As COVID cases rise again, mask mandate returns in Monroe County

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — People in Monroe County, regardless of vaccination status, will once again be required to wear masks in indoor public places.

The Monroe County Board of Commissioners approved the health order unanimously at a Wednesday morning meeting. Julie Thomas, the board president, blamed the rise in the COVID-19 Delta variant and the low vaccination rate in the county.

“We want schools to be open, we want businesses to be open and we want people to feel safe in their own community,” Thomas said. “The best way to do that is to just put a mask on. It’s not a huge ask, it really isn’t.”

She said making this move now can help prevent any shutdowns in the future.

Lisa Orme is the owner of Lola & Company, a store that’s called downtown Bloomington home for 15 years now. Orme said she supports the mask order.

“I think it’s a safe thing to do right now,” she said.

As for requiring it in her store, Orme said she’s not too worried about her customers complying.

“We’ll put a sign up on the door,” she said. “Some will love it, some won’t, it is what it is.”

Just down the street at the Book Corner, opinions are similar.

“What we do is we have a box of masks and we just ask them kindly to put a mask on and most people do comply,” said Kathy Loser, an employee at the Book Corner.

That is the hope, that people will comply with the new order. But others are less than optimistic.

Emily Faust goes to Indiana University and works at a Bloomington restaurant. She said she has a few more worries than Orme and Loser.

“It’ll be interesting to try and enforce and get customers to want to put on their masks on first of all and try not to get in fight with people about it,” Faust said.

Cynthia Port was shopping in downtown Bloomington Wednesday, she said the mask order is a good idea.

“We don’t have high enough vaccination rates in this county,” Port said.

As of Tuesday, 56.9% of eligible Monroe County residents were full vaccinated.

Port said she got COVID-19 back in January and still has side effects. On top of this, she’s seen the dangers of Delta up close.

“My fully vaccinated sister got COVID from her fully vaccinated coworker, who got it from her unvaccinated boyfriend,” she said.

Port said she doesn’t want anything to do with Delta.

“We’re all tired of it, but if we all just pitch in and do what our community needs to do to stay safe and take care of other people then we wouldn’t be in this position,” she said.

Bloomington resident Mark Thoma is tired of the pandemic, too.

“I just want it to be over, whatever it takes to get it over with,” Thoma said.

On top of the new health order, Monroe County business owners will also have to have signs in their doors or windows reminding people masks will be required indoors.

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