Pandemic notebook: Monroe County cases steady, hospital numbers higher, still under CDC thresholds

In its regular Thursday news release this week, the city of Bloomington announced 11 new COVID-19 cases among city employees. That’s the highest number of weekly employee cases in four months, when 14 cases were announced on Feb. 3.

According to Indiana’s state dashboard, the one COVID-19 death recorded for the county on May 25 was the second for the month. That brings to 276 the total number of Monroe County residents who have died from the disease.

For case numbers and hospitalization numbers, Monroe County is still classified in the Centers for Disease Control scheme as having “low” community spread.

The number of daily COVID-19 cases recorded in Monroe County has settled back down in the second half of May after bumping up through the first two weeks of the month.

Through May 25, the rolling 7-day average of daily cases in Monroe County stands at around 32. That’s about four times as many cases as this time last year, and 10 times as many as the year before.

But it’s still under the threshold used by the CDC for defining higher levels of community spread. The CDC uses a 200 cases-per-week per-100,000 population metric as a lower threshold for its “medium”community spread level.

That threshold translates into about 39.9 cases a day for Monroe County. So Monroe County remains classified as having “low” community spread.

The CDC defines its thresholds on a per capita basis. That means the diminished population in Bloomington during the summer months, due to the university student exodus, helps the county stay under the statistical threshold.

Under the scheme used last year by the state of Indiana to classify community spread, the weekly per-100,000 population threshold for the next-to-worst (orange) category of community spread was 100. So Monroe County would now be orange on that metric.

Test positivity rate was the other metric used in the old classification scheme. But the state of Indiana no longer includes the test positivity rate in its dashboard display. But the state does include the stat in the datasets that it publishes. Based on the more than 20-percent positivity rate for Monroe County over the last month, on that metric, Monroe County would now score in the worst (red) community spread category.

The new CDC classification scheme gives more weight to hospitalization numbers.

The hospitalization numbers for Monroe County’s region are also still under the thresholds triggering a designation of a higher CDC community spread level, but they continue to increase. Indiana’s Health District 8, which is made up of 7 counties including Monroe, had a census of 30 COVID-19 patients on Friday.

That compares to a census of 18 on May 16, which was about twice as many as a week earlier. At the peak of the pandemic, District 8 had a census of more than 170 COVID-19 patients.

The CDC thresholds for hospitalization are finer-grained than just the current census. They are defined in terms of admissions per 100,000 population and the percent of staffed inpatient beds in use by COVID-19 patients.

The lower threshold triggering a designation as a “medium” level of community spread for new admissions per 100,000 population is 10. Monroe County’s latest number on that metric is 6.9.

The lower threshold triggering a designation as a “medium” level of community spread for the percent of staffed inpatient beds in use by COVID-19 patients is 10 percent. Monroe County’s latest number on that metric is 4.7 percent.

Here’s how the CDC classification scheme works: