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”

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”

Appeal denied: Mask violation citation of Seven Oaks Classical School upheld by county commissioners, fine waived

A citation given to Seven Oaks Classical School for a violation of the county’s Aug. 5 mask mandate was upheld on Thursday afternoon by a unanimous vote of the three Monroe County commissioners.

Although commissioners denied the school’s appeal, they waived the $250 fine.

The citation was appealed by Seven Oaks on Aug. 25.

A formal hearing on the appeal was held earlier this week, on Monday.

The Aug. 5 mask mandate says that when community spread of the COVID-19 pandemic is high in Monroe County, as determined by state metrics, everyone “must wear a face shield, face covering, or mask…over their nose and mouth when in an indoor public place and shall at all times, follow current CDC guidelines in every situation.”

Schools get a specific mention in the Aug. 5 order: “For academic and extracurricular activities, all K-12 schools in Monroe county shall follow the guidelines of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Indiana Department of Education (IDOE), and the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH).” Continue reading “Appeal denied: Mask violation citation of Seven Oaks Classical School upheld by county commissioners, fine waived”

Decision on school’s appeal of mask mandate citation to come Thursday, Sept. 23

A time has now been set for a ruling on the appeal filed by Seven Oaks Classical School of its mask mandate citation from the Monroe County board of health: Thursday, Sept. 23 at 3 p.m.

The county’s mask mandate is a health order that is intended to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic virus.

It’s the three-member board of county commissioners that heard the appeal on Monday, and that will now render the decision on Thursday.

The scheduling announcement came around noon Wednesday at the end of the county commissioners work session, which followed their regular Wednesday morning meeting. From a procedural point of view, the board is continuing its work session until Thursday.

Board president Julie Thomas said at the work session, “We’d like some more time to continue our individual reading and research, because we did have a lot of materials provided to us, which we appreciate.” Continue reading “Decision on school’s appeal of mask mandate citation to come Thursday, Sept. 23”

Monroe County health board to decide on Sept. 22 about possible extension of mask mandate into October

Monroe County’s indoor mask mandate, which is intended to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic virus, will almost certainly stay in place through its current expiration date of Sept. 30.

Image links to Indiana’s dashboard for COVID-19

The mask mandate has been in place since Aug. 5.

Whether it will be extended into October will be decided at the next meeting of the county’s board of health, which is now set for 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 22.

That would allow time for the county’s board of commissioners to ratify the local regulation at its regular Wednesday morning on Sept. 29, if a decision is made to extend the mandate.

Based on discussion at Wednesday’s board of health meeting, there’s a possibility that the mask mandate will not be extended.

Monroe County health administrator Penny Caudill, county health officer Thomas Sharp, and county attorney Margie Rice asked board of health members to weigh the benefits of the mask mandate compared to the energy it takes to enforce it.

The energy that goes into enforcing the mask mandate might be used better to promote vaccination, they said.

On Wednesday at least some board of health members did not sound inclined to alter the mandate, certainly not that day. They pointed to the mask mandate as possibly one of the reasons that the community spread of the pandemic in Monroe County, as measured in the state’s color-coded system for counties, is one of the lowest in the state.

Still it was apparent they were receptive at least to the possibility of letting the mask mandate expire, depending on what the numbers look like two weeks from now, even if Monroe County is not “blue.”

On Wednesday, Monroe County scored yellow in the four-color system of: blue, yellow, orange, and red.

Continue reading “Monroe County health board to decide on Sept. 22 about possible extension of mask mandate into October”

Monroe County OKs mask mandate for fully vaccinated starting Aug. 5, Indiana University also says “mask up”

Face coverings will now be required in public indoor settings, even for Monroe County residents who are fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.

That’s the basic point of a new health order approved unanimously by Monroe County’s three commissioners at their regular meeting on Wednesday morning.

The order approved by commissioners is effective at 8 a.m. Thursday (Aug. 5) and extends through Sept. 30. [Monroe County health department news release]

The Monroe County health order comes after last week’s new guidance on mask-wearing for the fully vaccinated from the Centers for Disease Control. The guidance applies to counties where there is “substantial” or “high” transmission of the virus. That’s a criterion that currently applies to Monroe County.

Not under the county’s jurisdiction, but also following the CDC’s new guidance on masks, is Indiana University.

IU’s public health officer, Aaron Carroll, stated during a noon video conference that the university would also be telling people to mask up in public spaces “for the near future.” Continue reading “Monroe County OKs mask mandate for fully vaccinated starting Aug. 5, Indiana University also says “mask up””

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”

Upward nudge in Monroe County COVID-19 case numbers means local health regs likely to stay in place, after governor’s April 6 end date

The dark purple line is the 7-day rolling average of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases. 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.

Indiana governor Eric Holcomb announced Tuesday an end to statewide COVID-19 restrictions, starting April 6.

But Monroe County health administrator Penny Caudill said on Friday that Monroe County’s regulations will remain in place for the time being.

That’s based in part on a recent uptick in positive cases in the county, which includes Indiana University’s campus.

Caudill was speaking at the weekly Friday news conference held by local officials on COVID-19 response.

Under the county board of health’s current health order, Caudill and county health officer Thomas Sharp have the “the ability to adjust restrictions—in any particular area—as required, in order to protect the public health.”

The county board of health is next scheduled to meet on April 6 at 4 p.m. Caudill said the board routinely looks at the pandemic data to make changes and adapt as numbers improve. Continue reading “Upward nudge in Monroe County COVID-19 case numbers means local health regs likely to stay in place, after governor’s April 6 end date”