Plat for part of former IU hospital site gets OK to go in front of Bloomington plan commission

At its Monday meeting, Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) signed off on a proposed plat for some of the land to be redeveloped as a part of the reuse project for the former IU Health hospital at 2nd and Rogers Streets.

A plat is a map that shows how the land is divided into lots.

What the RDC was approving was the submission of the plat to the city plan commission. Once the plan commission approves it, probably at its Feb. 7 meeting, the RDC will confirm the plat with another vote, according to the RDC’s meeting information packet.

The land in question is bounded by 1st and 2nd streets on the north and south. The boundaries to the east and west are formed by Morton and Rogers streets. Continue reading “Plat for part of former IU hospital site gets OK to go in front of Bloomington plan commission”

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”

COVID-19 update: Top Hoosier health official’s forecast of “very steep rise in cases” true just one day later

Kristina Box, the health commissioner for the state of Indiana, warned at a Wednesday news conference about the looming impact of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Box put it this way: “We expect to see a very steep rise in cases over the next several weeks.”

On Thursday, the update to the state’s dashboard for COVID-19 data showed the biggest number of reported cases for any day since the start of the pandemic about 22 months ago.

According to the dashboard data, across the state of Indiana, 12,004 positive cases were reported for Dec. 29. That’s 1.5 times the previous high of 8,436 on Dec. 2, 2020.

The 12,004 cases pushed the current 7-day rolling average of positive cases in the Hoosier state to 5,784. Up until Thursday’s update, the statewide rolling averages had been trending in the low- to mid-4,000s.

In Monroe County, the positive cases reported for Dec. 29 showed a similar spike. The 163 cases reported for Dec. 29 in Monroe County made for the second-highest total of the pandemic. The only day with a higher total was Sept. 10, 2020, when 235 positive tests were recorded.

Late in the day on Thursday, the city of Bloomington reported an additional eight employees had tested positive for the pandemic virus, which made for 36 cases in the month of December. That outpaced the previous monthly high of 22, which was recorded in December 2020.

The one statistic that has not shown a steep increase in late 2021 has been the number of deaths. In Monroe County, November this year saw 17 deaths due to COVID-19, compared to 16 in 2020.

In December last year, 60 people in Monroe County died of the pandemic virus, according to state department of health statistics. In December 2021 so far, Monroe County has seen 12 COVID-19 deaths, just one-fifth the number last year.

The figure will likely climb by at least a few cases, when the book is closed on December this year. That’s because the month has a couple days left, and  deaths are assigned to the date of the death, not the day it was reported. That means deaths that happen in late December, but are not reported until early January, will still be logged in the state’s dataset by their December date.

Hospitalizations, in contrast to deaths, have spiked right along with the number of confirmed positive cases.

As IU Health south central region president Brian Shockney put it at Thursday’s news conference of local Bloomington leaders: “We are beyond our bed capacity—if you want to talk about what was designated for inpatient beds. I think probably every hospital in the state is at that point as well.”

Shockney described how IU Health’s new hospital facility, on Bloomington’s east side near the SR-46 bypass, is designed to have flexible room configurations that allow the hospital to “flex” the space. Beds not designated for inpatients are being adapted for that use.

Shockney described some beds that are typically used for surgical patients—they would normally start and end their procedures there. Given that all except for emergency surgical procedures have been stopped, those rooms are now being used for COVID-19 patients, Shockney said.

Shockney closed out his remarks by asking that people keep their New Year’s gatherings small. “I’d like to ask you to keep your New Year’s celebration to those small groups and families where you’re being safe and stopping the spread of this virus.”

Shockney talked about the best way to honor those who have suffered with COVID-19, the healthcare and public health heroes, and those who have died. Shockney called on people to usher in 2022 in a “peaceful and respectful way, remembering the past and protecting our future.”

IU Health moves operations to new hospital, first baby already delivered

In a news release issued mid-afternoon on Sunday, IU Health announced that the first baby had been born at its new hospital, which is located off the SR 46 bypass on the east side of town.

The news release states: “Parents Naomi and Miguel Ramirez welcomed their child Nahla shortly after 11 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 5 and are happy to report that mom and baby are doing well.”

It was in the early morning hours of Sunday, Dec. 5 that IU Health started its move from the hospital at 2nd and Rogers Street. The facility, which IU Health now calls the legacy IU Health Bloomington Hospital, is now slated for demolition, before it is transferred to the city of Bloomington in a $6.5-million real estate deal.

At 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon, the transport activity around the old site had diminished, but several cars were still parked in the lot at 2nd and Rogers. Over the next hour or so, a few hospital workers emerged from the building, walked down the stairway, got in their cars, and drove off.

A while later, an IU Health ambulance, with lights and siren blaring, sped east down 2nd Street—apparently responding to a call, not performing a transport.

Even though the general location of the new facility is often described as off the SR 46 bypass, the driveways to the hospital are off Discovery Parkway, which was formerly known as Range Road.

Heading east on Discovery Parkway, after the turn from SR 46, two hospital entrances come up immediately on the left. The emergency room is off the second entrance.

After the jump: Photos from IU Health’s documentation of the move. Continue reading “IU Health moves operations to new hospital, first baby already delivered”

Bloomington OKs a bit more for $4.9M street rebuild at hospital site, as IU Health eyes move

At its Monday meeting, Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) approved a relatively small increase of about $8,000 to the $4.9-million budget of a project that will rebuild 1st Street.

The street reconstruction is set to start construction sometime in 2023.

Even though that’s more than a year away, the event that’s motivating the street work is less than a month down the road.

The street reconstruction is part of a redevelopment plan for the 24-acre IU Health hospital site on 2nd Street, which the city of Bloomington will be taking over from the health care provider as part of a $6.5 million real estate deal.

In a news release last week, IU Health confirmed that its move from the hospital site on 2nd Street, to its new facility on the SR 45/46 bypass, is on course for Dec. 5. Continue reading “Bloomington OKs a bit more for $4.9M street rebuild at hospital site, as IU Health eyes move”

Bloomington fills in Madison Street gap parcel for hospital redevelopment site

A roughly tenth-of-an-acre lot at 605 S. Madison St. was approved for purchase by Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) at its regular Monday meeting.

On the lot stands a concrete block building constructed in 1960, that is currently leased for document storage by Centerstone, a nonprofit that offers mental health and substance use disorder treatments.

The offer accepted by the landowner was $265,000.

The RDC was keen to acquire the property, because it’s an island in a sea of parcels that are a part of the planned redevelopment of the IU Health hospital at 2nd and Rogers streets. The health care provider plans to vacate and mostly demolish it later this year. Operations will be moved to IU’s new facility on SR-46.

IU Health is turning over the hospital property to Bloomington as part of a $6.5 million real estate deal.

Monday’s deal is one of the transactions for additional property in the vicinity that the RDC has pursued, in order to have more flexibility in developing the area. Continue reading “Bloomington fills in Madison Street gap parcel for hospital redevelopment site”

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”

Bloomington city council: Yes on historic designation for hospital building, No on restaurant

The Kohr Administration Center at IU Health’s hospital, at 1st and South Rogers streets, was given historic designation by Bloomington’s city council on Wednesday night.

The vote about the Kohr building by the nine-member city council was unanimous.

Also unanimous was the council’s decision at the same meeting to deny historic designation to the building on South Walnut Street that was most recently home to the Player’s Pub.

The thumbs-up from the city council on the Kohr building means it will join the parking garage as one of the buildings on the hospital site that IU Health will not demolish before it hands over the facility to the city of Bloomington in a $6.5 million real estate deal.

The handover will come after IU Health leaves the 2nd Street complex around the end of 2021, to occupy its new location on the SR-46 bypass. Continue reading “Bloomington city council: Yes on historic designation for hospital building, No on restaurant”

IU Health’s bonus dose now standard as Pfizer limits COVID vaccine shipments based on 6-dose vials

The IU Health pharmacy team that prepares the COVID-19 vaccine for its clinic in Monroe County is able to extract an extra sixth dose out of the 5-dose vaccine vials it gets from Pfizer.

“We get at least six doses out of every vial,” president of IU Health’s south central region Brian Shockney confirmed to the Square Beacon.

To accomplish the extraction of the extra dose requires a speciality syringe. Shockney said, “We have the needles.”

That is the same experience of many pharmacies across the country.

But the New York Times reported Friday that the sixth dose can’t be considered a bonus any longer.

According to the NYT report, the discovery in December that a sixth dose could be extracted from the 5-dose vials will now lead to less vaccine shipped by Pfizer.

According to the report: “Pfizer plans to count the surprise sixth dose toward its previous commitment of 200 million doses of Covid vaccine by the end of July and therefore will be providing fewer vials than once expected for the United States.”

Extraction of a sixth dose from a Pfizer vial will now be considered just par for the course. Continue reading “IU Health’s bonus dose now standard as Pfizer limits COVID vaccine shipments based on 6-dose vials”

COVID-19 update: Availability of vaccine still key barrier to shots in arms; declining case numbers boost morale

The main barrier to COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Monroe County, as well as other parts of the state and country, continues to be the availability of the vaccine.

As many 1,000 additional doses of vaccine a day could be distributed by Indiana University, according to IU’s assistant vice president for strategic partnerships Kirk White. He was speaking at Friday’s weekly news conference of local leaders on COVID-19 response.

Whenever the state is able to allocate vaccine to the university as a distribution site, White said, “I’m pretty comfortable that we could do between 500 and 1000 vaccinations that day, if we had the supply.”

For now, the only vaccination clinics in the county are being operated by IU Health and Monroe County’s health department. The vaccine is free, but appointments are required for both clinics. For now it’s only frontline healthcare workers and those over 70 years old who are eligible.

Countering general frustration about vaccine availability on Friday was a sustained downward trend for confirmed positive cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, in Monroe County and across the state. Continue reading “COVID-19 update: Availability of vaccine still key barrier to shots in arms; declining case numbers boost morale”