INDIANAPOLIS — For the first time since Nov. 1, the four-county area reported no new COVID-19 deaths.
That’s despite the state setting a new all-time high, with 102 new deaths reported across Indiana on Tuesday.
It’s a continuing sign that the pandemic has hit its worst point ever in the state as hospitalizations and deaths have risen to their highest points ever this month.
Although the days deaths are reported are different from the days they actually occurred, Tuesday was the first time the state has broken 100 death reported in a single day, topping the previous high of 84 on Tuesday, Nov. 17.
Deaths are typically at their highest in the Tuesday report due to a lag in reporting and verification over the weekend. Most of the deaths in Tuesday’s report come from a time frame between Friday and Monday, although a few were older with one report from as long ago as Oct. 30.
Despite the biggest-ever statewide death count and despite a string of recent deaths in the four-county area — 50 since Oct. 21 — Noble, LaGrange, DeKalb and Steuben counties had zero reported on Tuesday.
Noble County has had 46 deaths overall, including 13 since Oct. 21; DeKalb County has 29 all-time of which 18 occurred since Oct. 22; LaGrange County also has 29 all-time including 14 since Oct. 31; and Steuben County has logged 13 overall including five since Oct. 26.
Death counts have risen around the state to their highest point ever, averaging approximately 45 per day in November. That’s doubled October’s average of 22 per day, which in itself was double September’s average of 11 per day.
November’s daily death average is also far higher than the first months of the pandemic, surpassing April’s average at 33 deaths per day and May at 30 deaths per day.
Deaths have been up as hospitalizations have hit their highest-ever figures and continue climbing. On Tuesday, the total number of patients in treatment for COVID-19 across the state hit 3,279, the highest ever.
Hospitalizations have risen to record highs every day except for three thus far in November.
High hospitalizations are a strong indicator of high deaths to come, as approximately 1-in-7 people who enter a hospital for COVID-19 end up dying there.
Cases, meanwhile, continue to run high although about at the same level as last week. On Tuesday the state logged 5,625 new cases of COVID-19, which was similar to last Tuesday’s total of 5,463.
Case numbers have leveled off a bit, running similar to last week’s numbers so far, although a week-to-week comparison will likely be disrupted later this week as testing sites and labs shut down for the Thanksgiving holiday.
The situation statewide doesn’t appear to be improving, however, as positivity measures are still running very high. Tuesday’s case count came on approximately 37,000 tests, resulting in a positivity rate of 15.19% for the day, triple the state’s benchmark goal of 5%.
Positivity has been running about 12.5% average over the last two weeks and showing little sign of change at this time.
Health officials have expressed concerns that the upcoming holiday will only exacerbate and already widely spreading virus as families gather for Thanksgiving dinner and potentially transmit the virus among family units and then outward into workplaces and schools next week.
Locally, case counts continue to jump by dozens of cases in each county.
LaGrange County posted 35 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, followed by Noble County at 30, Steuben County at 24 and DeKalb County at 16.
Outside of LaGrange County, which just opened a new testing site last week that was being well-utilized after starting up, those daily case numbers are a bit lower compared to what counties were posting, although it’s unclear yet whether a slowdown in testing is at play.
Heading into Wednesday, when the state will make a new weekly determination on color-coded ratings for the counties, LaGrange and DeKalb counties look likely to stay in the worst red rating, while Steuben County may just slip back into orange and positivity rates have dropped slightly, sitting at 14.7% as of Tuesday.
For a county to be graded red, it has to have new per-capita cases of more than 200 per 100,000 and a seven-day positivity rate greater than 15%.
Noble County looks poised to remain in orange. Despite having the largest case counts in the four-county area, Noble County’s positivity rate remains better at about 12% due to its greater number of tests catching more people who are free of the virus.
Even if Steuben County drops to orange this week, the county will remain under the more restrictive gathering sizes set forth by the state. A county must drop to a lower grade level and stay there for at least two consecutive weeks before it can roll back to less restrictive measures.