BLOOMINGTON — Indoor mask mandates will take effect Thursday in Monroe County and on all Indiana University campuses as the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rises in the state.
The Monroe County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to require people to wear masks in all indoor public spaces regardless of vaccination status.
"It certainly was not something that we wanted to have to do. We hoped we would not be in a position to have to reinstate any kind of restrictions like we had earlier," Penny Caudill, Monroe County Health Department administrator, said. "Our numbers had been increasing and not decreasing, we're seeing more delta variant reported ... we really wanted to be proactive if you will and act quickly and hopefully that will then mean that we're out of this quickly."
Businesses and other places open to the public will be required to post visible and accurate signage at their front entrance about the requirement.
The mandate will take effect at 8 a.m. Thursday and remain in place until at least Sept. 30 or whenever Monroe County returns to the blue status on Indiana's COVID-19 map.
There are several exceptions for the requirement. Children who are two and under, those who are hearing or speaking impaired, people who are incarerated and those sitting at a restaurant or bar do not need to wear a face mask.
The full health order is below.
Indiana University announced shortly after the vote that masks will be required indoors on all campus across the state for IU students, employees and visitors on Thursday. Masks will not be required outdoors.
Caudill says the health department frequently communicates with IU, but the return of students did not have a large impact on the mask mandate.
"It certainly is a factor in it, but it is really just our numbers and the delta variant and what we're seeing happen without the students, so then you think that you add even more people to your population, you have a greater risk," she said.
A statement from the university said officials will continue to monitor local conditions and will make changes to individual campuses based on local data.