Indiana surging with COVID-19 cases, with ‘hot spots’ all over the place

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It’s clear that COVID-19 is now surging again in Indiana, after several months of declining or holding steady. And the numbers are big. On Monday, the state health department reported 1,589 new positive cases—the 10th time in 11 days that new cases have exceeded 1,500.

But are all parts of the state seeing a surge of cases at the same rate?

The answer is no—it’s a very uneven, lumpy picture from county to county, according to state data. And the picture is constantly shifting.

Last week, the hottest spot in the state was Fountain County in west-central Indiana. The rural county of 16,346 people racked up 532 weekly cases per 100,000 residents, and had a seven-day rolling positivity rate of 18.5%. It was the only one of Indiana’s 92 counties to get a “red” score.

Fountain County health officials could not be immediately reached Monday to explain the recent outbreak. Dr. Sean Sharma, health officer with the Fountain and Warren County Health Department, told the Lafayette Journal & Courier on Oct. 12 that he had seen “no new clear patterns” for the rise in cases.

“This week will likely continue to be bad,” Sharma said. “Again, expect numbers to likely be worst on Thursday through Saturday. But time will tell.” A week earlier, he told the newspaper he was concerned that residents and some county officials weren’t taking coronavirus seriously.

The state assigns each county a color based on the average of scores for the number of weekly cases per 100,000 and its seven-day positivity rate.

“The overall county score will help guide the Indiana Department of Health, local partners and Hoosiers as they make the best decisions possible to protect their communities and limit the spread of COVID-19,” the health department says on its website.

The scores and map are updated each Wednesday, reflecting data from the previous Monday through Sunday.

But just because Fountain County was alone in getting “red” status last week, it doesn’t mean the rest of the state was coasting. Twenty-one other counties earned “orange” status, meaning they had 100 to 199 new cases per 100,000 population and a seven-day positivity rate of 10% to 14.9%.

Most of the orange counties were clustered in northeast Indiana (Elkhart, LaGrange, Steuben and Kosciusko), southwest Indiana (Posey, Vanderburgh, Warrick, Gibson, Pike, Dubois and Orange), east-central Indiana (Blackford, Delaware, Henry and Fayette), and other parts of the state (in no particular order, Sullivan, Jackson, Parke, Warren, Cass and Starke).

None of the orange or red counties included Marion or surrounding doughnut counties.

Moving down the ladder, and staying in central Indiana, five counties earned “yellow” status, meaning they had 10 to 99 new cases per 100,000 population and a seven-day positivity rate of 5% to 9.9%. Those counties were Marion, Johnson, Hancock, Madison and Boone.

And continuing down, in terms of seriousness of indicators in central Indiana, four counties earned “blue” status, meaning they had fewer than 10 new cases per 100,000 population and a seven-day positivity rate of less than 5%. Those counties were Hamilton, Hendricks, Shelby and Morgan.

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