INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana entered April seeing rising COVID-19 numbers from all-time lows hit in March, and although the state saw more overall activity, the uptick was slow and short-lived, already starting to come back down.
That being said, northeast Indiana hasn’t started to see an improvement yet, as cases continue to rise again across regions near the Michigan border.
After March was arguably Indiana’s best month ever during the pandemic, April didn’t quite hit the same marks as the state went through a small rise that, while not completely over, has started improving again recently.
Indiana officials are still advising Hoosiers to get vaccinated as soon as possible in an effort to put the pandemic to bed for good, amid slowing demand for vaccines and ongoing fatigue about the virus and its impacts.
April, while not the state’s best month, still clocks in as one of the state’s better overall.
Starting with cases, April represented an uptick in COVID-19 activity, a trend which was starting to manifest in the last week of March. Indiana averaged 1,080 cases per day over the month, which was an increase of 37% from the 786 per day average of March.
Daily cases counts fluctuated up and down around 1,000 per day for most of the month, although Indiana never crossed more than 1,500 cases in a single day, with the highest single-day amount occurring on April 30 at 1,477.
Along with cases, positivity also increased across the state as the number of new infections was on the rise. Testing numbers were essentially unchanged compared to March at about 28,500 per day, but with the higher number of cases identified the state averaged a positivity rate of 3.78% across the month, up from 2.77% in March. That was also a little higher than the 3.48% positivity rate logged across February.
Hospitalizations were also rising throughout the month after they had started to incline at the end of March. After starting at 697 patients in care across the state on April 1, patient numbers rose as high as 955 on April 26 before closing out the month at 920. Those numbers are considerably lower than the record highs above 3,000 set back in November and December 2020, but represent another increase from March’s record lows.
However, it wasn’t all increases across all metrics as deaths were one area that saw another month of improvement to the best mark ever.
The state logged slightly under 10 deaths per day across April, which is an improvement from 16 deaths per day in March.
At 9.6 deaths per day average across the state, that’s the lowest the state has ever seen during the pandemic, beating out even July 2020 which registered 9.94 deaths per day, although testing and identification of cases was not at the same level then as it is today.
State health officials have credited the progress to ongoing vaccine distribution efforts, as now more than 1.88 million Hoosiers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, representing about 35% of the eligible population age 16 and older.
The vaccines have proven highly effective at preventing severe illness and death and state numbers have reflected strong correlations between higher vaccine numbers and lower case counts.
Indiana’s oldest residents, who are the most highly vaccinated in the state at rate about 70% and up, have shown proportionally smaller increases in new cases compared to younger groups that have lower vaccination rates. Indiana’s young have accounted for the vast majority of new cases across March and April, proving that the vaccines are also effective at preventing everyday infections from COVID-19.
The state opened up vaccines to any and all Hoosiers age 16 and older at the end of March and after a flurry of younger residents signed up, health officials both at the state and local level are now reporting that demand for shots has started to wane.
Health officers are now working to further reduce barriers to getting a vaccine, including allowing walk-ins at vaccine clinics, boosting the availability of mass vaccination sites and working toward programs that would allow for vaccines to be brought to large employers, churches or organizations as well as efforts to get vaccines to doctor offices where primary care physicians could give vaccines to their patients, if desired.
Locally, northeast Indiana has seen a larger uptick in activity than other parts of the state as all of the northern border have seen moderate or high spread of the virus in April, which health officials have contributed primarily to leakage from the high number of cases circulating in Michigan.
DeKalb County had more than 300 cases reported in April, while Noble County had about 300, Steuben County added around 250 cases and LaGrange County was up about 150 cases compared to the month prior.
Those were all increases compared to March, when the area hit its all-time lows for the modern era of testing. Average daily cases across the four-county area has risen from 17 per day at the start of April to 37 at the end of the month.
Unlike the state, which has seen case counts and positivity start to decrease again at the end of April, the four-county area’s averages are still increasing at this point, suggesting the northeast corner isn’t seeing that improvement yet. Positivity has flattened out more so than case numbers, but is still running higher at 8.5%, up from 5.3% at the start of the month.
LaGrange, Steuben and DeKalb counties all finished out the month with orange ratings from the state health department in terms of COVID-19 spread, getting the “high” rating due to rising cases and positivity.
However, like the rest of the state, the human impact of the pandemic dropped off sharply in April, as the four counties saw only three new deaths on the entire month. LaGrange and Steuben counties had no new deaths reported across April.
Vaccination rates in the four-county area overall trail the statewide average, although Steuben County individually is ahead of the Hoosier average. Noble and DeKalb counties are running closer to Indiana’s overall vaccination rate, but LaGrange County continues to lag with the second-lowest vaccination rate among Indiana’s 92 counties.
Although there have been no major changes in the pandemic response in April after Gov. Eric Holcomb dropped automatic restrictions based on a county’s color code and downgraded the state’s mask mandate to a mask advisory, Holcomb did opt to extend the state’s public health emergency declaration another month, meaning the restrictions that are currently in place will hold through the month of May.