Pandemic notebook: Monroe County racks up 100 cases for one day in last update before Christmas

Indiana’s COVID-19 dashboard recorded 100 positive cases for Monroe County on Tuesday, Dec. 21.

That’s the highest daily total the county has seen since early January. It’s the 19th time Monroe County has hit triple digits for a day, since the county’s first positive case was identified on March 21, 2020.

The dashboard won’t get updated again until Monday, Dec. 27. The tentative date for the next news conference hosted by local leaders about their response to the pandemic is Thursday, Dec. 30.

One topic that could come up at the news conference is the vaccination status of local government employees.

A Jan. 4 deadline for vaccination or testing has been set by U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for employers with more than 100 workers. Under the OSHA requirement, employees would have to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4, or get a weekly test for the virus.

Recent judicial activity related to that deadline includes a 2-1 decision by a panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of the Biden administration’s OSHA requirement.

The vaccination rate in Monroe County has seen a slight increase over the last two months, based on numbers from Indiana’s department of health.

From June through November Monroe County was seeing a rolling daily average of fewer than 100 first doses administered—for much of the time around 50 first doses a day. Since the first week in November, the rolling average of new first doses has stayed mostly above 100.

That’s still slow.

At a pace of 100 first doses a day, assuming they are followed eventually by a second dose, it would take more than 18 months for the roughly 59,000 remaining unvaccinated Monroe County residents to get their shots.

The numbers of positive cases, for both Monroe County and the state of Indiana, are lower now than at this time last year. But they’re in the same ballpark, even with 60 percent of the population vaccinated.

In 2020, from Dec. 1 to the end of the year, Monroe County’s positive case numbers dropped from about 100 a day to around 45 a day. This year, the month of December for Monroe County started at around 60 cases a day and bounced around a bit, but now stands at around 50 cases a day.

In 2020, from Dec. 1 to the end of the year, Indiana’s positive case numbers dropped from around 7,000 to 4,000 per day. This year, the statewide case numbers for the month of December started off at around 4,700 and currently stand at around 4,300.

In 2020, the trend at this time of year was clearly downward for case numbers. This year it’s flattish to slightly downward.

The statewide hospital census of COVID-19 patients is about as high as it has ever been for the whole pandemic.

The census peaked in early December of 2020 at an average of around 3,300 patients a day. The current rolling average census is around 3,000.

A key difference this time around: The current high hospital census numbers are coming right on the heels of a relative peak of about 2,600 in mid-September.

After that mid-September peak, the numbers troughed out at 1,250. So the hospital census never returned to the kind of levels under 1,000 that were seen from June through October of 2020.