November 10, 2020

Monroe County Health: Mask Normalization, Communication Key To Fighting COVID

Original story from   IPBS-RJC

Article origination IPBS-RJC
The Monroe County Courthouse. - FILE PHOTO: Barbara Brosher/WTIU

The Monroe County Courthouse.

FILE PHOTO: Barbara Brosher/WTIU

Indiana reported more than 5,000 new COVID-19 cases in a single day on Saturday, continuing a trend in surging numbers. However, as numbers keep going up, some counties have found success in keeping case numbers down by implementing their own COVID restrictions.

Monroe County is one of those counties. With a population of about 150,000 people, Monroe County is also home to Indiana University, one of the largest universities in the state. It’s also one of 17 counties that, according to the Indiana State Department of Health, has some of the lower positivity rates in the state, and is coded yellow on the department of health’s COVID tracking map that color codes counties based on seven-day positivity rates. The county is currently at 2.68, or 154 cases per 100,000 residents. 

Positive case numbers are still going up in the county, like the rest of the state. But Kathy Hewett with the Monroe County Health Department said county-wide mandates have played a major role in helping mitigate the effects of the pandemic so far. These mandates include mask ordinances and delaying levels of reopening that don’t exactly follow the state’s schedule, but are instead based on the trends that the county sees. 

Hewett said local ordinances for masks, where people can face consequences like fines for not following those rules, have helped normalize mask use. 

“It’s finally getting to the point though, at least, where I can see that it’s becoming so accepted that people are starting to match their masks with their outfits,” Hewett said. “At least women. I can’t say guys are doing that.”

Hewett said communication between the county, IU and cities has also been instrumental in helping keep residents safe, even as colleges and universities continue to face criticism for unsafe COVID practices related to sports, such as football. She said fraternities and sororities aren’t exactly built for social distancing and have had some difficulty with accommodating to COVID restrictions. But Hewett said they’re learning.

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