Monroe County officials raised the alarm about rising COVID-19 positive cases during the city of Bloomington’s weekly COVID-19 press conference Friday. Local health officials also stressed the risk of infection and importance of vaccination for children and pregnant individuals.
COVID-19 status in Bloomington
As Indiana’s COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations approach levels unseen since January, Monroe County’s COVID-19 rates are also worsening, county health officials said.
IU Health South Central Region’s hospitalization numbers have reached the same levels as in early January, said Brian Shockney, the system’s regional president. Among the total 54 hospitalized patients on Wednesday, 45 were unvaccinated, according to data provided by Shockney during the presentation. All 12 patients in intensive care units and all 5 patients on ventilators were unvaccinated.
Bloomington’s city government reported four positive COVID-19 cases among its employees this week, the highest number of weekly positive cases since Jan. 28, Mayor John Hamilton said.
Monroe County has one of the lowest COVID-19 positivity rates in the state, according to the Indiana State Department of Health. However, Hamilton stressed this is because local institutions like IU are taking proactive steps to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
“More employers and institutions should and can be considering stronger protections and incentives for vaccinations,” he said.
Indiana’s seven-day average of positive COVID-19 cases has risen from around 200 per day at the end of June to 3,704 on Wednesday, according to the ISDH. Meanwhile, Monroe County’s seven-day average has risen from a summer low of five per day in June to 34 on Wednesday.
“People are getting very sick,” Hamilton said. “These are alarming numbers.”
Vaccination urged for pregnant individuals and children
Pregnant and recently pregnant individuals are at an increased risk of severe illness related to COVID-19, Shockney said. Across the U.S., more than 18,000 pregnant mothers have become hospitalized due to the severity of their illnesses as a result of COVID-19 infection, he said. The number amounts to a 17% hospitalization rate among pregnant mothers.
Pregnant people with COVID-19 are more likely to deliver their infant earlier than 37 weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The best way for pregnant individuals to protect themselves is to be vaccinated,” Shockney said.
Monroe County Health Department Administrator Penny Caudill cited the consensus among maternal care experts that COVID-19 vaccines have no impact on fertility and that pregnant individuals should receive vaccination to protect themselves and their infants.
The risk of a woman not getting the vaccine in her pregnancy far outweighs any risks of vaccination, Caudill said.
In addition to pregnant people, Shockney said pediatricians are reporting more children being hospitalized for COVID-19 in recent weeks than any time during this pandemic. Children 5 to 16 years old constitute 7% of the positive cases in Monroe County, 10.9% in Indiana and 8.2% nationally, he said.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully approved the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for individuals 16 and older Monday. Caudill said now is the time for vaccine-hesitant individuals to get the vaccine.
“If you have been waiting for full approval for the vaccine before you were vaccinated, now is the time,” she said.
Expanded testing and vaccination coverage
A new mobile clinic is open for two days for local residents to test for COVID-19 and receive vaccinations, Caudill said. The clinic is located at 500 N. Profile Parkway and is open from noon to 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Caudill said the county is shifting focus to setting up smaller, more targeted clinics, including school vaccination clinics for COVID-19 and flu vaccines. Both vaccines are optional for students and open for all eligible children.
In addition, IU Health South Central Region has expanded its walk-in clinics’ hours to include evening and weekend coverage, Shockney said. These extensions apply to the clinics in Bloomington, Bedford, Morgan and Paoli.