Pandemic notebook: November numbers surging, local impact of ‘breakthrough’ cases not certain

Monroe County has seen a doubling in the rolling average of COVID-19 confirmed positive cases from the third week in October through most of November.

On Oct. 23 the number was about 19, which has climbed to an average of about 38 cases a day on Nov. 23.

That’s not as steep a rise as the 2020 increase during roughly the same period, which saw a four-fold increase from about 23 to about 93 positive cases per day.

But the current numbers are still four times higher than the target that has been set by the county board of public health for lifting the county’s mask mandate. The target of 50 cases per week per 100,000 population works out to about 10.2 daily cases for Monroe County.

The 50 cases per week per 100,000 population is the upper bound on the Centers for Disease Control classification for “moderate” community spread.

The November pandemic surge is one reason the indoor component of the county’s Canopy of Lights celebration on the courthouse square has been cancelled this year. The ceremony is still on, but all activities are planned to take place outdoors.

The lighting is held annually on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and normally includes opening the courthouse rotunda for viewing of the Christmas tree, which reaches well past the first floor of the building. That’s a decision that has received some criticism on social media channels.

Some of the local surge can be attributed to ‘breakthrough’ cases—positive cases of COVID-19 confirmed in people who have been vaccinated.

The daily impact of breakthrough cases on Monroe County’s numbers is hard to analyze based on Indiana’s state department of health dashboard for vaccinations. The daily figures are available only statewide.

But the vaccine dashboard does separate out by county cumulative case totals for unvaccinated people.  Since Jan. 18, 2021, the dashboard’s cumulative total puts Monroe County’s number of cases for unvaccinated people at 8,301 per 100,000. (That’s 8,301 cases per 100,000 unvaccinated Monroe County residents.)

That’s better than all but a handful of Indiana counties, many of which have per-100K unvaccinated figures of more than 11,000.

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