INDIANAPOLIS — All four-counties in the northeast corner received different color-coded COVID-19 spread ratings this week from the state.
For Noble and LaGrange counties, that rating was better. For Steuben and DeKalb counties, worse.
But, overall, Indiana as a whole improved again, with the vast majority of the state in the two lower ratings and no counties in the worst red rating this week. It’s not the best-ever for Indiana, but it’s the best it’s seen since the start of October.
This week’s ratings were volatile in the four-county area, with counties swapping last week’s colors for new ones as Steuben and DeKalb counties ticked back to orange for “high” spread of the virus, Noble County dropped to yellow again for “moderate” spread and LaGrange County became one of 11 in the state to hit a blue rating, the best rating representing “low” spread.
For LaGrange County, the drop to blue has come at a record turnaround for positivity for the county.
LaGrange County posted a seven-day average positivity of just 2.34%, the best in the state among Indiana’s 92 counties. That’s down sharply from 9.34% a week ago. Per-capita case counts increases slightly, however, from 42 per 100,000 to 50 per 100,000 this week.
LaGrange County has done a total 180-degree spin to post the lowest positivity in the state. In the past it had boasted the highest positivity rates across Indiana.
Although LaGrange County tests less per-capita than any other county in the state, the tests that it has been doing recently have been overwhelming negative for COVID-19.
Noble County also returned to yellow this week where it was on Feb. 3 after a one-week blip back into orange.
Noble County’s positivity rate is near the state benchmark of 5% at 5.73%, down a little from 6.09% a week ago. Case counts have fallen and that was what thrust Noble back into yellow, with per-capita counts dropping to 131 per 100,000 from 203 per 100,000 a week ago.
Noble County would need to see its positivity drop below 5% and cases to fall below 100 per 100,000 in order to join northern neighbor LaGrange County in the blue in coming weeks.
Steuben and DeKalb counties, however, both ticked up a grade back to orange, with Steuben going there because of increases positivity and DeKalb going because of increased case counts.
Steuben County’s positivity rate over the last week rose to 11.79%, up from 8.82% a week ago. Case counts have fallen, though, from 199 per 100,000 to 132 per 100,000 this week.
DeKalb County’s case tripped it back into orange, rising from a week ago from 156 per 100,000 to 236 per 100,000. Positivity was nearly unchanged at 9.37%, down slightly from 9.48% last week.
Both counties are now subject to orange-level gathering restrictions for at least the next two weeks. Counties must earn a lower color code for two consecutive weeks before being able to loosen restrictions.
DeKalb County hadn’t made it to yellow-level restrictions yet because it had only been at that grade for one week before going orange again this week, but Steuben County will now see it’s looser restrictions reversed.
Orange-level restrictions cap gatherings at up to 50 people or 25% of a venue’s total capacity with a safety plan filed and approved by the county health department.
Noble County also remains in orange-level restrictions for at least another week since it hasn’t been in yellow for two consecutive weeks.
LaGrange County will stay in yellow-level restrictions for this week despite the drop to blue.
Yellow-level gathering restrictions limit the county to up to 100 people or up to 50% of total capacity with an approved safety plan. If the county were to stay blue next week, that restriction would loosen to up to 250 people or the possibility of 100% of total capacity at venues.
Despite the volatility in local color codes, Indiana as a whole improved again this week, with almost all of the state in the better two ratings.
Eleven counties are now in blue, an improvement from just one a week ago, while the number of counties rated yellow increased from 40 to 73. Just eight counties are orange this week — four of them in northeast Indiana in Steuben, DeKalb, Whitley and Huntington counties — an improvement from 40 last week.
The ratings this week are the best since October.
Although Indiana had more counties in blue on Oct. 14 at 24, it also had more counties in orange at 21.
Oct. 7 is the most comparable week to now, when the state had 39 blue, 44 yellow, eight orange and one red county.