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”

Advisory committee dives into precinct boundary work for Monroe County

A four-member committee established by the Monroe County board of commissioners has now met twice as it tackles the task of making recommendations on new precinct boundaries for the county.

Once the precincts are settled, the group will make recommendations on boundaries for county council and county commission districts. It will be the three county commissioners who make the decision on all the boundaries.

Appointed by county commissioners to the committee were two Democrats (Regina Moore and Ed Robertson) and two Republicans (Joyce Poling and Hal Turner). Continue reading “Advisory committee dives into precinct boundary work for Monroe County”

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”

Jan. 6, 2022 deadline: Remonstrance against Bloomington annexations gets energetic start: “We are to be reckoned with.”

On Friday morning, the first remonstrators against Bloomington’s annexations showed up at Monroe County courthouse.

Friday was the start to the formal petitioning process for property owners inside any of the seven areas that Bloomington wants to annex. That’s because Friday’s edition of The Herald-Times carried a public notice of the city council’s adoption of annexation ordinances.

The notice is required to be published in a newspaper as defined under Indiana state law.

Under state law, the 90-day window to submit remonstration petition signatures translates into a deadline of Jan. 6, 2022 at 4 p.m.

Continue reading “Jan. 6, 2022 deadline: Remonstrance against Bloomington annexations gets energetic start: “We are to be reckoned with.””

Convention center expansion talk picks back up: “People want to be together.”

View of the Monroe County convention center looking southwest from the top of the new 4th Street parking garage.

Two recent meetings of Monroe County officials featured renewed enthusiasm to start thinking again about the convention center expansion project.

The downtown project, which Bloomington and Monroe County officials have been pursuing for a few years now, had hit yet another rough patch in early March 2020, just before the pandemic hit.

The COVID-19 pandemic effectively paused the effort, as city and county elected officials were at odds over the way members would be appointed to a yet-to-be-established capital improvement board (CIB).

A year and a half later, at the county council’s Sept. 15 hearing on the convention center budget, council president Eric Spoonmore helped put the expansion project back on the civic radar. “I don’t want us to lose sight of this very important convention center expansion project that we have promised to the community,” Spoonmore said. Continue reading “Convention center expansion talk picks back up: “People want to be together.””

As COVID-19 surges again, Monroe County health administrator says “Be kind to others even when you disagree.”

For Monroe County health administrator Penny Caudill, kindness is part of the key to dealing with the current resurgence of COVID-19 cases.

At Friday’s regular news conference of local leaders, Caudill sketched out the rise in the basic pandemic stats and the relatively low vaccination rates.

She then made an appeal to kindness: “You can be part of the solution to this. Be kind to others even when you disagree.” Caudill continued, “Be kind to the workers doing their jobs. Wear your mask as required, and if requested. Stay at home if you’re sick, get tested as appropriate.”

Caudill wrapped up: “So please be kind. And we want people to get vaccinated.” Caudill said, the best place to find information about times and locations of vaccination clinics is still at ourshot.in.gov

The vaccination rate among eligible Monroe County residents is still only about 57.2 percent, well short of the 70 percent that was batted around as a target in the early days of vaccination.

That target has risen as the more infectious Delta variant has spread. Of the positive tests that have been genetically sequenced in the last four weeks statewide, 83 percent were determined to be caused by the Delta variant, according to the Indiana state department of health dashboard. Continue reading “As COVID-19 surges again, Monroe County health administrator says “Be kind to others even when you disagree.””

State law OK’d in 2015 might curb future Bloomington expansion, if current annexation proposals are approved

A work session held by Bloomington’s city council on Friday at noon highlighted a fact about Indiana’s current annexation law, which has a potential impact that does not seem to be widely understood.

A 2015 amendment to the state statute on annexation looks like it gives a city exactly one more chance to expand along any segment of its boundary. After that, the annexed area forms a kind of wall to future annexation. It’s not possible to add another layer right on top of that one expansion.

In more technical terms, if a city completes an annexation after June 30, 2015, the annexed territory cannot be considered as part of the city, when it comes to a future determination about whether some additional territory shares enough of the city boundary that it can be annexed—unless that future annexation is voluntary. Continue reading “State law OK’d in 2015 might curb future Bloomington expansion, if current annexation proposals are approved”

Mixed bag for direction of Monroe County, Indiana COVID-19 trends

COVID-19 numbers are up for Monroe County, but might have plateaued for at least some measures. That contrasts with numbers statewide, which show a clear upward trend.

The generally higher numbers now, compared to a month ago, are blamed by health officials on the prevalence of the Delta variant of the virus, which is more infectious.

According to Indiana’s COVID-19 dashboard, over the last four weeks, when samples of positive tests were taken and genetically sequenced, about 87 percent of them showed they were caused by the Delta variant.

Two deaths, one each on the last two days of July, brought Monroe County’s total number of deaths due to the pandemic to 180.

A local bright spot came when the city of Bloomington announced on Thursday that no employees had tested positive for COVID-19 in the last two weeks. Continue reading “Mixed bag for direction of Monroe County, Indiana COVID-19 trends”

Township trustee on timing for Bloomington annexation: “What I’m hearing…is that’s taxation without representation.”

Van Buren Township, which forms part of the western edge of Monroe County, sits at the southwest corner of the city of Bloomington.

Inset of western portion of Monroe County showing township boundaries, city boundaries and proposed annexation areas. Areas with darker shades indicate those parcels with a remonstration waiver, regardless of date. The image links to a .pdf with vector graphics but no labels.

The township’s trustee is Rita Barrow, who has been elected to the post by Van Buren voters.

But most  Van Buren Township residents can’t vote for mayor, clerk, or councilmembers in Bloomington’s municipal elections. That’s because it’s only some small areas of Van Buren, with odd geometries, that currently are included inside city boundaries.

Under a current proposal by Bloomington to annex more township  territory into the city, more denizens of the township would add city residency to their resumes in 2024, and get the right to vote in city elections.

But the next Bloomington election would not come around until four years later, in November 2027.

That’s a sore point with potential annexees. And Barrow raised the issue on Friday morning at a meeting of the  Democratic Women’s Caucus. Continue reading “Township trustee on timing for Bloomington annexation: “What I’m hearing…is that’s taxation without representation.””

Photos | Cicada-ville: A bad haiku on zoning

Last Monday, I wandered over to the Monroe County courthouse grounds in downtown Bloomington to check the status of cicadas. I saw a cute bunny rabbit, but no cicadas.

On Saturday, I noticed a few cicada shells clinging to the face of the the Alexander Monument when I was covering the rally for the arts. So I figured on Sunday afternoon I would check again.

What a difference a week made. After the jump is a set of cicada photos I took on the courthouse grounds. And here’s my best poetic effort on the topic: Continue reading “Photos | Cicada-ville: A bad haiku on zoning”