ELKHART — New developments in the local coronavirus outbreak are reminiscent of the days when Elkhart County was considered a “hotspot,” according to the Elkhart County Health Department.
After months of improving or stabilizing numbers, cases are up, the positivity rate is up and hospitalizations are up. Meanwhile, the number of people getting tested continues to go down.
“We are definitely going in the wrong direction,” Elkhart County Health Department spokesperson Melanie Sizemore said.
She said the department does not have an exact answer as to why the COVID-19 situation has gotten worse in recent weeks, though she noted that this comes after Gov. Eric Holcomb moved Indiana to Stage 5 of the coronavirus Back on Track plan, lifting most restrictions that had been put in place to mitigate the spread of the virus. Hoosiers are still required to wear masks when inside public or retail buildings or when unable to social distance in public.
Often cited as one of the most important indicators of how the county is handling the pandemic, the positive test rate seven-day average for individuals has increased from a somewhat stable 9 percent to 11 percent range between mid-July and mid-September to 14.7 percent as of Sept. 29. That is about the same as in May, June and early July.
“We’re seeing numbers that are as high or higher at times than when we were considered a hotspot,” Sizemore said.
The number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Elkhart County has been on the rise since early September, when it hit a low of 27 per day in the seven-day average. The high, on June 18, was 78 per day. Now, at 52 new cases per day, the county has hit its highest average since July 24.
For months, Elkhart County had a total of about 20 COVID-19 patients hospitalized at Elkhart General and Goshen Hospital. But as of Tuesday, Elkhart General alone reports having 30 patients with the illness. Goshen Hospital currently has 13 COVID-19 patients, bringing the county’s COVID-19 hospitalizations to 43, or twice what had become the norm. However, hospitals in northern Indiana continue to have about 30 percent of ICU beds and more than 80 percent of ventilators available.
Sizemore said a reason that more people are going to the hospital while fewer people are getting tested is that there is a tendency to ignore preventative measures, forcing them to the “reaction measure” of going to the hospital.
In Elkhart County, 117 COVID-19 deaths have been reported. One of them was reported Tuesday. The number of deaths has slowed locally in recent months, as 17 county residents died in the last 30 days, whereas July and the first half of August had an average of one death per day.
Statewide, 30 new COVID-19 deaths were reported Tuesday, taking the state’s total to 3,484.
The Indiana State Department of Health coronavirus dashboard shows that two of Indiana’s 30 newly reported COVID-19 deaths occurred on Sept. 26, raising that day’s total to 21 deaths. That’s the largest single-day tally of COVID-19 deaths since 23 deaths occurred on June 18.
The department also reported 990 new COVID-19 infections, pushing Indiana’s seven-day average to 1,131 through Monday – a record for the state. That rolling average has grown nearly 26 percent since Sept. 28. Nearly 127,000 Hoosiers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, state statistics show that Indiana hospitals were treating 1,138 COVID-19 patients on Monday – the largest number since late May and the 11th straight day that hospitalizations have topped 900.