ELKHART — Elkhart County’s coronavirus risk status was lowered from red to orange Wednesday based on its falling seven-day average positivity rate, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.
For a county to be given the orange color code, it must have under 200 weekly cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents or a seven-day all-test positivity rate under 15 percent. Elkhart County’s numbers were 310 new cases per 100,000 residents and a 14.72 percent positive test rate.
Elkhart County Health Department spokeswoman Melanie Sizemore said she’s hopeful the county continues a downward trend, but data shows the county’s risk assessment could rise to red again if the community does not do its part by following mandates and safety restrictions.
“We have to be realistic; we’re just under 15 percent, which put us in orange,” she said. “But also looking at the data and currently this week, we’re just over 15 percent which could put us back in red next week.”
Two orders went into effect on Nov. 19, one regarding mask use specifically and one setting out rules for restaurants, retail stores, factories and other businesses and entities. Those rules include, for every business, implementing a COVID-19 response plan; for restaurants, having barriers or 6 feet of separation between tables; and for gatherings or events where more than 25 people will attend, submitting a safety plan for health department approval.
Sizemore said she believes the mandate could have had an impact on the drop but said she believes it’s too soon to ease on restrictions since there hasn’t been enough time to see the downward trend.
She also said the one-week drop may not reflect reality as fewer people have been tested over the holidays.
“People go out of town for Christmas and New Year’s, so you have many who aren’t in town and testing sites were closed over the holidays,” she said. “So, we’ll see over the next couple of weeks if the spread is still happening, especially if they test positive, then we know the spread is still continuing.”
The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations has decreased at both Elkhart General Hospital, which had 45 COVID-19 patients Wednesday, down slightly from 48 patients reported last week; and Goshen Hospital, which had 18 patients Wednesday, down from 19 reported last week.
Statewide, 149 additional COVID-19 deaths were reported Wednesday, bringing the state’s death tally to 8,663.