INDIANAPOLIS — Almost all of Indiana is now experiencing “very high” spread of COVID-19 as 81 of the state’s 92 counties devolved to a red rating this week, the worst on the four-level statewide rating system.
Only a handful of counties, including a pocket south of Allen and Whitley counties, remain clinging to orange ratings, the second worst in the system representing “high spread” of the virus.
It’s the worst set of ratings ever for Indiana, surpassing the Jan. 13, 2021 week when Indiana had 73 counties rated red.
The major drop in ratings should be no surprise to anyone who has been monitoring the state’s COVID-19 cases, which have hopped on a rocket ship nearly straight upward over the last two weeks as Indiana is shattering previous record highs across most metrics.
All four counties in the local area are back in the red after some saw short reprieves into the orange in recent weeks as case numbers have exploded and positivity has hit a statewide average of nearly 30% over the past seven days.
With the arrival of the extremely infectious omicron variant of COVID-19 cases have been rising off the charts Hoosiers have been suffering more than 13,000 new cases of the virus per day — nearly double the once all-time high of about 6,900 per day set back in December 2020.
Locally, all four counties are back in the red. DeKalb County never left it — it’s been at a red rating for 10 consecutive weeks now — while Noble County returned after two weeks in orange and LaGrange and Steuben counties each had one week at orange over the last three weeks.
Noble, DeKalb and Steuben counties have all seen their positivity rates climb over 20%, while LaGrange County, typically the state’s worst for positivity due to its low testing, is actually doing better than many others who have seen their positive test rates blow up since the start of 2022.
Counties must exceed both 200 cases per 100,000 and 15% positivity to earn a red rating.
In LaGrange County, case counts rose to 260 cases per 100,000 residents, up from 214 a week ago, but positivity was actually down a bit to 16.76% compared to 18.84% a week ago.
Steuben County returned to red after going orange the week prior, with cases rising to 945 per 100,000, nearly double the 566 per 100,000 a week ago, while positivity increased to 20.39%, way up from 14.3% a week ago.
Noble County also went back to red after two weeks in orange, with cases increasing to 862 per 100,000, also nearly double from 446 per 100,000 last week. Positivity was up sharply too, hitting 21.04% from 13.36% last week.
Lastly, DeKalb County hit 876 cases per 100,000 this week, up from 584 per 100,000 last week. Positivity increased to 21.54% from 17.61%.
Statewide, all 92 counties are seeing case rates higher than 200 per 100,000, with 81 of the 92 having higher than 15% positivity being the deciding metric between red or orange ratings.
Indiana is processing just over 46,000 tests per day but positivity over the past seven days has risen to a record-high of 27.8% as a statewide average.
That even higher than March 2020, when testing capacity was so limited that they were only generally being given to suspected COVID-19 patients in hospital settings. Even during those times when the state was processing fewer than 2,500 tests per day, positivity never cracked 20%.
Average daily cases are at an all-time high above 13,500 per day.
Hospitalizations are at an all-time high with 3,488 Hoosiers currently hospitalized with COVID-19.
Intensive care unit bed capacity is tied at an all-time low, with only 8.9% of the state’s total ICU bed space available.
The only metric that hasn’t broken its all-time record yet is deaths, although that’s making strides to hitting a new historical peak too. Indiana has reported 96 new deaths per day over the last seven days, with the all-time record being 104 deaths per day set back on Dec. 14, 2020, before vaccine distribution started to the general public.
Just over half of Hoosiers are fully vaccinated, but more than 80% of hospitalizations and deaths continue to be from the unvaccinated minority.
The omicron variant, while highly infectious making transmission rapid and widespread, does appear to be less severe for most people than the previous delta variant which is still also circulating in the public.
But the new surge in cases and the hospitalizations its bringing — even if cases are generally milder that doesn’t mean severe cases don’t happen too, they just happen less often by the numbers — is piled on top of hospital wards already packed with other COVID-19 patients from an ongoing surge this fall and winter before omicron even arrived in force.