COVID-19 pandemic notebook: Surge means orange for Monroe County

Based on numbers reported Monday, Wednesday’s update to the state of Indiana’s COVID-19 dashboard map will show Monroe County as orange.

That’s because the county will have the next-to-worst score on the dual-metric system used by the state to color-code the map.

For the week ending Sunday, Dec. 5, Monroe County logged a total of 415 positive COVID-19 cases.

That puts the weekly per-100,000 population figure for Monroe County at 279.

Because it’s over 200, it lands the county in the worst of the categories for the per-100,000 metric. That’s one of two stats used by Indiana’s health department to track the level of community transmission. The worst category carries a score of 3 on the 0-to-3 scale.

Combined with a score of 1 for the county’s rolling average positivity rate—the figure for the previous Sunday was 9.79 percent—will put Monroe County’s average on the dual-metric system at 2.

In the color-coding scheme used by the state, a 2 is assigned orange. The scheme goes like this: blue (0-0.5); yellow (1-1.5); orange (2-2.5); and red (3).

The county’s positivity rate, which ended this week at a rolling average of 9.9 percent, is also tickling the upper end of the second-best category. If the positivity rate were to nudge past 10 percent, and the weekly total cases per 100,000 population stayed over 200, that would leave Monroe County with an overall score of 2.5—still orange.

To get to red, Monroe County’s positivity rate would have to climb past 15 percent, which seems unlikely, at least for now. What could affect that positivity rate is the likely decline in the amount testing that will be done by Indiana University over the holiday break.

Even though this year the university has not undertaken the massive scale of mitigation testing that it did in the fall of 2020, the school does still routinely test those who are unvaccinated. The IU Bloomington campus has a vaccination rate of around 95 percent.

The limited amount of mitigation testing being done could still be damping down the positivity rate. Mitigation tests have a lower positivity rate than tests that are done because someone thinks they’re symptomatic or thinks they might have been exposed.

To put the positive case numbers in context, the current rolling average of cases is around 59 cases per day. That’s about six times the target set by the Monroe County board of health for lifting the county’s mask mandate.

It’s not just positive case numbers that are on the rise. Hospitalization numbers are up, too.

Across the state, the total census of COVID-19 patients—including those who are being hospitalized pending positive test results—is now around 2,350. That’s approaching the mid-September peak of about 2,600. And it’s not that far off the pandemic high of 3392, which was reached on Dec. 1, 2020.