Based on new Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance, even Monroe County residents who are fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus should wear a face covering when they’re in public indoor settings.
The CDC guidance, released on July 27, recommends that people wear a face covering indoors, if it’s in a public setting and if it’s in a county where there is “substantial” or “high” transmission of the virus.
Monroe County is classified as having “substantial” transmission, because it has 52.55 new cases per 100,000 population in the last 7 days. That’s just over the lower threshold for the “substantial” category, which starts at 50 new cases per 100,000 and goes up to 99.99 cases.
The other criterion used by the CDC to determine transmission categories is the rolling positivity rate for tests. The CDC reports a positivity rate of 6.54 percent for Monroe County, which would put it in the “moderate” transmission category, which goes from 5 percent to 7.99 percent. But the CDC takes the worse of the two categories to categorize each county.
Monroe County’s board of commissioners got an update on the pandemic at its regular Wednesday morning meeting. It came from the public information officer for Monroe County’s health department, Kathy Hewett, who was subbing in for health administrator Penny Caudill.
Hewett also noted that Monroe County would at noon on Wednesday, no longer be classified as a “blue” county, which is the best category in the color-coding scheme used by Indiana’s state health department. (The state’s COVID-19 dashboard as of 11 a.m. on Wednesday indicated that Wednesday’s dashboard update would be delayed due to technical issues.)
The state of Indiana uses the same kind of metrics in its color coding scheme as the CDC does for its verbal descriptors—new cases per 100,000 people and positivity rate. But the thresholds are different.
Monroe County, along with other counties, will flip from blue to yellow this week on the color-coded map.
Monroe County had been hanging on to the blue rating, based on its rolling positivity rate, which had been under 5 percent. That is the upper threshold for blue, the best category.
Monroe County has long been classified only in the second-best category for the number of new cases per 100,000 people. The second category for Indiana’s system goes from 10 to 99 new cases.
The rolling average for Monroe County’s daily new cases has increased from about 5 in the last week of June to about 13 as of yesterday, the last week of July.
The state’s color coding system uses an averaging system that rounds down, which has, up to now, kept Monroe County blue.
The increased number of cases in Indiana, like the rest of the country, can be attributed in part to the prevalence of the Delta variant. In the last month, for the cases in Indiana that have been sampled for genetic sequencing, the Delta variant has been detected in 86 percent of them. The Delta variant is more easily transmitted than the basic strain of the COVID-19, or other variants.
County commissioner Julie Thomas noted at Wednesday’s meeting that two of Monroe’s neighboring counties on the CDC’s map are at high risk—Lawrence County and Orange County. (Those counties are red on the CDC’s map.)
Thomas said, “It’s important to remember that they are our neighbors, and those county boundaries are porous. People come in and out of Monroe County all the time.” Thomas added, “It’s really sad that we’re in this position.”
Thomas wrapped up by encouraging people to get vaccinated.