INDIANAPOLIS — Spread of COVID-19 has hit very high levels across northeast Indiana as numerous counties received red ratings from the Indiana State Department of Health’s weekly coronavirus county metrics.
LaGrange, Steuben and DeKalb counties are all in red this week, along with neighboring Allen County, Whitley County and Elkhart County.
Noble County, by a narrow margin held in the second-worst rating at orange for another week, although the situation has worsened there since the prior week, too.
Northeast Indiana is now one of the state’s worst regions.
Those red ratings trigger more restrictive gathering sizes and other measures by executive order of Gov. Eric Holcomb established last week.
The weekly ratings again showed an overall worsening for Indiana as a whole, as 21 counties statewide are now in the red, up from nine last week. Only one county remains in yellow for moderate spread, there are zero counties again in blue for low spread — meaning the other 70 counties are all in orange.
Counties hit red status if they have both per-capita case counts exceeding 200 new cases per 100,000 per week and positivity above 15% over the last seven days.
LaGrange County stays in the red for the second-straight week after entering that worst rating for the first time last week.
LaGrange County has the state’s worst positivity rate at 29.97% as the county has seen several new cases and still tests at far lower rates than most other counties, meaning that every positive case has a larger impact on the positivity rate. The county had the lowest per-capita case rate in the four-county area, but was still over the threshold to put it into red at 464 cases per 100,000 residents.
Those were both increases from 376 cases per 100,000 last week and a 20.41% positivity rate.
Steuben and DeKalb counties both enter the red for the first time this week after their positivity rates have increased sharply from last week, topping 15%. Per-capita case rates in both counties had already far exceeded 200 per 100,000 for several weeks and have only gotten worse, but the increasing positivity is what threw both over the edge.
Steuben County saw sharp increases in both metrics this week, rising from a case rate of 416 per 100,000 last week to 708 per 100,000 and positivity of 16.63%, up from 14.54% last week.
DeKalb County also saw similarly stark increases, hitting levels of 731 cases per 100,000 and 16.3% positivity, both up from a case rate of 423 per 100,000 and positivity of 12.42% last week.
Noble County was the only local county to hold at an orange rating, although only by a small margin.
Noble County has been posting huge case numbers this past week, evidenced by the increase in the per-capita rate to 869 per 100,000 from 615 per 100,000 last week. Positivity has also been steadily increasing from 8.62% two weeks ago, to 11.95% last week to 12.96% this week.
But since positivity fell short of 15%, Noble County remains in orange despite having the biggest case numbers in the region.
Last week, Gov. Holcomb signed a new executive order setting new restrictions based on a county’s color-coded rating, with the order primarily focusing on counties at the highest level of spread in orange and red.
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 like 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.
For example, a county moving from orange to red would need to follow guidelines for red immediately, but a county that moves from orange to yellow would have to stay in yellow or lower for two weeks before being able to ease off restrictions for orange counties.