The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, January 25, 2022 1:00 am

Local surge likely peaked

But county health chief not certain; status still red


COVID-19's highly contagious omicron variant may have started to wane locally – but it's probably too soon to be sure, Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Matthew Sutter said Monday.

“There's a good chance that we've hit the peak,” he said. But even so, Sutter told the health department's executive board, the county is still seeing “the highest daily case numbers since the start of the pandemic.”

Another key indicator is that the region's number of COVID-19 hospitalizations appear to have plateaued, Sutter said. But they have not decreased.

Allen County remains in red, the most serious status on Indiana's color-coded COVID-19 prevalence map.

On Monday, Allen County's reported new cases dropped to 222. That's the lowest number since Jan. 3, when 218 cases were reported. Health officials said then the number was likely lower because fewer tests given over the New Year's holiday.

Newly reported county cases during the last week have ranged from 651 on Jan. 18 to 1,361 on Jan. 19, making the 7-day average 874. Those cases are enough to keep the county in red, Sutter said.

“We would need to get down to around 100 cases a day to get into orange,” he said, adding it's unknown if the omicron variant's cases will fall as quickly as they rose.

Statewide, COVID-19 hospitalizations reached a new peak of 3,506 on Jan. 19, the most recent date reported. They they have plateaued at 3,000 and above since the beginning of this year

The northeast Indiana region has followed the same trajectory, plateauing between 300 and 400 hospitalizations in recent weeks, state health statistics say.

On Monday the region's hospitals had 20.3% of their 306 intensive care beds in use for COVID-19 and about 10.5% of beds available.

But the situation here is less dire than in other areas of the state, Sutter said, where hospitals have stopped surgeries and diverted patients to other facilities.

It's likely more than 90% of hospitalized patients have had the omicron variant, Sutter said. Although it had been thought to cause milder illness, that may not be the case in unvaccinated people.

The most recent reported omicron prevalence data is from Jan. 3, when omicron was found in 85.3% of tested samples, according to the Indiana Department of Health's COVID-19 dashboard.

Asked if the number of positive tests is a true indicator of cases, Sutter said he believes official cases are “a vast undercount.” Rapid tests done at home are not required to be reported to local or state health officials and some people may never get tested.

Deaths also may be higher than reported, he said, adding vaccines “continue to hold up” against severe infections and death.

No new Allen County deaths were reported Monday to add to the county's 1,017 since March 2020. The total number of county cases rose Monday to 96,988.

Indiana's statewide COVID-19 statistics were not updated Monday afternoon because of “a systems outage,” a message on the state's tracking dashboard said. No new statistics were posted since Jan. 20 or Jan.14, depending on the type of information.

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