ELKHART — The coronavirus outbreak in Elkhart County is once again designated as red, the most severe of the state’s advisory levels.
The weekly score was adjusted to orange a week ago but bounced back to red Wednesday, as the positivity rate for all tests in the county is again above 15 percent, at 16.3 percent.
The other indicator used to decide a county’s color level is the number of weekly infections per 100,000, of which the county had 311, over 50 percent more than the 200 required for a county to be considered red.
Wednesday’s change in the color code will not result in any changes to the restrictions in effect in Elkhart County, since the county was orange for only a week, while the state requires that a county be at a lower level for two weeks before regulations can be loosened. Among the restrictions still in place are the mask mandate and the limit of 25 people at gatherings.
Elkhart County’s seven-day average for new infections was 84 per day as of Tuesday, down from 97 a week earlier. The Indiana State Department of Health reports 55 COVID-19 deaths in the county in the last 30 days.
COVID-19 hospitalizations decreased in the past week at Elkhart General Hospital, where the number of COVID-19 inpatients went from 45 to 37. The number of COVID-19 inpatients at Goshen Hospital was 19 as of Wednesday, up from 18 a week earlier.
The state health department’s updated weekly tracking map on Wednesday labeled 73 of Indiana’s 92 counties at the highest risk level for coronavirus spread, up from 57 last week.
Indiana residents 70 and older can now register to receive coronavirus vaccinations as the state continues to expand access to the shots, the Indiana State Department of Health said Wednesday.
Within five hours of the announcement, nearly 60,000 people ages 70 to 79 had scheduled appointments, said Dr. Lindsay Weaver, the state health department’s chief medical officer.
The vaccines became available to Indiana residents 80 and older last Friday following the initial rollout of doses for Indiana health care workers and nursing home residents and staffers in December. About 100,000 Hoosiers in that age group have since scheduled appointments to receive the free COVID-19 vaccines, state officials said.
“It gives us a lot of confidence that the vaccine is getting to where it is intended to be,” Gov. Eric Holcomb said during a Wednesday news briefing.
Health officials said last week that they planned to start offering vaccinations in the coming weeks next to those 70 and older and then 60 and older.
Weaver said Wednesday that the state will expand eligibility “as quickly as supplies and resources allow,” though Indiana’s latest plan strays from the Centers for Disease Control’s recent recommendation that states immediately start vaccinating other groups lower down the priority scale, including people age 65 and older and younger people with certain health problems.
“Our goal is to reduce deaths and hospitalizations. And that makes this the right approach,” said the state’s health commissioner, Dr. Kristina Box. “Our system is working and we are going to stick with it.”
She continued that, once the the state opens the vaccine to people over the age of 60, the state will have targeted 22.5 percent of all Hoosiers for the vaccine. That population accounts for 64.1 percent of COVID-19 hospitalizations and 93.3 percent of the deaths.
“We are continuing our mission of protecting most vulnerable Hoosiers, and we will continue to expand quickly as we receive additional vaccine,” Box said.
So far, about 220,000 Hoosiers have received their first coronavirus shot, and 40,000 have gotten their second, according to the state’s vaccination dashboard, updated Wednesday.
Box said the state is expecting to get more vaccine from the federal government, but cautioned that “we are in a numbers game,” and there still are not enough doses in Indiana to provide vaccine to every Hoosier who wants it.
For now, appointments for those 70 and older can be made at the website ourshot.in.gov or by calling the state’s 2-1-1 telephone assistance service. As of Wednesday morning, 148 vaccination sites were available around the state, including three in Elkhart County.