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Updated with additional information, 1:45 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23:

Vigo County is on the verge of becoming "red" in the state's COVID-19 ranking system, which would put it in the highest risk category, according to the Vigo County Health Department.

If the county does go into red on the state metrics map, that means restrictions are likely.

"Red [in the state metrics] means our county will have to take steps to limit the spread of COVID-19," said Roni Elder, health department spokeswoman. "We would evaluate everything, schools, bars and restaurants being open for indoor dining, and event sizes. As of right now, you can pretty much have an event of any size, but if we went to red, we would start restricting all of that."

There are no plans set in stone, "but we're in the talks of if we turned to red, what does that look like for our county," Elder said.

The county can be more strict than the state and implement more restriction, but it can't be more lenient, she said. Dr. Darren Brucken, the county health commissioner, can implement tougher measures.

The Indiana Department of Health categorizes counties based on the 7-day positivity rate and weekly cases per 100,000 residents by color blue, yellow, orange, and red, with red being the highest risk. One of the factors causing a red ranking is a 7-day all tests positivity rate of 15% or higher, as well as weekly COVID cases of 200 or more per 100,000 residents.

"It is strongly recommended that large events planned are cancelled. It is not recommended that local food establishments participate in any 'walk' festivities. The spike in cases could be a cause for all establishments to be shutdown," according to a Vigo County Health Department news release. 

The numbers for cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are all up in Vigo County, the health department says. 

"It is important we follow recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to prevent strain on our hospitals and protect the health of our community," according to the release.

While Indiana State University's Homecoming festivities — which would have been Oct. 24 —  have been canceled this year due to COVID, it's come to the health department's attention that a few bars may open for the unofficial "walk."

 In past years, hundreds of students and alumni walk the 20-plus blocks between downtown and the Memorial Stadium while visiting bars and restaurants on the route.

If some bars choose to be open for a pub crawl, Elder said, "I hope they will take protocols seriously and make everyone wear masks. It's one weekend of revenue, but it could cost all the bars to shut back down for who knows how long, until we can get our cases under control." 

Also Friday, the Vigo County School Corp. announced that starting Monday, all Vigo County high school students will have remote learning days on Mondays.

Remote learning Mondays "will continue while Vigo County experiences a significant number of daily new cases and will ensure contact tracing and quarantines resulting from weekend cases," the school district stated in a news release.

"Today's decision shows we are closely monitoring our school data and will look to be precise in the way we react to any issues we encounter," said Bill Riley, VCSC director of communications.

"We don't have any issues now with contact tracing, but if there is an area of concern, it's making sure we can contact trace high school kids over the weekend effectively," he said.

The district will continue to look at cases school by school, and Riley did not anticipate county-wide use of remote learning.

"We'll continue to go school by school and try to be as precise as we can be in anticipating issues before they happen," Riley said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at sue.loughlin@tribstar.com Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.

Original story, 11:47 a.m.:

Vigo County is on the verge of becoming "red" in the state's COVID-19 ranking system, which would put it in the highest risk category, according to the Vigo County Health Department.

If the county does go into red on the state metrics map, that means restrictions are likely.

"Red [in the state metrics] means our county will have to take steps to limit the spread of COVID-19," said Roni Elder, health department spokeswoman. "We would evaluate everything, schools, bars and restaurants being open for indoor dining, and event sizes. As of right now, you can pretty much have an event of any size, but if we went to red, we would start restricting all of that."

There are no plans set in stone, "but we're in the talks of if we turned to red, what does that look like for our county," Elder said.

The county can be more strict than the state and implement more restriction, but it can't be more lenient, she said. Dr. Darren Brucken, the county health commissioner, can implement tougher measures.

The Indiana Department of Health categorizes counties based on the 7-day positivity rate and weekly cases per 100,000 residents by color blue, yellow, orange, and red, with red being the highest risk. One of the factors causing a red ranking is a 7-day all tests positivity rate of 15% or higher, as well as weekly COVID cases of 200 or more per 100,000 residents.

"It is strongly recommended that large events planned are cancelled. It is not recommended that local food establishments participate in any 'walk' festivities. The spike in cases could be a cause for all establishments to be shutdown," according to a Vigo County Health Department news release.

The numbers for cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are all up in Vigo County, the health department says.

"It is important we follow recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to prevent strain on our hospitals and protect the health of our community," according to the release.

While Indiana State University's Homecoming festivities — which would have been Oct. 24 — have been canceled this year due to COVID, it's come to the health department's attention that a few bars may open for the unofficial "walk."

In past years, hundreds of students and alumni walk the 20-plus blocks between downtown and the Memorial Stadium while visiting bars and restaurants on the route.

If some bars choose to be open for a pub crawl, Elder said, "I hope they will take protocols seriously and make everyone wear masks. It's one weekend of revenue, but it could cost all the bars to shut back down for who knows how long, until we can get our cases under control."

Also Friday, the Vigo County School Corp. announced that starting Monday, all Vigo County high school students will have remote learning days on Mondays.

Remote learning Mondays "will continue while Vigo County experiences a significant number of daily new cases and will ensure contact tracing and quarantines resulting from weekend cases," the school district stated in a news release.

"Today's decision shows we are closely monitoring our school data and will look to be precise in the way we react to any issues we encounter," said Bill Riley, VCSC director of communications.

"We don't have any issues now with contact tracing, but if there is an area of concern, it's making sure we can contact trace high school kids over the weekend effectively," he said.

The district will continue to look at cases school by school, and Riley did not anticipate county-wide use of remote learning.

"We'll continue to go school by school and try to be as precise as we can be in anticipating issues before they happen," Riley said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at sue.loughlin@tribstar.com Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.

Vigo County is on the verge of becoming red on Indiana State Department of Health’s county metrics.

The Vigo County Health Department issued a warning today following a steady rise locally in COVID-19 cases.

ISDH categorizes counties based on the 7-day positivity rate and weekly cases per 100,000 residents by color blue, yellow, orange, and red. Red means the county will have to take the steps to limit the spread of COVID-19 such as shutdowns.

“It is strongly recommended that large events planned are cancelled. It is not recommended that local food establishments participate in any 'Walk' festivities,” said a health educator Roni Elder in a news release from the Vigo County Health Department. “The spike in cases could be a cause for all establishments to be shutdown.”

“The Walk” is an annual bar-hopping tradition associated with Indiana State University's annual homecoming football game. The game and all associated events have been cancelled by ISU due to the pandemic. However, some local bars have indicated they will be open for those who want to participate in an “unofficial Walk” along Wabash Avenue on Saturday.

The health department warns the numbers for cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are all rising in Vigo County.

“It is important we follow recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to prevent strain on our hospitals and protect the health of our community,” Elder said.

Vermillion County is already on Red alert, and Sullivan County has been flagged due to an increase in cases attributed to congregant settings, such as religious services and public events.

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Lisa Trigg has been a reporter at the Tribune-Star since 2009. With more than 30 years of newspaper experience, she now covers general news with a focus on crime and courts.

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