but far from trigger to lift mask mandate

This time last year, the county saw a dramatic increase in cases, associated with a major new wave. This year the trend is expected to continue downward, even if the decline is slow.

Sunday’s 14 positive COVID-19 cases for Monroe County contributed to a rolling 7-day average of 19.7 cases.

That’s good news, in terms of the state’s metrics for community disease spread. But it still leaves the county at about twice the number of daily cases needed for an automatic lifting of the indoor mask mandate.

The county’s board of health voted to extend the mask mandate at its meeting last week. The lifting of the mandate is not tied to a date, but to a specific benchmark.  That benchmark corresponds to a rolling 7-day average of 10.6 cases a day, which is about half the current number.

County commissioners are set to vote on the extension of the mask mandate at their regular Wednesday morning meeting. Continue reading “Monroe County hits one benchmark for pandemic cases, but far from trigger to lift mask mandate”

Monroe County health board: Mask mandate to continue into November, tied to pandemic case numbers

Monroe County’s indoor mask mandate, for the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike, will continue into November and possibly even beyond—until the county’s positive COVID-19 case numbers drop to fewer than 50 cases per week per 100,000 residents.

That was the unanimous vote of Monroe County’s board of health at its Thursday meeting.

The current regulation goes through the end of October. In the current regulation, a drop in positive case numbers below 50 cases per week per 100,000 residents is also a condition tied to an end to the mask mandate.

Responding to an emailed question from The B Square, county health administrator Penny Caudill said the exact wording of the new regulation was not yet determined.

The state dashboard’s color-coded map gets updated every Wednesday. Because of that, the board wants the mask mandate to end at midnight on whichever Wednesday the state’s dashboard shows a weekly case total for Monroe County of less than 50 per 100,000 residents. Continue reading “Monroe County health board: Mask mandate to continue into November, tied to pandemic case numbers”

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”

COVID-19 impact: No recycling pickup in Bloomington for week starting Sept. 27

Recycling pickup by the city of Bloomington will be canceled for the week starting Monday, Sept. 27 according to a news release issued by the city on Sunday afternoon.

The reason for the interruption in service, which will last at least a week, according to the news release, is a shortage of sanitation workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the news release, the city’s currently available sanitation workforce is less than half the number needed for normal operations.

After last Thursday’s report of city workforce COVID-19 cases, the sanitation division reported  three more positive COVID-19 cases and six additional potential exposures, according to the news release. Continue reading “COVID-19 impact: No recycling pickup in Bloomington for week starting Sept. 27”

Continued calls for vaccination against COVID-19: “There’s no reason to be ‘right’—we all just want to be happy here.”

The percentage of eligible Monroe County residents who have been vaccinated against the COVID-19 pandemic virus is still just under 60 percent.

At the current pace of vaccinations in the county, which is around 60 additional people a day, it will take another week or so to eke out the next few tenths of a point to get past the 60-percent milestone.

At Friday’s weekly news conference of local leaders on pandemic response, Monroe County’s department of health public information officer Kathy Hewett said about the remaining 40 percent of the eligible population, “We still have a ways to go.”

For those who have not yet received a jab, could a decision now to get vaccinated feel like an admission that they’ve been wrong up to this point?

Responding to a question from a reporter about that possibility, Indiana University’s health officer Aaron Carroll said, “There’s no reason to be ‘right’—we all just want to be happy here.”

Carroll continued, “Everyone will be safer if they get vaccinated.” He added, “If you need an excuse, more recently, I think you could point to recent data, and that the hospitals are still filling up, that things are still very dangerous.” Continue reading “Continued calls for vaccination against COVID-19: “There’s no reason to be ‘right’—we all just want to be happy here.””

Monroe County positive COVID-19 cases may be leveling off at high numbers, new testing site announced

In Monroe County, the numbers of positive COVID-19 cases, and hospitalized patients are still high.

That news was buffered a bit on Friday by an announcement from county health administrator Penny Caudill about a local testing center. It was hoped to launch at the beginning of the month, and it’s finally set to open next Tuesday (Sept. 21).

Initial hours at the 500 N. Profile Parkway test site will run initially Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Results from the drive-through PCR tests are supposed to be available by 5 p.m. the following day, according to Caudill.

The 69 positive tests reported for Monroe County with the state dashboard’s Friday’s noon update were the biggest number in about eight months, when 77 cases were recorded on Jan. 20.

On Thursday, the city of Bloomington reported six COVID-19 cases among its employees for the week. That is the highest weekly total of city worker cases since mid-December of 2020, when eight employees tested positive for the pandemic virus between Dec. 8 and Dec. 12. Continue reading “Monroe County positive COVID-19 cases may be leveling off at high numbers, new testing site announced”

IU Health: “We would love to provide you with a vaccine instead of a hospital stay.”

President Joe Biden announced Thursday that federal workers, with few exceptions, would have to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.

Biden’s new mandates include a requirement that employers with more than 100 workers have to require their employees to be vaccinated or be tested weekly.

Friday’s local news conference of local leaders also had a renewed focus on vaccination.

As Brian Schockney, president of IU Health’s south central region, put it on Friday: “We would love to provide you with a vaccine instead of a hospital stay.”

The state’s health department maintains a website for scheduling appointments for the vaccine, which is free. Continue reading “IU Health: “We would love to provide you with a vaccine instead of a hospital stay.””

COVID-19 Update: Hospitalizations keep climbing

The long Labor Day weekend meant that on Tuesday at noon there were four days worth of fresh data updated to the state of Indiana’s COVID-19 dashboard. A note indicated hospitalization numbers for three of the days—Friday, Saturday, and Sunday—would be missing.

But Monday’s statewide hospitalization numbers came in at 2,518, which put the seven-day rolling average at 2,405. That’s the highest number since early January this year after a peak of over 3,200 in late November of 2020.

That’s consistent with the growing trend of hospitalizations in a more local area. At last Friday’s news conference of local leaders on pandemic response, Brian Shockney, who’s president of the IU Health south central region, shared a chart showing IU Health’s upward hospitalization trend.

Responding to an emailed question from The B Square earlier last week about the possibility that its current 2nd Street location might be kept open as a pandemic-only facility, after the new hospital on SR 46 is opened, an IU Health spokesperson wrote: “IU Health continues to focus on the best ways to provide care for our patients. At this time, we are not planning to keep IU Health Bloomington Hospital on 2nd Street open to provide patient care once we move to the new hospital.”

In Monroe County, the case numbers look like they might have stabilized or even started to trend downward, based on just the numbers in September. But it’s not clear if that’s a trend or just the impact of the holiday weekend, which could have affected the number of tests that were done. The preliminary testing numbers, which could increase as they are updated, are still below typical weekend numbers.

After peaking at a rolling average of 46 on Aug. 29, the daily average for Monroe County is now down about 10 points, at around 36. Continue reading “COVID-19 Update: Hospitalizations keep climbing”

Pandemic surges in Monroe County like rest of Indiana, full approval of Pfizer’s jab means extra encouragement to get vaccine

The height of the red line is at 21.2 cases a day. That’s the daily average below which Monroe County needs to stay in order to remain in the “yellow” category for weekly cases per 100,000 residents, in the state’s dual-metric classification scheme.

At Wednesday’s regular meeting of Monroe County commissioners, county health administrator Penny Caudill briefed the three electeds on the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Positive cases continue to trend upward in Monroe County, in the state, and across the country, she reported.

But Monday’s full approval of Pfizer’s vaccine by the US Food and Drug Administration could mean that one concern people have cited about getting vaccinated will be relieved, Caudill said. That concern relates to the fact that the vaccine had up to now been administered only under an emergency use provision.

Pfizer’s vaccine is now branded as Comirnaty.

Monroe County’s fraction of those age 12 and over who have been vaccinated is still just 58.3 percent

Caudill pointed to Indiana’s vaccine website as a resource for finding a place to get vaccinated. Continue reading “Pandemic surges in Monroe County like rest of Indiana, full approval of Pfizer’s jab means extra encouragement to get vaccine”

Monroe County pandemic numbers keep rising, like statewide trend

Monroe County’s pandemic numbers continue to trend in a bad direction, according to Indiana’s COVID-19 dashboard, which was updated  Monday at noon.

In the initial stages of the current surge, Monroe County’s positive case numbers looked like they might be leveling off at around 20 a day. Now, the county’s rolling average number of positive cases stands at around 30, which is five times the number at the start of July.

Hospitalization numbers are also trending up. At last Friday’s news conference of local leaders on pandemic response, Brian Shockney, president of IU Health’s south central region, reported a recent doubling of the health provider’s hospital numbers.

“Our COVID-19 census has increased from an average of 60 patients per day in early July, to almost 130 patients per day this last week,” Shockney said.

On Monday morning, a social media description of Bloomington’s hospital had patients lining the walls of the emergency department due to limited beds Continue reading “Monroe County pandemic numbers keep rising, like statewide trend”