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.
The 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).”
The citation was based on a visit to the school from county health administrator Penny Caudill. The note on the citation reads: “Observed few masks, although some students, faculty and staff had masks on.”
The three-member Monroe County board of commissioners voted unanimously on Monday to wrap up the hearing after around 2 hours and 40 minutes of presentations and cross examinations that were at times intense.
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.
A new law (SEA 05) recently enacted by Indiana’s legislature imposes additional requirements for local health orders to go into effect, if they are more restrictive than an order from the governor.
On Tuesday, governor Eric Holcomb vetoed the law, saying, “I am vetoing SEA 5 because I believe it will… restrict necessary flexibility in the law, and further undermine local responses to future public health emergencies.”
Monroe County’s health regulations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic have generally been more restrictive than the governor’s orders, with respect to masking and gathering sizes, among other things.
Based on the raw numbers, Monroe County, Indiana, shows an apparent racial and ethnic disparity in COVID-19 vaccination rates.
That disparity starts to shrink, but not necessarily disappear, if the analysis accounts for differences in age distribution for different racial or ethnic groups in the county.
Reacting to potential racial disparities in COVID-19 vaccination rates, activist Vauhxx Booker told The Square Beacon it’s important to account for the age distribution, because that affects the kind of narratives that get told about the differences in vaccination rates.
The age distribution of race and ethnicity matters, because up until just recently, it has been just older Hoosiers—other than front-line health care workers—who have been eligible for the vaccine. For the last couple of weeks, the eligibility age bracket has included only those 50 and older.
As of Monday in Monroe County, 75 percent of those who are fully vaccinated are older than 50.
If the 50+ universe is taken as a measuring rod for disparity, even if it might be imprecise, then the Hispanic population is actually “overrepresented” among the vaccinated—by 0.18 points.