INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana has mostly dropped out of red ratings for COVID-19 spread this week, while northeast Indiana sits in the orange after another week of improving coronavirus numbers.
Steuben County made the drop from red to orange this week, while the other three counties saw some improvement but not enough to improve another step to yellow.
The good news, however, is that after the second week in the orange, gathering size restrictions for Noble, DeKalb and LaGrange counties will improve, allowing events up to 50 people in size. Steuben County will need to be in orange for another week before making that step.
Statewide, only five counties remain in red for very high spread of COVID-19, while the majority of the state — 79 counties — sits in orange and eight have improved to yellow ratings.
Steuben County improved a color rating from red to orange, representing high spread of COVID-19, as its positivity rate fell below 15% this past week.
Steuben County saw marked improvement in both its per-capita case rate and positivity rate. Cases fell to 182 per 100,000, down from 375 per 100,000 a week ago. Positivity also fell from 15.63% to 11.44%.
The other three counties all remain in orange, although they’re improving enough to get close to yellow ratings if that improvement continues.
LaGrange County saw a minor uptick in its case rate to 133 per 100,000 from 123 a week ago, but it’s positivity improved from 17.24% to 11.84%.
Noble County’s positivity dropped below 10% to 8.66% from 12.05% a week ago. It’s per-capita rate also improved to 280 per 100,000 from 305 a week ago.
And DeKalb County also had a small uptick in cases to 259 per 100,000 from 239 per 100,000 a week ago, but positivity improved again to 10.32% from 11.76% a week ago.
Getting into the yellow requires a two-metric aggregate score of 1.5 or 1, meaning counties need to have at least one metric in the moderate range of either under 100 cases per 100,000 or under 10% positivity and at least one in the orange range of 100-200 cases per 100,000 and positivity between 10-15%.
Currently Noble County has one yellow-range and one red-range score, LaGrange and Steuben counties have two orange range scores, and DeKalb County has one orange-range and one red-range score.
Since Noble, DeKalb and LaGrange counties have now been in orange for two consecutive weeks, local restrictions can lessen but not lift entirely, with gathering sizes being allowed up to 50 people. Steuben County is still in red-level restrictions since it hasn’t been in orange for two straight weeks, meaning gathering sizes are still capped at 25 people.
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 such as 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.
Whitley County is one of only five remaining counties in red this week, as most of the rest of northeast Indiana is in orange. Nearby counties including Elkhart, Adams and Wells are among those in yellow this week.
Indiana is down to just five red counties, a level it hasn’t seen since the first week of November. The state had as many as 73 counties in red two weeks ago, so the improvement has been quick and stark.
There are still no counties rated blue for low spread and yellow counties are still rare, so the state has room to grow. On Sept. 23, the state had only two counties in orange, none in red and the rest is yellow and blue.