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New Monroe County health order maintains smaller gathering sizes than state rules


The Monroe County Health Department issued a new order Thursday in response to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s order to move into Stage 4.5 instead of Stage 5 yesterday.

The county will follow the state’s guidelines of Stage 4.5 except for four deviations. Inside gatherings will be limited to 100 people and outdoor gatherings will be limited to 150 people.

Businesses must post a sign at their main entrance by July 8 requesting customers wear face masks to protect employees, other customers and themselves. They must be at minimum 8 inches by 10 inches, and the county will provide window clings to businesses who want them that read “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Mask, No Service.”

The county also will mandate that bar supplies be protected if restaurants want to offer bar seating to prevent patrons from contaminating them.

Many Stage 4 rules still apply in Stage 4.5, including restaurants being open at 75% capacity, bars, bar seating and nightclubs being open at 50% and retail stores being fully open.

The county is considering stricter regulations such as requiring facial coverings, only allowing table seating at restaurants and restricting indoor seating in general. Health administrator Penny Caudill said in a press conference Thursday that many people will have to collaborate in order for these restrictions to be effective, but they will be discussed in the coming weeks.

“It will take a community effort as everything takes a community effort,” Caudill said.

The county reported a spike in cases Wednesday and a recent increase in hospitalizations of people with COVID-19. Caudill said in the press release the county has seen a correlation between increased testing and cases. She asked the public to keep a “we” mentality moving forward, as cases rise across the country. 

“When we limit what we go to that’s large, and when we do go, we’re maintaining that social distancing and wearing face masks when you can’t maintain distance, that’s a ‘we’ mentality,” Caudill said.

Brian Shockney, IU Health South Central Region president, encouraged people to focus on their mental health this holiday weekend during the press conference. He said IU Health Bloomington Hospital has been seeing more people than usual for anxiety and other mental illnesses. He also warned that health precautions should still be taken despite celebrations.

“As we head into this Fourth of July weekend, I want us to be very mindful of the practices that we need to employ in order to protect each other,” Shockney said.

These measures include maintaining 6 feet of social distance inside and outside, wearing a facial covering when social distancing is not possible, washing hands for 20 seconds and staying home if you are sick.

During the press conference, Caudill also gave a report on the OptumServe testing site located at the National Guard armory on South Walnut Street. There is no air conditioning onsite, so the site has been closing early daily because of the difficulty of working in personal protective equipment in the heat. The staff tests an average of 80 to 125 people a day, Caudill said. She said the county has looked into getting portable air units for the building, but it would be costly.

Julie Thomas, president of the Monroe County Board of Commissioners, and Mayor John Hamilton emphasized the importance of wearing masks and maintaining social distance to prevent the need for another shutdown, which would further damage the economy.

“It’s supporting our local economy when you wear a face covering because that will help us prevent having to go into another shut down,” Thomas said.

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