With Thanksgiving gatherings on the agenda this week, Allen County's top health official is cautioning residents about a new COVID-19 surge.
“Our current average daily case rate is 273, which is the highest number we've seen since January,” Dr. Matthew Sutter, health commissioner, said in a statement. “Hospitals in the county are feeling significant strain and seeing rising admissions for COVID-19. ...
“In my opinion, this is still an emergency.”
Sutter and other Allen County health experts Tuesday urged people planning gatherings to continue taking precautions against spreading the virus, including masking, keeping 6 feet apart and washing hands frequently.
That's especially so, Sutter said, if a gathering includes vaccinated and unvaccinated people or people at more risk for contracting COVID-19, such as seniors, those with chronic health conditions or a depressed immune system.
People also can use fast-turnaround home tests the same day of a gathering to ensure they do not have the virus before visiting, he said. The tests, which can give results in 15 minutes, are available at drugstores and cost about $25 for two tests.
If a person has a positive test, Sutter advises them to have follow-up testing by the health department or other health care provider – partly to confirm the result and partly because in-home test results are not counted in state statistics.
State figures say Allen County's seven-day positivity rate Tuesday stood at 13.1%. That signifies medium-to-high virus spread and puts the county in higher end of the state's orange category, the second-most serious.
DeKalb and LaGrange counties Tuesday were in the red category, the most serious, with positivity rates of 19.21% and 22.22% respectively.
All other northeast Indiana counties are in orange – Huntington, Kosciusko, Noble, Steuben and Wabash in the high end, and Adams, Wells and Whitley at the lower end.
Only Wells and Whitley counties have declining positivity rates.
The positivity rate measures how many people test positive compared to all people tested. The state's positivity rate was 10.8% Tuesday.
Sutter urged residents to get vaccinated now that anyone over the age of 5 is eligible. If they are already fully vaccinated, he said, they should get a booster shot, especially if they are 65 or older.
“There are several studies that demonstrate that even for those who've been previously infected with COVID-19, vaccines reduce the risk of getting reinfected and having severe symptoms” requiring hospitalization, he said.
Information on testing and vaccination sites can be found at coronavirus.in.gov.
Dr. Jeffrey Boord, Parkview Health's chief quality and safety officer, said that system recently has seen “a dramatic increase” in hospitalizations and emergency room visits related to the virus.
In northeast Indiana, about 20% of intensive care beds Tuesday were taken up by COVID-19 patients, state statistics show – slightly higher than the statewide 18%.
“We continue to encourage residents to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. This includes wearing a face covering in indoor public settings, practicing social distancing and getting vaccinated,” Boord said.