INDIANAPOLIS — COVID-19 activity continues to rise across the state, as most of the state is now showing higher spread of the virus, including most of northeast Indiana.
All four counties in the northeast corner are now rated yellow for "moderate" spread of the virus, along with neighbors Allen and Whitley counties as most of the state has now transitioned from low spread to moderate spread of the virus.
After having 67 counties rated blue for low spread of the virus a week ago, Indiana has seen a sharper uptick in activity as now 54 of the state's 92 counties are in yellow or orange ratings for moderate and high spread of the virus.
Indiana has seen increasing COVID-19 activity for the last three weeks straight as the virus has increasingly chained amongst the state's unvaccinated population, representing just about half of all eligible Hoosiers age 12 and older.
This week, zero counties in the four-county are rated blue for low spread, the first time that's happened since May 19.
Noble and Steuben counties both lost blue ratings they had a week ago, while DeKalb and LaGrange counties stayed in yellow for another week.
For Noble County, the change breaks seven straight weeks in a blue rating as both cases and positivity have risen sharply.
Cases shot up to 117 per 100,000, almost double the 60 per 100,000 a week ago, while positivity more than doubled from 4.05% to 9.46%.
Noble County sits just inches away from jumping back to an orange rating for high spread of the virus. If positivity ticks above 10% while remaining at more than 100 cases per 100,000, the county would jump another level on the statewide metrics system.
Steuben County has also seen a sharper rise in cases since last week and combined with a higher positivity rate, the changes threw it back into yellow.
Steuben saw cases increase to 98 per 100,000, almost tripling from 37 per 100,000 a week ago, while positivity was up to 5.41% from 3.67% a week ago.
LaGrange County stayed yellow as its positivity continues to shoot up, although cases remain comparatively low.
Cases remained similar at 22 per 100,000 compared to 25 a week past, but positivity about doubled to 12% from 6.32%, keeping it in a yellow rating.
LaGrange County has very little testing taking place — due to its large Amish population the county has the state's lowest per-capita testing rate all-time — so a few positive tests can throw its rate sharply upward. The low testing figures makes it more difficult to get an accurate view of actual virus activity in the county as compared to other areas that test more robustly.
In DeKalb County, case counts dropped slightly to 59 per 100,000 from 71 per 100,000 a week ago, although positivity rose sharply to 11.05%, up from 7.74% last week.
Along with northeast Indiana, western Indiana and southern Indiana are showing higher COVID-19 activity this week, while northwest and northern Indiana and central and eastern parts of the state are having lower impact right now.
Indiana is experiencing the recent arrival of the "delta" variant of COVID-19, which was first identified in India. That variant has been capturing attention from health officials because not only is it more contagious than the original strain that circulated widely in 2020, but it also appears to hit infected patients harder, leading to higher hospitalization rates and incidence of severe illness than the original strain.
Over the last month, 70% of new cases have been identified as the delta variant, making it the predominant strain circulating the state now. That's an increase in delta variant cases of about 39% from the month before.
Average daily cases have more than doubled over the past month, from an all-time lower fewer than 200 per day in June to now more than 500 cases per day. Case counts across the state were over 650 on Tuesday and topped 700 on Wednesday, making it the first time a single-day total has hit that high since May 21.
Cases are on the rise as about half of Hoosiers age 12 and up remain unvaccinated against COVID-19, making Indiana one of the least-vaccinated states in the U.S. Vaccination rates are even lower in the four-county area, leaving the region even more susceptible to new outbreaks of the virus compared to the state as a whole.
Steuben County is about 44% vaccinated, DeKalb County lags 10 percentage points behind the state at about 41%, Noble County is in the bottom quartile of counties at less than 37% and LaGrange County retains the title of least-vaccinated county in the state at only 23%.