The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, July 20, 2021 1:00 am

County's coronavirus risk rising

Health leaders have no plans to implement restrictions


Allen County will be back in the yellow category for coronavirus risk as of Wednesday, Dr. Matthew Sutter, county health commissioner, said Monday during the health board's quarterly meeting.

Sutter said the county had been in blue, the lowest category, based on both its number of new cases and a positivity rate of under 5%. The positivity rate is a measure of how many tests for COVID-19 come back positive.

But there has been an uptick in the numbers, Sutter said, with the county's positivity rate now standing at 6.2%. The state health department's COVID-19 dashboard will reflect the new category when it is updated Wednesday.

Sutter does not plan to change recommendations for the county, he told The Journal Gazette after the meeting. It was unclear late Monday what the existing recommendations are.

“I don't have any plans to do another order at this point,” he said.

Sutter said that although the case numbers are going up, the county is in a better position now because more people are vaccinated than when the county was previously in yellow.

“We have not seen an increase in hospitalizations and deaths,” he said.

Statistics also show the total number of new cases is lower. 

Yellow is the second-lowest risk category and means “moderate community spread,” according to state health department guidance. “Local officials should be aware of the increased community spread and consider additional actions” when in yellow, the guidance says.

Among the possible actions are targeted testing, quarantine and isolation; limiting gathering sizes; restricting common areas in workplaces and having school officials review plans for face coverings and social distancing for extracurricular activities and assemblies. 

Sutter said more current cases are in younger people, adding the delta variant of the virus has been found in the county. Health officials have evidence the variant is more contagious and potentially causes more serious illness.

Statewide, random testing is now finding delta in almost 3-in-4 variants found, Indiana Department of Health statistics show. The incidence of the delta variant, 74.2%, is up 48.2% from last month, vaulting delta to the top of the list of variants found in the Hoosier state.

The state does not report the number of total or specific variants at the county level on its COVID-19 dashboard.  

Mindy Waldron, deputy administrator of the county health department, said it's anticipated the county will continue doing COVID-19 testing until December. The health department closed its mass vaccination site at Memorial Coliseum on June 17 but is continuing vaccinations at its medical annex at 4813 New Haven Ave. 

Allen County on Monday reported 22 new cases of COVID-19 but no new deaths, bringing the county total to 42,558 confirmed cases and 693 deaths. The number of deaths has increased by 21 since the department's April meeting, Waldron said.

Statewide, 285 new cases but no new deaths were reported Monday. Indiana has reported 761,472 confirmed cases and 13,525 deaths, plus 427 probable deaths in patients without a positive test. 

The state now has 2,898,312 fully vaccinated residents – 156,105 of whom live in Allen County. As of Monday, 49.5% of eligible county residents had been vaccinated, Waldron said.

“We will probably hit 50% this week,” she said. “We will be vaccinating until there is no more need.” 

The health department has no information on whether booster shots will be recommended, however, or when children under 12 will be eligible to be vaccinated.

The meeting was attended by more than two dozen people, several of whom held anti-vaccination signs while sitting in the first row of occupied seats. Dr. William Pond, board chairman, told the group there would be no public comment at the meeting because it was not a public hearing.

Pond said they were welcome to submit questions and comments to the department for consideration at the next meeting, Oct. 18.

Brian Thompson of Fort Wayne said the attendees were “concerned citizens” but declined to say if they were members of a group or groups. Several recent meetings of school boards and Fort Wayne City Council have been attended by local opponents of vaccination and mask-wearing.

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