ANGOLA — When Indiana State Department of Health Commission officials reached out Wednesday to the Steuben County Health Department as the county was being elevated into an orange classification, local officials couldn’t pinpoint one specific source of infection.
On Wednesday, Steuben County was one of 22 that were listed in the orange zone on a ranking scale that rates counties from blue, the most healthy, through yellow, orange and red.
Orange represents moderate to high spread of the virus and comes with recommendations from the state for schools to consider suspending large programs and consider moving older students to virtual formats temporarily.
As soon as a county gets into the orange rating, state officials get involved in trying to find a solution to curb case growth.
“They are concerned and they are more concerned seeing that our testing site has not opened yet,” said Alicia van Ee, the Health Department’s chief environmental health specialist. (See related story on Page A1)
Steuben County’s positivity rate wasn’t a major issue, scoring just 1 point for a rate of 7.84%, about the same place it was last week, but the county saw a huge jump in the per-capita number of cases. Steuben County received 3 points this week for a rate of 237 cases per 100,000. Those scores gave it an average of 2 points, putting the county into the orange.
In actual cases, the county was at 540 on Wednesday, with 366 individuals considered recovered and nine deaths.
The county can’t point to congregant care, communal living or a large, super-spreader event to provide a reason for the large growth.
“It’s literally interactions, it’s social gatherings,” van Ee said. “I really wish we could pinpoint it, especially with the cases we’ve had the last five days.”
Without a specific place or event to target their efforts to curb spread of the coronavirus, health officials have to reach out to the entire population and stress the wearing of masks, social distancing and proper and frequent hand washing.
In five days, Oct. 9 to Oct. 14, the county logged 71 new cases.
Cases increased across the demographic spectrum, not just in one age group, which had been the norm the past few weeks among younger people, mainly those under 29.
The 20-29 age category still leads Steuben County with 130 cases, which was up by 18 over the previous count and was bested this week only by the 50-59 age category, which increased by 19 to 70. Second overall is the 60-69 age group with 82 cases.
“The change in composite score for Steuben County is a reminder that the COVID-19 pandemic is still occurring in the community,” van Ee said, “and community members need to practice the following measures to ensure their safety:”
• Social distancing
• Avoiding crowds
• Staying at home if feeling sick
• Hand sanitizing or washing