Weekly ratings Oct. 20

COVID-19 ratings across the state improved again this week, the fourth-straight after peaking in September. Locally, LaGrange County improved from red to orange, with the region of the region remaining stuck in that second-highest rating for now.

INDIANAPOLIS — For the fourth consecutive week, the statewide COVID-19 picture looks a little better.

Indiana’s still a far cry from the low levels of virus activity it was seeing back in June, but the statewide situation is getting better coming out of a surge brought on this summer by the delta variant of COVID-19.

Statewide ratings improved again this week, with fewer counties seeing very high spread of the virus and now about a third of the state’s 92 rated yellow, representing moderate spread of the virus.

Across Indiana, the number of counties rated red for very high spread of the virus dropped from eight to four, while the number of counties in orange for high spread also dropped from 69 to 57.

This week, 31 counties are now rated yellow, representing moderate spread, the second-best rating. No counties have hit blue, for low spread, and the state hasn’t had any in that best rating since Aug. 11.

Locally, the four-county area remains painted in orange, although that’s an improvement for LaGrange County which broke a four-week streak of red ratings.

LaGrange County continues to see extremely high positivity at 23.36% — highest in the state this week by about six percentage points — but its per-capita case count dropped to 176 per 100,000, which was enough to get it out of the red.

Counties get a red rating if they exceed both 200 cases per 100,000 and 15% positivity rate.

LaGrange County is susceptible to wild swings in its positivity rates as the county tests the least per-capita in all of the state, meaning that when it does detect positive cases, each one influences the percentage swing more than in counties that test much more broadly.

Elsewhere, Noble, DeKalb and Steuben counties all maintained orange ratings for another week. All three counties have been rated orange for the past six consecutive weeks.

Noble County is sitting near a yellow rating, with per capita cases about the same as a week ago at 364 per 100,000 compared to 347 per 100,000 last week, while positivity increased to 14.37%, up from 11.72% a week ago.

DeKalb County looks substantially similar to a week ago, with 296 cases per 100,000 compared to 280 last week, while positivity was close at 12.88% compared to 13.19%.

Steuben County showed improvement on cases, dropping a little to 410 per 100,000 from 424 per 100,000 last week, but positivity inched up a bit to 12.32% as compared to 11.82% last week.

Northeast Indiana remains awash in orange, while areas of the state that have improved faster included northwest, central and south-central Indiana.

Counties that are lower on the spread scale right now also correlate with higher vaccination rates, while lower vaccinated regions like northeast Indiana are charting higher.

The improvement in ratings has come as the state has seen decreasing metrics across the board. Cases have fallen off the delta-driven peak hit in mid-September, which the state averaging about 1,850 new cases per day, a reduction of more than half after numbers topped around 4,000 per day a month ago.

The hospital census is down to just over 1,500 patients and in slow decline and deaths have started to fall too, although remain elevated at about 33 per day. The state was averaging over 40 deaths per day from COVID-19 earlier this month.

Overall, about 58% of eligible Hoosiers ages 12 and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but rates in the four-county area trail that statewide average by 10-plus percentage points.

Fully vaccinated individuals have been shown to be less likely to contract the virus and when they do, less likely to suffer serious symptoms as compared to Hoosiers who have not received shots.

More than 80% of cases, hospitalizations and deaths attributable to COVID-19 this year have been among the state’s unvaccinated cohort.

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