INDIANAPOLIS — DeKalb County has now fallen to the state’s worst rating for COVID-19 spread as Indiana as a whole saw a worsening of its county ratings for the 10th consecutive week.
DeKalb County was also joined by Whitley County in the region as well as 19 other counties across the state receiving a red rating, representing very high spread of COVID-19.
All but three counties — of which LaGrange County is one of the three — are rated as having high or very high spread of COVID-19 with all of the state seeing high case counts and high positivity.
Ratings were unchanged in the rest of the local area — Noble, Steuben and Allen counties stayed orange representing high spread while LaGrange County held in yellow for moderate spread, although the county saw a doubling of cases compared to a week ago.
Statewide, zero counties were rated blue for low spread for the fourth consecutive week, while only three of the 92 counties remain in yellow. Sixty-eight counties are rated orange and 21 in red this week, making it the 10th week ratings have gotten worse overall.
In DeKalb County, the new red rating was triggered by the county topping 15% positivity rate, as case numbers were already well over the state’s highest threshold.
Per-capita case counts dropped a little but remained very high at 439 per 100,000 residents, down a little from 455 last week. But positivity rose sharply to 15.23% from 10.88% last week.
Counties need to exceed 200 cases per 100,000 residents and 15% positivity to earn a red rating from the state.
The new red rating makes it the first time DeKalb County has been shaded red since January, after it spent eight of nine weeks at that level between Nov. 18 and Jan. 13.
Noble and Steuben counties both remained in orange with high case counts and high positivity rates.
Noble County saw its cases drop a little to 525 per 100,000 from 615 per 100,000 a week ago, but positivity was up from 10.23% to 12.98%.
In Steuben County, cases were down to 332 per 100,000 from 381 last week, while positivity also fell a bit to 8.18% from 10.88% last week.
Per-capita case rates may be down slightly due to a lull in testing over the Labor Day holiday weekend, when some testing sites were closed and labs were running slower or shut for the holiday as well. Indiana as a whole saw its cases-per-day average drop over the last seven days, although it had still been increasing as of last week.
In LaGrange County, cases did not drop but instead more than double from a week ago. Per-capita case numbers were up at 194 per 100,000, sharply increased from 83 per 100,000 last week. Positivity stayed just below 10% at 9.59%, comparable to last week’s 9.68%.
LaGrange County sits right on the cusp of earning an orange rating but is just below the line. LaGrange County would hit orange level if cases rise to 200 per 100,000 with positivity under 10%, or if it stays above 100 cases per 100,000 with positivity over 10%.
LaGrange County is the lowest testing county in Indiana and tests far fewer people than neighboring counties, which leads to lower overall cases identified, making the county’s rating artificially low week to week. Based on positivity rates in the region, if the county tested similar to peers of like population, cases would be higher and the county would already be in and orange rating.
Indiana continues to see high COVID-19 activity due to the highly infectious delta variant of the virus, which has become the dominant strain circulating the state.
Average daily cases and deaths have dropped off a little this week as compared to last, although it’s unclear whether the dip is an effect of the holiday weekend — case numbers have historically dropped off for a few days after a holiday before returning to numbers seen before the break — or because the state has hit a peak or plateau in activity.
The increase in cases was slowing even before Labor Day, suggesting that Indiana might be starting to see a leveling in new activity after weeks and weeks of sharp increases.
Total hospitalizations for COVID-19, however, remain over 2,500 patients, the highest point outside of the all-time peak hit between mid-November and mid-January over the last winter.
About 55% of eligible Hoosiers age 12 and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but rates lag that state average in the local area.
New case data shows that, while vaccinated people can and do get infected and suffer breakthrough cases, more than 80% of new cases being diagnosed are unvaccinated Hoosiers, while about 95% of people admitted hospitals have not received shots.
Hospitalization rates and death rates are both lower among people who are vaccinated as compared to unvaccinated Hoosiers.