ELKHART — For the second time in eight days, Elkhart County has broken its record for new COVID-19 cases, leading health officials to issue a warning to the public about taking the virus more seriously.
There were 152 new cases of COVID-19 recorded in the county Wednesday and reported Thursday by the Indiana State Department of Health. The previous high, which was set a week earlier, was 128. Before that, the high was 112 on June 17.
The seven-day average of new cases is 89 per day, which is worse than at any point during the first wave in the county, when the highest average was 78.
The number of people getting tested locally is increasing and has reached 327 per day as of Oct. 8, meaning it remains lower than during the first wave, when the average was usually above 400 per day. However, it is possible that a higher number has gotten tested since Oct. 8. The positive test rate for individuals is at 15.6 percent as of Oct. 8, up from about 10 percent during much of the late summer and early fall. When the first wave was at its worst in June, the positive test rate average was at about 18 percent.
No new deaths were reported in Elkhart County on Wednesday. The latest reported death occurred on Oct. 11. There have been 21 deaths in the last 30 days, which is fewer than during the deadliest period of July and the first half of August, when an average of one Elkhart County resident died of COVID-19 each day. However, health experts fear and expect that this wave of cases will be followed by a wave of deaths, as was the case with the first wave. In total, 126 local residents have died.
Indiana as a whole also broke its record of cases recorded in a day Thursday. The state reported 1,960 new cases, all recorded Wednesday. The state also set records on Oct. 8 and 9, with 1,823 and 1,937 cases, respectively. The seven-day average is at its highest-ever point, with 1,653 cases per day.
The state has seen a high number of deaths recently, with 23 being reported Thursday. The average had been about 10 per day for months but is now at 14. In total, 3,632 Hoosiers have died from COVID-19.
In Elkhart County, a total of 7,925 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and 56,013 residents have been tested. Statewide, those numbers are 141,212 and 1,521,402. Both in Elkhart County and statewide, the majority of confirmed cases are among people who are younger than 60, while the majority of deaths are among people who are 60 or older.
Dr. Lydia Mertz, Elkhart County’s health officer, in a release Thursday said the public needs to take the virus more seriously.
“We need to change what we’ve been doing, and get back to the preventive measures we had been taking in August that caused our rate to come down then. We need to get vigilant, and get the number of new cases down right away,” Mertz said.
She has said that if the outbreak continues to get worse, health officials will have to consider reintroducing restrictions.
“Please wear a cloth face covering in public, use distancing guidelines, avoid crowds, and wash your hands frequently. If you have even mild symptoms, or have been exposed to someone who has tested positive, please get tested. We all need to do these things consistently to get the community safe again,” Mertz said.