Indiana Daily Student

IU and city officials discuss in-person classes, express concern over omicron surge

The City of Bloomington held a COVID-19 press conference Friday to address the recent surge in omicron variant cases both in Bloomington and at IU. Among the speakers at the press conference were two IU employees, including IU Chief Health Officer Aaron Carroll and Assistant Vice President Kirk White. White co-leads IU’s COVID Response Unit.

Carroll and White offered university reports and recommendations for students, staff and faculty going into the spring semester. White said this week's testing reports revealed 260 positive cases, more than double the number from the previous week.

White addressed some of the colleges around the country who have delayed the start of the spring semester and those who have moved course instruction partially or fully online. He said IU continues to start in person on Jan. 10 because of the experience they’ve had managing the pandemic up until this point. 

“We’re really trusting our high vaccination rates, our mitigation testing, that we’re continuing our indoor masking procedures to give us the best shot at having a successful kickoff to the semester,” White said.

Carroll said the university is vaccinating and boosting as much as they can. The university is increasing their ability to do symptomatic testing as well as enforcing masking in public settings on-campus, said Carroll.

“While I expect that the next few weeks will be rough, given a look at any projections that exist, we're going to do everything that we can to weather it the best we can and then continue to work towards safety as hard as we can,” Carroll said.

Brian Shockney, president of IU Health South Central Region, said there was a record high number of COVID-19 patients in the south central region today, which includes Monroe County. He said both Bloomington and Monroe County hospitals were treating more than 600 patients. 70% of those hospitalized due to COVID-19 are unvaccinated, Shockney said.

“Our teams are tired, and just like the first year of this pandemic, the stress and strain is causing compassionate, skilled and caring healthcare team members to consider leaving their life's work,” Shockney said.

Shockney urged residents to get vaccinated and boosted if they have not already done so. He said this pandemic will eventually become endemic to our society much like the seasonal flu. Individuals should remain vigilant, heeding the suggestions of healthcare professionals to help stop the spread of the virus and reduce the strain on local healthcare systems, Shockney said.

Monroe County Health Department Administrator Penny Caudill followed Shockney’s statements with county level reports. She said cases rose to 468 per 400,000 within the past week, a positivity rate of over 10%.

Caudill highlighted two testing and vaccination sites where residents can schedule appointments in Bloomington.

IU is organizing a clinic at the IU Folklore and Ethnomusicology building at 800 N. Indiana Ave., between 11th and 12th streets. It will run from 12-8 p.m. today and Saturday. Testing appointments can be made on the Indiana Coronavirus homepage. Vaccination appointments can be made on the COVID-19 vaccination finder website.

The second is a drive-thru testing site at Gravity Diagnostics at 301 N. Curry Pike available to Monroe County residents. Caudill said they can only offer PCR tests for the time being since resources are limited. This site is open Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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