INDIANAPOLIS — After June was the best month in the state’s pandemic history and July signaled at perhaps a change coming as the delta variant arrived in Indiana, the story of August was that of sustained surge in COVID-19 activity.
The highly contagious delta variant of the COVID-19 started spreading in July and then took off throughout August as the state saw one of its worst months of the pandemic.
Even as the month closed out, activity is still trending upward with no current signs that the slope up is starting to flatten out.
Indiana saw sharp increase across every metric in August compared to July, and totals hit their highest levels except for the historic peak months of November and December 2020 and the start of the decrease in January 2021.
Indiana averaged 2,727 cases per day across August, a whopping 371% increase from the 579 per day average in July. Cases had been as low as 314 per day as the June monthly average.
That monthly average is low and doesn’t reflect how high cases have gotten recently — in the last seven days the state has been averaging more than 4,200 cases per day.
The only times monthly averages have been higher were in November (5,321 per day), December (5,565 per day) and January (3,716 per day) — times before vaccines were widely available to the general public.
Positivity rose sharply to 8.25% average for the month, up from 4.68% in July. As the delta variant surged, testing numbers climbed to their highest point since February, with Hoosiers averaging about 33,000 tests per day.
Hospitalizations more than doubled, with the statewide patient census rising to 2,300 per in care for COVID-19, a 170% increase.
And, for the first time since December, average daily deaths increased, nearly tripling from July. After sitting at an all-time low of five deaths per day average in July, deaths rose to 14.78 per day across August, a 196% increase.
More than 400 Hoosiers died of COVID-19 in August.
Although COVID-19 has been surging, the rise in activity hasn’t put much of a dent into the state’s entrenched unvaccinated population, which suffered the vast majority of the impact of the virus in August.
Vaccine numbers have increased from about 2.95 million Hoosiers to 3.1 million, an increase of about two percentage points for the states eligible population age 12 and up. Vaccine numbers picked up a bit in late July but have been steady week to week at about 46,000 doses given to first timers.
The vast majority of new COVID-19 activity is being detected among unvaccinated Hoosiers.
While the delta variant has pushed harder on vaccinated individuals causing more breakthrough cases, still about 90% of new cases in August were among the state’s unvaccinated, which account for about 55% of the total population.
Hospitalization and death numbers were even more lopsided, with more than 95% of those being unvaccinated Hoosiers.
Since January, about 96% of all new cases of COVID-19 have been unvaccinated people, while 98% deaths this year were unvaccinated Hoosiers.
While people who are vaccinated are less likely to pick up a case to start with, even when they do, the odds of being hospitalized or dying are smaller when compared to an unvaccinated person, as cases tend to be milder when occurring as a breakthrough after immunization.
Northeast Indiana wasn’t insulated from the spike in COVID activity in August, as local counties piled up hundreds of new cases as well as new deaths.
In the far Northeast Indiana counties, from Aug. 2 to Aug. 31 Noble County recorded 659 new cases, followed by DeKalb County with 539, Steuben County with 407 and LaGrange County with 114 new cases.
The local area also recorded 14 new deaths in August — six in Noble County, four in DeKalb County, three in Steuben County and one in LaGrange County — an increase from four deaths in the region across all of July.
Vaccination rates in Northeast Indiana continue to trail behind Indiana’s overall average of 54% for people age 12 and up.
Steuben County is nearing 46% vaccination rate, followed by DeKalb County at about 41.5%.
Noble County at 40% and LaGrange County last in the state just shy of 25%.