BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WISH) — The Monroe County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday passed a health order that will require masks to be worn indoors regardless of vaccination status.
Indiana University made a similar announcement shortly after, requiring students, faculty and staff to wear masks when inside campus buildings.
Monroe County is currently yellow on the state health department’s map with a 6.53% positivity rate and has a vaccination rate just over 50%.
The health order cites a rise in cases due to the delta variant as a reason for the change, following the CDC’s latest guidance.
With thousands of students who were required by the university to get vaccinated returning to campus in a matter of weeks, Curtis Cummings, owner of Switchyard Brewing Company, doesn’t think it will be easy to enforce the mandate again.
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“For people who are already vaccinated that did their, what I would say, patriotic duty to get vaccinated, I feel like it is going to be difficult for them to enforce,” Cummings said.
When students got the notification that they would have to mask up, some were surprised.
“Yeah, I think a lot of us were pretty upset by it,” Anna Ferguson, a senior at IU, said.
“Well, I will be honest. At first, it sounded a little, like, uncomfortable because it is, like, we already did this before. But when he students came back last year, cases spiked. So it is actually just for public safety,” graduate student Aaron Fountain said.
Some students felt they were back to square one.
“Oh yeah. I think we all definitely thought that things were looking a lot better when we were all just required to get vaccinated at first, and now it is like it feels like we are taking a lot of steps back,” Ferguson said.
Health officials have been vocal in saying until more people are vaccinated or contract the virus over time, the pandemic will continue to impact communities. But will the setback encourage more vaccinations?
“I think most people have made their mind up already. I mean, I was the first in line to get vaccinated,” Monroe County resident Lisa Sutton said.
“If they don’t want to wear a mask and say ‘Well, OK. I guess I will get vaccinated if that means I don’t have to wear a mask,’ that might help,” Greg Sutton, another Monroe County resident, said.
While students who spoke to News 8 say they weren’t excited to hear about the mask mandate after the vaccination requirement, they are looking forward to attending classes in person even though they are wearing face coverings.
“August—the time when we come together again—is finally here. First, our staff and faculty are coming back soon to be followed by students at all our campuses. We have cause to celebrate at Indiana University as we have already achieved a vaccination rate approaching 85% of all constituents, which provides a strong defense against current and emerging COVID-19 strains. We are coming back in full force with all the normal activities on a college campus.
“As we navigate this return to full campus activities, we will need to be nimble to adjust so that everything will remain at full operation. Last week, the CDC and some local officials recommended wearing masks when indoors regardless of vaccine status. Because of this, we are instructing that all IU students, faculty, staff and visitors mask up indoors beginning August 5. This applies to all campuses. We have consistently followed CDC and IDOH guidance throughout the pandemic, and our campuses remain among the safest places to be.
“We stress that wearing masks indoors is the only thing that is changing, though. And, this mask guideline pertains to indoors only–the weather is beautiful so let’s do everything we can outside. Get out to a football game, attend Regatta, meet up with your friends for an outdoor study session, or head to the basketball courts. Inside, wearing masks will help ensure we can KEEP doing all the normal things on our campuses.
“This is a time-limited recommendation; we will continue to monitor local conditions and will make changes to individual campuses based on local data.
“More information on IU’s COVID-19 policies can be found at iu.edu/covid.
“Fall at IU; back together again.”Statement sent out Aug. 4, 2021, by Indiana University