coronavirus update 6-5

Elkhart County positive cases by day.

ELKHART — Sixty-nine new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Elkhart County on Thursday, the second highest number for a single day, as health officials and community leaders urged continued vigilance to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

In Indianapolis, the Indiana State Fair was called off because of concerns over the coronavirus, organizers said.

Indiana had about 24,000 people apply for unemployment benefits last week, which was fewer than in recent weeks but far more than it was getting before the coronavirus reached the state and led to the closure of nonessential businesses.

Cases pile up

The Indiana State Department of Health said all 69 new cases in Elkhart County were confirmed on Wednesday. The highest number of cases in a single day was 84 on May 29.

Of the 11,103 tests completed in the county to date, about 13.5 percent have returned as positive. That percentage is rising, according to Elkhart County Department of Health spokesperson Melanie Sizemore, while the state average, 12.7 percent, is dropping.

The Elkhart County Department of Health, in a release issued Thursday, said officials are learning more about the outbreak.

“Unfortunately it seems this virus will continue to spread and cause outbreaks in summer,” the statement said. “We had hoped it would lose some strength in hot humid weather, but studies now show that is not going to happen. We will need to continue to be as vigilant as we have been all spring.”

An analysis of 44 studies in the medical journal Lancet on Thursday showed physical distancing of at least 3 feet is strongly associated with a lower risk of transmission of the coronavirus, but a distance of 6 feet is even more effective, the Health Department said. Facemask use was also associated with a large reduction in risk of infection.

A study has shown 42 percent of people who tested positive were asymptomatic, the release said. That compared with a study in Indiana showing the number to be 45 percent. Overall, asymptomatic patients tended to be younger (in the 20- to 40-year-old range) and female (67 percent).

Asymptomatic patients who tested positive also shed the virus for an average of eight days, the study found.

Another study of 2,000 patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 showed 87 percent reported loss of smell, and 56 percent had taste dysfunction. Anyone who experiences either of these symptoms should contact their health care provider for advice and possible testing, county health officials said.

State Fair canceled

The state fair had been scheduled for Aug. 7-23 and officials had hoped to hold it at the Indianapolis fairgrounds since the governor said he planned to lift most statewide coronavirus restrictions on July 4.

Fair officials, however, said preparing for the event requires coordination with hundreds of businesses and thousands of part-time workers.

“We simply can’t hold off any longer for the sake of the staff, vendors, exhibitors, entertainers, sponsors and partners,” organizers said on the fair’s website. “While we are not sure what August will look like, we have to make decisions based on what we know today.”

The fair drew nearly 879,000 visitors during last year’s 17-day run. State fairs have also been canceled in several other states, including Ohio and Minnesota.

The 4-H Livestock Show is a major event of the Indiana fair and organizers said they were working on plans for a modified show to be held in August.

The Elkhart County 4-H Fair, scheduled for the last week of July, was canceled last week.

Economic impact

About 240,000 Indiana residents received jobless aid for the week ending May 23, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics released Thursday. That is down from the peak of nearly 295,000 in early May just before statewide business and travel restrictions started being eased, but still more than 10 times the level of early March.

Indiana had the country’s fifth-highest unemployment rate for April, at 16.9 percent, which exceeded the national rate of 14.7 percent.

The state’s unemployment applications peaked at 139,000 a week in late March, up from a typical 3,000 before the virus arrived.

Emergency continues

Gov. Eric Holcomb on Wednesday signed a 30-day extension of the state’s public health emergency until July 4, when he expects to lift most limits on businesses, large gatherings and entertainment activities.

Despite Holcomb’s plan, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced Thursday that it would host an IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader on July 4 weekend without fans. Track officials said they had to make a decision with the races less than a month away and weren’t certain what crowd limits or other restrictions would remain in place then.

The Indy 500, which draws upward of 275,000 people as the world’s largest single-day sporting event, has been postponed by three months until to Aug. 23.

Contributing: AP

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