Pandemic notebook: Monroe County coronavirus numbers stay stubborn

Monroe County positive case numbers for the COVID-19 virus are holding steady or maybe nudging upward over the last couple of weeks.

That’s consistent with statewide and nationwide trends.

According to CDC numbers, the daily rolling average of cases for the U.S. had decreased to 63,852 on Oct. 24, but is now back up to 73,218.

The daily rolling average for the state of Indiana is now back up to 2,186 after decreasing to 1,581 on Oct. 23.

For Monroe County, the daily rolling average got as low as about 19 on Oct. 23. But based on data reported through Thursday is back up to 25. That includes a 3-point drop, when the 50 cases reported last week on Thursday dropped out of the rolling 7-day average calculated for today.

Any possibility that Monroe County’s mask mandate would be lifted before Thanksgiving looks small. That’s because the numerical targets look out of reach.

One numerical target for lifting Monroe County’s mask mandate is already mathematically impossible to reach for next week: No more than 50 positive COVID-19 cases per week per 100,000 in population.

For Monroe County, that translates into no more than 74 cases for the week that started Monday (Nov. 8). The numbers for the first four days of the week (16, 33, 35, and 26) made for a total of 110.

An easier target for the week starting Nov. 8 is still a mathematical possibility. That’s to keep the weekly total under 100 positive COVID-19 cases per week per 100,000 in population. In raw numbers, for Monroe County that translates to 148 cases per week. To hit that target, for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the daily average for the three days will need to say under 13 (38/3). That seems unlikely based on data from the last several months.

The 100 weekly cases per 100,000 is part of a two-metric score established by Indiana’s state department of health. The two-metric score is computed by taking the average of two metrics: the weekly cases per 100,000 population; and the positivity rate.

The score for a weekly positive case number of more than 100 per 100,000 population is a 2. Monroe County’s positivity rate, which is less than 5 percent, has mostly rated a zero in the past, which is the best it can score.

Monroe County’s current two-metric score of 1 (the average of 2 and 0) depends on the zero contribution from the positivity rate. What Monroe County could use, in order to lift its mask mandate, is a score of 1 for the cases-per-population metric, and a zero contribution from the positivity metric. That would bring the average for the two metrics down to 0.5

The two-metric score has to be less than 1 for two weeks in a row in order to achieve the “blue” advisory level—that’s the state health department’s color-coded scheme for community spread. Achieving a blue advisory level is what’s required in order to lift the mask mandate.

The zero contribution from the positivity rate to Monroe County’s weekly two-metric score can’t be taken for granted. Monroe County’s positivity rate has started to creep towards the 5-percent threshold that would increase it’s score on that metric from 0 to 1.

The positivity rate for Monroe County is a number that has historically been damped down due to the substantial amount of mitigation (asymptomatic) testing that’s been done by Indiana University.

Required mitigation testing is now limited by the university to those students, faculty and staff who are not vaccinated. That’s just around 6 percent of the Bloomington campus.

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