INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s statewide COVID-19 ratings map is redder than ever, with three of four counties in the northeast corner again earning the worst rating.
Noble County remains the only local county to stay in orange representing high spread of COVID-19, while LaGrange, Steuben and DeKalb counties received red ratings indicating very high spread.
Overall, Indiana’s ratings got worse compared to last week, with 57 counties now in red compared to 45 a week ago. Once again there were no counties rated blue for low spread and also none in yellow for moderate spread. The 35 others were all in orange, including Allen County, where deaths from COVID-19 remained at 510 on Jan. 7. The county's positivity rate increased from the previous week to 13.6%. Adjoining counties Adams, Huntington and Wells were also in orange, while Whitley County, with an increased positivity rating of 22.06%, was in red.
In the far northeast corner of the state, ratings haven’t shifted much in recent weeks, although this week LaGrange County returned to red after a one-week stint in orange following Christmas.
LaGrange County bumped back up to a red rating, although barely, as per-capita case rates sit at 201 per 100,000 residents, up from 151 per 100,000 last week. Positivity still remains very high at 21.94%, an increase from 17.3% last week.
A county must top 200 cases per 100,000 residents and 15% positivity to get into the red rating.
LaGrange County had dropped to orange a week ago on the reduced case counts, although that was likely more an impact of significantly reducing testing and therefore reduced case numbers due to the Christmas holiday impacting testing availability and lab processing.
A few other hyper-rural counties like LaGrange saw their case numbers drop below that 200 per 100,000 rate, but in the recent week with Christmas in the rear-view, all 92 counties in Indiana are again above that threshold.
Elsewhere in the region, ratings didn’t change with Steuben and DeKalb counties both remaining red and Noble County staying orange.
Steuben County’s per-capita case rate rose slightly to 578 per 100,000 from 560 a week ago, and positivity was nearly unchanged at 23.52%, down just 0.2 percentage points from last week’s number.
Steuben County has now been in red for three straight weeks after going through a yo-yo period between orange and red for a period of weeks in November and December.
Steuben County has been negatively impacted by updates to the state’s positivity calculations, which started last week in order to correct an error in how state data was being pulled in and changing how the seven-day average was being calculated by now using total cases divided by total tests instead of an average of one-day positivity returns.
Since that change, Steuben County has seen its positivity rate turn to 23% one of the worst in the state.
DeKalb County also saw an increase in its case rate coming out of the Christmas holiday, rising to 455 per 100,000 from 333 the week before. Like Steuben, positivity was nearly identical at 16.06% compared to 16.09% last week.
DeKalb County has been rated red now for six straight weeks, although if the county could make a slight improvement in positivity to drop below 15% it would hit orange for the first time since Nov. 25.
Noble County remains again in the orange for the 11th-straight week. Cases were up to 588 per 100,000 from 366 the week prior and positivity rose again to 13.34% from 12.72% last week.
Although the state as a whole has worsened compared to last week, northeast Indiana as a region has actually seen some positive progress.
Outside of LaGrange, Steuben, DeKalb and Whitley counties, all other counties in the region are orange, making northeast Indiana one of the brighter spots in the statewide picture.
Western, southwest, central and southeast Indiana regions are the most red-laden areas of the state this week.
Overall, however, Indiana has been seeing some reduction in COVID-19 metrics since hitting peaks in late November and early December.
Cases, positivity, hospitalizations and deaths have improved slightly although still remain very high compared to where they were throughout most of 2020. That being said, daily averages have started turning on a downward slope.
That may change as the state enters January, however. Reduced testing around the back-to-back holidays of Christmas and New Years have impacted raw number totals compared to what the state was logging prior to the end of December, so it will take a little time for the state to re-establish normal testing and case trends.
State officials have also expressed concerns that COVID-19 could surge early this month depending on whether people were spreading the virus during gatherings over the holidays, which may take a week or two to incubate before showing up in the daily returns.
The orange and red ratings across the region mean that local restrictions will remain in place for another week on gathering sizes.
Counties in orange for high spread should have local leaders convene to discuss actions that could be implemented to reduce spread, and school officials should review plans for extra-curricular activities and other events to ensure compliance with gathering restrictions and other mitigation.
Orange counties have gatherings limited to 50 people; businesses should reduce the number of people congregating in common areas such as break rooms; attendance at K-12 activities including sports are limited to 25% capacity; and community sports leagues and tournaments can continue, although attendance should be reduced.
Red counties have similar measures to orange counties, with additional guidance for local officials to consider limiting operational hours for bars, taverns, nightclubs and restaurants.
Gatherings are limited to 25 people but are being encouraged to postpone or cancel; businesses should reduce gatherings in common areas; restaurants are strongly encouraged to promote phone or online ordering and curbside pickup; school events and athletics will be limited to only participants, support staff and parents and siblings with no other attendees and face coverings are required; recreational leagues may continue but attendance should be limited to participants and only parents and minor children of those parents; senior center activities must be canceled or postponed; and hospitals, long-term care centers and other congregate settings should limit visitation based on community metrics.
Counties will be expected to implement more restrictive measures if they move up a color code, but in order to ease restrictions they have to enter and stay in a lower color code for at least two consecutive weeks.