Dr. Kristina Box, state health commissioner, announced at a Wednesday afternoon press conference that Indiana will recommend stricter COVID-19 guidelines to Monroe and Delaware counties because of the increase in cases in those areas.
State universities are located in both these counties, with IU in Monroe County and Ball State University in Delaware County.
“Both are due to congregate living settings and large-scale testing tied to university settings,” Box said.
The state has also seen a sharp increase in cases for 18 to 22 year olds because of these reasons, Box said.
The state uses a county’s new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents and its positivity rate to determine a color for the county on the COVID-19 color-coded map. The colors on this map are blue, yellow, orange and red, with blue being the least restrictive regarding recommendations. This week, Monroe and Delaware are orange.
Orange counties have moderate to high community spread. The recommendations for these counties include not participating in assemblies or large group activities, implementing aggressive prevention efforts in the community and having grade schools continue in person, though hybrid is preferred.
Monroe and Delaware counties are the only orange counties. The majority of the map is yellow and blue. Box attributed the success in other counties to mask-wearing and social distancing.
“This is a big improvement over where we started, which means Hoosiers are doing a lot of the right things,” Box said. “This is proof that wearing a mask and practicing social distancing does make a difference.”
Holcomb repeated this message multiple times during the press conference, saying the data supports the idea that masks prevent spread and mask-wearing is helping Indiana stay open.
“The proof is in the pudding,” Holcomb said. “We’re going to do everything we can to remain open and this is working, this is helping folks stay open and to continue to reopen where we’re not.”
He said he was not yet sure if he will extend the mask mandate past Sept. 25.
Box also said the state will be pilot testing its school dashboard portal this week, which will show grade school and university numbers. The portal will be open for schools to start adding information Friday, Box said. Indiana’s goal is to provide a snapshot by next week of the data from when school began through this week.
The state emailed a survey to every school on the Indiana Department of Education’s contact list asking them to designate two representatives to enter the data into the portal. They received responses from about 60% of the schools, Box said. Schools that don’t submit data will be listed as not reporting, so schools should check their spam folders or reach out if they didn’t receive an email.
“We want to make sure that we capture the most complete data possible,” Box said.
During the conference, Box also presented updated COVID-19 case numbers. This past week, there were 624 positive cases, 12 deaths and a seven-day COVID-19 test positivity rate of 4.7%.
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