It allows local units of government to impose their own more restrictive regulations to try to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus. But the governor’s order does not itself include restrictions like a mask mandate.
Joining Holcomb at the news conference were Lindsay Weaver, the chief medical officer for Indiana’s department of health, and Kristina Box, the state’s health commissioner.
Box delivered a grim outlook at roughly the one-year mark for the arrival of the first COVID-19 vaccines in Indiana. “We once again are facing a very bleak situation with this pandemic. Our COVID-19 hospital census is at the highest level in an entire year,” Box said.
The regulation takes effect at noon on Wednesday, July 22, but puts off some of the requirements until July 31. The requirement on face coverings is effective at noon, Wednesday, sooner than the other requirements. That sequence follows the same pattern as the health order did, which was issued last week.
In practical terms, the regulation has a status that allows for enforcement and punishment with a fine. Under the county code, the violation of a board of health regulation is a Class C ordinance violation. And a Class C ordinance violation carries with it a possible fine of up to $500. [Updated 11:11 a.m. on July 22, 2020. The board of county commissioners adopted an executive order at their regular meeting directing the sheriff to enforce the health board’s regulation.]
But the regulation approved Tuesday recommends that individuals, as opposed to groups, be fined $50. Group violations are recommended to be fined at a higher, unspecified amount.
The local health order includes a requirement that businesses post signs encouraging their patrons to wear masks, but does not mandate the wearing of masks.
Local officials are mulling the possibility of following the lead of some other Indiana jurisdictions—St. Joseph, Elkhart and Marion counties—by imposing a requirement that masks be worn when residents are in public. But their preference is to get voluntary compliance.
At their regular weekly press conference on Thursday, pushed up a day due to the July 4 holiday, local officials praised Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s decision the previous day to pause his Back on Track plan. Holcomb issued a 4.5 version, instead of adopting Back on Track 5.0.
The day before that, Holcomb had extended to July 31 a previous order halting evictions due to non-payment of rent. As a part of the same extended order, utility shutoffs were suspended until Aug. 14.
The new local health order was issued on the same day when Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, announced he had tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies. That’s likely due to having been infected back in April, despite having twice tested negative back then.
Increased testing in Monroe County—from a 7-day rolling average of around 100 a day in the first part of June, to closer to 150 a day in the second half of the month—has come with the highest number of positive cases since the pandemic started.
Based on Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s “Back on Track” order issued on May 1, as soon as this Monday (May 11), it would have been possible to sit and drink a pint at restaurants in Bloomington and elsewhere in Monroe County.
The restaurants would have needed to limit the number of customers to 50 percent of capacity.
But on the same day that Holcomb announced his phased-in reopening plan, local officials announced an order from Monroe County’s health officer saying that conditions from the existing stay-at-home order would remain in place through May 15. That means for a little while longer, Monroe County residents will be eating and drinking at home.
How much longer? And when will a decision be made on a possible extension of the county’s order past May 15?
At last Friday’s press conference, county health administrator Penny Caudill said, “We can’t make it too early, but we do want to make it as early as we can, to give people a chance to plan. But we also have to follow the information and the data.”
Indiana University’s director of media relations, Chuck Carney, hosted Friday’s Zoom conference call with the media.
The COVID-19 case map from the Indiana State Department of Health’s website on Sunday, March 22, 2020. The Monroe County case did not appear until Sunday after it was reported by a private lab to a local health provider, Indiana University’s student health center. The lab has to report to the state before the tally is included in the state’s dashboard.
Early Friday afternoon, Monroe County’s health administrator, Penny Caudill,
sent out a press release announcing the county’s first confirmed case of COVID-19, the pandemic virus that’s spreading across the world.
It was a student seen a week earlier by Indiana University Health Center, whose positive test was reported to the center just that morning.
The student, who lives off-campus, self-isolated for the week while the test was being processed. The student health center sent the test to LabCorp, a private lab in Burlington, North Carolina, according to the student health center’s medical director, Beth Rupp.
The COVID-19 infection that was reported on Friday appears to be a case contracted in Monroe County. Rupp told a group of reporters on a Zoom video conference call on Friday that the student had not travelled recently and had no known exposure.
Rupp confirmed that LabCorp reported the positive result to the health center on Friday morning. Rupp said her first step was to contact the patient. After that, the student health center notified Caudill, as Monroe County’s health administrator.
Speaking into a PA microphone Friday afternoon, standing just south of the 7th and College intersection in downtown Bloomington, Penny Caudill said, “We walk into work and we smile!”
Caudill, who’s Monroe County’s health administrator, was talking to artist Gypsy Schindler, who just recently completed a mural on the wall that leads along the ramp to the lower-level entrance of the county’s health building. The art depicts kids playing—riding bicycles, kicking a soccer ball and jumping rope.