Governor Eric J. Holcomb today announced the state will remain in Stage 4.5 of the Back On Track Indiana plan until Sep. 25.
Local governments may impose more restrictive guidelines.
Gov. Holcomb has used data to drive decisions since the state’s first case of the novel coronavirus in early March and he continues to do so. The state continues to monitor and respond to these four guiding principles:
- The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients statewide has decreased for 14 days
- The state retains its surge capacity for critical care beds and ventilators
- The state retains its ability to test all Hoosiers who are COVID-19 symptomatic as well as health care workers, first responders, and frontline employees
- Health officials have systems in place to contact all individuals who test positive for COVID-19 and expand contact tracing
The Indiana State Department of Health is updating its color-coded county positivity map to evaluate each county based on three metrics.
The tracker will score counties as blue, yellow, orange or red, more easily allowing local officials to determine the best course of action. A current map is available here. The map will go live on the dashboard next week and be updated weekly.
Scoring does not trigger a state requirement of any action, but provides local information and recommendations based on:
- Number of new cases in the past week per 100,000 residents
- Percent positivity as determined by the number of positive tests divided by the total number of tests administered
- The change in percent positivity from the previous week
The new system is designed to help local and school officials understand and respond to the level of community spread in their county. The map will be available on the ISDH coronavirus dashboard.
Details and guidance will be updated at BackOnTrack.in.gov.
The Governor also signed an executive order extending the public health emergency an additional 30 days.
The executive order can be found here: https://www.in.gov/gov/2384.htm
Indiana’s mask order and capacity limits on bars and restaurants will continue at least another month.
Governor Holcomb says infection rates and hospitalizations have leveled off after surging through July and early August, but he says those numbers need to be not just flat but headed down. He says he understands Hoosiers’ frustration with the continuing restrictions, but says, “We have to deal with reality. He says flareups in different counties show how quickly the coronavirus takes advantage of opportunities, and how effective masks and other precautions are in bringing it under control.
The highest positivity averages in the state are in southwest Indiana. Daviess County, which had never had more than six cases in a day, has had 147 in the last two weeks in an outbreak which state health commissioner Kris Box says began in a church and spread to local businesses. Neighboring Martin County has the state’s highest positivity average, just two weeks after the sparsely populated county went 10 days without any new cases.
The percentage of virus tests statewide coming back positive climbed through July and early August before beginning to come down again the last two weeks, two weeks after the mask order took effect. Box says health officials in counties struggling to control new outbreaks have reported their residents have been resistant to the mask mandate.
Through September 26, restaurants will remain limited to three-quarters capacity, and bars and entertainment venues will be capped at half capacity, the same limits which have been in place since mid-June.
Holcomb says there’s no single statistic that will determine when it’s time to lift restrictions, though Box says she’d like to see positivity rates fall below five-percent — the statewide average is five-point-two-percent. But for the first time, the state is giving guidance to school districts in deciding whether it’s safe to stay open. It’s created a 0-to-3 scale based on a combination of the number of cases, the positivity rate and how that rate is changing.
Box says the weekly COVID scores are a response to requests from local officials. While scores of 1 or higher include recommendations for limiting or closing school activities, Box says they’re only steps to consider, not requirements.
Along with wearing masks, washing hands, and staying home if you’re sick, Box says bringing the virus under control needs a higher response rate to state and local contact tracers. She says the state will launch an ad campaign to stress the importance of answering those calls and texts.