Monroe Co. Health Dept. Administrator says mask mandate is working


MONROE COUNTY, Ind. — Monroe County is the only county in Indiana with a county-wide mask mandate. Everyone, regardless of vaccination status, has to wear a mask when they’re indoors.

As of Wednesday, the order has been in place for three weeks and the data seems to show it’s working.

“I think it’s one of the reasons that we are still yellow in a sea of orange and red,” said Penny Caudill, the Monroe County Health Dept. Administrator.

Compared to the six counties Monroe shares a border with, and a majority of Southern Indiana, it has a smaller number of weekly cases per 100,000 people and a lower weekly test positivity rate.

Bloomington residents we talked to said they’re grateful for the mask order.

“There are less positive cases because we are wearing masks and masks work,” said Talia Halliday, a Bloomington business owner.

Lifelong Bloomington resident Randay Cassady said he’s doing what health officials recommend.

“You do what keeps people healthy and safe,” Cassady said.

Sherry Holliday said she can see the difference. She lives in nearby Lawrence County where there is no mask order.

“Bloomington feels different. It’s all masked up, people don’t think about it, they just wear masks,” Holliday said.

She said she takes different steps to be safe in the different counties.

“I go out less in Lawrence County, I interact with the public less,” Holliday said.

Lawrence and Monroe are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to data. As of Aug. 25, the 7-day test positivity rate for Monroe is 6.59%, in Lawrence it is 17.42%. Monroe is seeing 128 weekly cases per 100,000 people; in Lawrence the number is 778 weekly cases per 100,000 people. The advisory level in Lawrence is red, while the advisory level in Monroe County is yellow.

“It’s safer because everyone is masked up,” said Holliday.

The population of Monroe County is swelling right now as IU Bloomington students head back to class. But Caudill said she isn’t too concerned about a jump in cases, because IU has several precautions in place.

“The good thing is Indiana University has a vaccine requirement and they have a very high rate of vaccination,” said Caudill.

Caudill said vaccines are a main key in keeping the Monroe County numbers down. Compared to its six immediate neighbors, Monroe County has the highest vaccination rate.

Caudill said it doesn’t come down to just masks or just vaccines, they have to use all the tools in their toolbox to keep numbers down.

“We’ve got vaccine, we know masks can make a difference, hand hygiene, staying home when you’re sick, testing when it’s appropriate,” said Caudill

She said seeing Monroe County stay in the yellow advisory level is good, but there is still a lot of improvement left for these numbers.

As for the future of the Monroe County mask order, it looks like it’s here for the foreseeable future. Caudill said the only way it gets repealed is if the county commissioners decide to pull it back, let it expire at the end of September or the county drops back into the blue zone.

Comparing Monroe County COVID-19 data to six surrounding counties:

Advisory Level:

  • Monroe- Yellow
  • Lawrence- Red
  • Greene- Orange
  • Owen- Orange
  • Morgan- Orange
  • Brown- Red
  • Jackson- Orange

Weekly cases per 100k people:

  • Monroe- 128
  • Lawrence- 778 
  • Greene- 313
  • Owen- 278
  • Morgan- 361
  • Brown- 212
  • Jackson- 458

7-day all tests positivity rate:

  • Monroe- 6.59%
  • Lawrence- 17.42%
  • Greene- 9.26%
  • Owen- 11.05%
  • Morgan- 12.83%
  • Brown- 15.11%
  • Jackson- 13.28%

Fully Vaccinated per 100k people:

  • Monroe- 58,252
  • Lawrence- 46,235
  • Greene- 43,931
  • Owen- 43,436
  • Morgan- 46,436
  • Brown- 53,594
  • Jackson- 49,914

Percent of county fully vaccinated:

  • Monroe- 58%
  • Lawrence- 45%
  • Greene- 43%
  • Owen- 43%
  • Morgan- 45.9
  • Brown- 53%
  • Jackson- 49%

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