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””

Monroe County likely to bring back indoor mask requirement to help stop spread of pandemic virus

By next Wednesday, all Monroe County residents, even those who are vaccinated, will likely be under a renewed mandate to wear a mask to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

According to Monroe County health administrator Caudill, a new order from county health officer Thomas Sharp will also say that schools should follow guidance from the CDC, the Indiana Department of Health, and the Indiana Department of Education.

What does guidance from those three entities mean for area K-12 schools? Caudill concluded: “At this time, that means masks should be worn in schools.”

The announcement about a new mask mandate came at Friday’s biweekly news conference on local COVID-19 pandemic response. The usual order of speakers was altered to put Monroe County healthy administrator Penny Caudill first, so she could deliver the news on masks.

Before announcing the new mask mandate for indoor public settings, Caudill described the negative trends that led to the decision: increased confirmed COVID-19 case numbers, increased positivity rates and increased hospitalizations, and less-than-hoped-for vaccination rates.

Caudill reported at the news conference that the county’s board of health would meet to deliberate on the mask mandate on Tuesday, Aug. 3 at 9:15 a.m. on a Zoom video conference.

The following day, at its regular Wednesday meeting, county commissioners could approve the mandate. The need for the board of county commissioners to act is due to a recent statutory change. The new law [SEA 05]  requires the board of county commissioners sign off on local health orders.

Continue reading “Monroe County likely to bring back indoor mask requirement to help stop spread of pandemic virus”

Monroe County auditor at swearing-in ceremony: “If you love people, please mask up.”

Monroe County officials who won election in November took their oaths of office at noon on Friday, New Year’s Day.

Screenshot of Jan. 1, 2021 swearing in ceremony of Monroe County elected officials. The green highlighted square is auditor Catherine Smith, who encouraged people to mask up. Image links to FB video of the ceremony.

The 50-minute-long ceremony was hosted by the Monroe County Democratic Party. Election winners were all Democrats.

The continuing COVID-19 pandemic, which added another death to Monroe County’s count on Friday, was reflected in the venue for the ceremony—a Zoom video conference, live streamed on Facebook.

Those who took the oath of office were: judges Kara Krothe, Valeri Haughton, Geoff Bradley; auditor Catherine Smith; treasurer Jessica McClellan; coroner Joani Shields; surveyor Trohn Enright-Randolph; county commissioners Julie Thomas and Penny Githens; and county councilors Trent Deckard, Geoff McKim and Cheryl Munson. Continue reading “Monroe County auditor at swearing-in ceremony: “If you love people, please mask up.””

Monroe County election board mulls investigation of unlawful electioneering at polls by voter wearing COVID-19 mask with candidate’s name

Monroe County’s election board could eventually wind up conducting an investigation of unlawful electioneering by a voter at the early in-person polls.

The voter has been described as wearing a COVID-19 mask with a candidate’s name printed on it, inside the polling location at Election Central, while voting was taking place. The voter, who was allowed to cast a ballot, refused to swap to a different mask or turn his own inside out.

That appears to be a violation of Indiana’s state election law, which says that electioneering is not allowed inside a polling place.

The definition of electioneering includes “expressing support or opposition to any candidate” and “wearing or displaying an article of clothing, sign, button, or placard that states the name of any political party or includes the name, picture, photograph, or other likeness of any currently elected federal, state, county, or local official.” [IC 3-14-3-16]

It was an election worker who gave the county election board a report on the matter at its Monday morning meeting, which was held to square away any remaining issues before Election Day.

Depending on the outcome of the investigation, the voter could wind up charged with committing a Class A misdemeanor, according to Matthew Kochevar, who is co-general counsel for the Indiana Election Division.

The punishment for a Class A misdemeanor is up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

To get to an outcome involving jail time and a fine, the county election board could investigate the electioneering allegation at a public meeting of the board under[ IC 3-6-5-31],  Kochevar wrote in an emailed message to The Square Beacon. The election board could then vote to forward the matter to the county prosecutor under [IC 3-6-5-32], as a violation of the electioneering statute, Kochevar said.

According to a statement issued by Monroe County election board member Carolyn VandeWiele late Monday, she spoke to the Monroe County prosecutor’s office and confirmed: “They will prosecute any offenses that we bring before them.” Continue reading “Monroe County election board mulls investigation of unlawful electioneering at polls by voter wearing COVID-19 mask with candidate’s name”

COVID-19 Update: Mask order now in effect for Monroe County; other measures take effect on July 23 in Bloomington, later elsewhere

A new health order issued Friday afternoon requires Monroe County residents to wear face coverings when they’re not at home—with several caveats.

The order took effect at 5 p.m. on Friday, a few hours after it was issued by Monroe County health officer Thomas Sharp. It will stay in effect until it’s rescinded, according to the order.

The order comes as numbers of confirmed positive cases continue to rise in the county, and hospitalizations are starting to edge upward as well. The last death in Monroe County due to COVID-19 came three and a half weeks ago, on June 21. Continue reading “COVID-19 Update: Mask order now in effect for Monroe County; other measures take effect on July 23 in Bloomington, later elsewhere”