COVID-19 cases shoot up after Stage 5 reopening

AP file photo/Darron Cummings Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb prepares in this April 2020 file photo to host a virtual media briefing in the governor's office at the Statehouse in Indianapolis. 

The number of COVID-19 cases and deaths across Indiana continue to climb rapidly as 1,569 additional Hoosiers were diagnosed with the disease and 27 more people died, the Indiana State Department of Health announced Tuesday.

In all, 138,104 Hoosiers have contracted the highly contagious novel coronavirus and a total of 3,595 people have died. 

Tuesday’s numbers, while high compared to the few hundred cases recorded daily in the summer, are below the 1,937 cases reported Friday, which prompted  some Democrats to call for a rollback of the state’s reopening.

“Unlike before, we’re not only seeing an increase in cases, but we’re also seeing an increase in apathy toward this pandemic,” said Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, in a news release. He is the Indiana House minority leader.

The state has averaged more than 1,000 cases daily for the past week, higher than any other week since the emergence of COVID-19. The growth in cases may be related to the current availability of testing in comparison to that of March through June. More than four times as many tests are administered on a daily basis now in comparison to an average day in April or May. 

Of all of the 2.4 million COVID-19 tests administered in Indiana, the positivity rate is 5.7%. That includes people who have been tested more than once.

However,  for all of the unique or separate-individual tests, the positivity rate in 9.2%.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases has continued to climb, according to the State Health Department.

On Monday, there were 1,288 total COVID-19 patients in Indiana hospitals, the highest number since May 19.

Vigo County numbers

Total confirmed cases in Vigo County totaled 2,265, according to the Vigo County Health Department's website as of Tuesday afternoon.

Vigo County's 31st death due to COVID-19 was reported Tuesday by state health officials.

Statistics released at www.coronavirus.in.gov show the death occurred Oct. 9 in a man age 80 or older.

Of the Vigo County deaths reported so far, 17 have been in women and 14 have occurred in men. Ten deaths have occurred in people age 80 and older. Nine deaths have occurred in people age 70 to 79. Six deaths have occurred in people age 60 to 69. The remaining six deaths have been in people age 59 or younger.

However, 24 percent of the positive COVID-19 cases in the county have occurred in people age 20 to 29, and that age group has had only one death.

The county health department records COVID-related deaths slightly differently than the state and puts the number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths at 28. It also lists eight deaths for people who died of other causes (such as auto accidents or cancer) but who also were found to be COVID-19 positive. The department also lists one presumptive COVID-19 death.

Vigo County has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases since Labor Day weekend, with an additional 100-plus cases being reported during the past weekend.

“We are collectively discouraged by the last one to two weeks of increasing COVID numbers and in tracking more and more people coming into the hospital, with increasing death numbers, not only here, but across the state,” Dr. Darren Brucken, Vigo County health commissioner told the Tribune-Star on Friday.

“We have area nursing homes with cases, and we have suffered deaths from those outbreaks,” he said.

Large gatherings such as weddings, funerals and family get-togethers continue to be a problem, he said. The same goes for festivals and community gatherings.

Actions, inactions and consequence

The dramatic increase in cases occurs only two weeks after Gov. Eric Holcomb announced that Indiana would enter Stage 5 of his reopening plan that began in March with the shutdown of all but the most essential businesses. Stage 5 includes the reopening of bars, nightclubs, restaurants, indoor and outdoor venues, and gyms at full capacity.

Holcomb and Dr. Kristina Box, state health commissioner, have cautioned that Stage 5 is not a return to normal because face masks and social distancing are still required in public. But many people are acting like it’s a return to normal. 

“The Stage 5 and schools reopening are a big reason why numbers are going up,” said Tony Mancuso, LaPorte County Health Department administrator.

LaPorte County is the home of the popular Blue Chip Casino and Resort as well as other Lake Michigan attractions. The county is currently seeing 178 weekly cases per 100,000 residents. Mancuso also added that several Chicago and Michigan residents own lake houses in the county.

With the number of COVID-19 cases rising especially in the Northwest region of Indiana, health officials in Chicago are strongly advising its residents to not travel to Indiana.

Holcomb told WANE-TV in Fort Wayne that he would announce a decision Wednesday on the mask mandate that he first issued in July that is currently set to expire Saturday, the Associated Press reported. 

Holcomb said one reason for the increased COVID-19 spread is people letting down their guard at gatherings such as weddings, sports events or house parties when they can be around others who are infected but might not be experiencing symptoms.

“We need to underscore the point that our actions and our inactions have consequences, whether they’re good or bad,” he said.

Democratic governor candidate Woody Myers, a former state health commissioner, said Friday that tougher restrictions needed to be reinstated. He has also repeatedly called for a more strict mask mandate, as the one Holcomb has issued includes no penalties for violators.

“Gov. Holcomb’s current plan is clearly moving us in the wrong direction,” Myers said.

Holcomb’s mask mandate and earlier executive orders limiting personal travel and businesses have angered some Indiana conservatives who maintain they won’t support his reelection and will, instead, vote for Libertarian candidate Donald Rainwater, who flatly opposes the mask requirement.

LaMonte Richardson Jr is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

Also contributing to this report were Tribune-Star staff and the Associated Press.

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