INDIANAPOLIS — Just in time for Halloween, Indiana is growing increasingly orange.
The increasing prevalence of that festive color on the statewide county COVID-19 metrics map, however, means that virus transmission is continuing to grow across the state.
A week after the state saw a worsening overall in ratings of the 92 Indiana counties, this week the situation degraded more, with almost half of all counties in the orange and red, the highest two ratings for COVID-19 spread.
The four-county area is no exception, with three of four counties in orange this week and the only one that didn’t land there — Noble County in the yellow — was about as close as you could get to ticking up a level without breaking the threshold.
Last week, Indiana had just one county rated red for high spread of COVID-19 and 21 in the orange for moderate to high spread. That level of orange itself was a significant increase from the week prior, when there were only eight counties at that level.
This week, however, the ratings have continued to decline, with four counties in red, 36 in orange and 44 in yellow. This week, just eight counties received the best rating of blue, representing low transmission.
The state has seen increases in every metric this October — cases are up, positivity rates are up, hospitalizations are up and deaths are up — so the worsening ratings are no surprise.
In the four-county area, LaGrange and Steuben counties were rated orange for the second straight week, while DeKalb County entered the orange again for the first time since the first week of ratings back on Sept. 2.
All three counties had an average score this week of 2.5, which is worse than the averages of 2 for LaGrange and Steuben last week and 1.5 for DeKalb.
LaGrange County was dinged with 3 points for its very high positivity rate of 22.39% — far above that highest point level’s threshold of 15% — and then 2 points for 118 new cases per 100,000 residents.
That positivity rate was second-highest in the state, exceeded by only Ohio County at 28.77%.
LaGrange County’s positivity rate can swing wildly, however, because the county does very little testing in comparison to other areas. Therefore, every positive case turned up will have a larger percentage impact than in areas that test more such as neighboring Noble County, for example.
Testing has been increasing recently, but prior to the latest increase, LaGrange County only records around 40-50 tests per day, meaning that just five cases per day can send the local positivity rate over 10%.
Noble County, which is averaging around 175 tests per day recently and has the highest testing count in the four-county area, would have to post more than three times as many cases daily to have similar returns.
Steuben and DeKalb counties both were hit hardest by high per-capita case rates, earning three points for new case ratios of 225 and 202 per 100,000, respectively. Positivity rates were lower, but still above the 10% mark to earn each county two points, with Steuben County at 11% and DeKalb County at 10.99%.
Noble County held in the yellow, it’s seventh yellow rating in the eight weeks this metric has existed, but just barely. Positivity was up compared to last week at 8.76% and the per-capita case rate was also up to 198 cases per 100,000, just shy of the 200 per 100,000 mark that would have earned the county three points in that grade and thus pushed the county into the orange with its neighbors.
Nearby Whitley and Allen counties were also in the yellow this week, but outside of that the region is blanketed in orange ratings.
Southwest and western Indiana are among the state’s most orange areas outside of the north and northeast, while central and southern Indiana remain mostly in better shape.
The southeast corner is mostly yellow, with the exception of Dearborn and Ohio counties, which were two of the four in the red this week.