INDIANAPOLIS — A post-Memorial Day surge in new COVID-19 activity around northeast Indiana appears to be slowing and abating, according to recent Indiana State Department of Health figures.
New cases are still being added and health officials continue to advise caution, but the after-holiday spike appears to be over as both new daily cases and hospitalizations have started deflating.
Looking at data from the state’s COVID-19 dashboard Indiana Health District 3 — which covers LaGrange, Steuben Noble, DeKalb, Allen, Whitley, Adams, Wells, Huntington, Wabash and Miami counties — went through a spike that may have started around mid-May but became more prominent around the holiday weekend.
Multiple data sets including new cases, testing positivity, deaths and hospitalizations all reveal an increase in COVID-19 activity across that period, which has since fallen off.
New daily cases for the region hit a low point around May 12, when only 16 cases were reported for the entire 11-county region. The low point on the downslope of cases from April and May, during Indiana’s stay-at-home order when the virus first starting making inroads in communities.
After May 12, however, daily cases began increasing again, hitting an outlier all-time high on May 29 of 136 cases regionally. The day-to-day increase continued on a steady upward slope to high of 96 new cases in District 3 on June 10.
Since June 10, however, daily cases have been dropping across the district, to 50 cases as of Saturday.
While testing had also increased significantly, the surge in new testing was also accompanied by a rising positivity rate.
According to the state’s data, the district’s positivity rate average bottomed out at about 4.6% on May 15, but after that point started rising on a steady upward slope, hitting a high of 13.7% on June 6.
While statewide the positivity rate has generally decreased as testing increased — testing was broadened out to asymptomatic people and then to anyone who wanted testing, which typically results in more well people getting tested and showing up negative — the region showed increasing positivity for that four-week stretch.
That means that, even as testing went up, the number of positive results increased at a larger rate, indicating that a local outbreak may have been at play.
Deaths in the region held at zero per day from May 18-22, before starting back up after that period, hitting a high of six deaths in the region on June 15 before slowing again since.
Another key metric — hospitalizations — also showed that the area was going through a surge during the late-May to mid-June time period.
District 3 had 199 patients in hospitals back on April 8, a figure that was in a steady decline until about May 14, when the region hit a hospital census low of just 72 patients.
After May 14, though, total hospitalization began to increase, slowly at first before rising to 128 on May 26.
After a small decline for about a week to 84 admitted as of June 1, the region saw another period of increasing hospitalizations to 159 overall patients on June 16.
The regional hospital census has been in decline for the two weeks since, with the current number of people admitted sitting at 95 as of Sunday.
District 3’s intensive care unit bed utilization also shrank during the time, with about 57% available on May 11, to just 18.2% available on June 18.
Much of that decrease in capacity, however, appeared to be from non-COVID-19 sources, as the percentage of beds in use for COVID-19 patients went from just under 10% to a high point of 19% over the period.
Ventilator capacity in the region has remained strong, with around 80% or more ventilator availability on a daily basis in District 3.
Indiana as a whole has made much smoother improvement over time, with the state’s overall case rate, death rate and hospitalizations in steady decline with no noteworthy changes since.
And while District 3 showed multiple signs of a localized surge in the past month, more recent data points suggest that the region is coming out of it and making improvements once again.