INDIANAPOLIS — On the first day of summer, June 21, the state of Indiana hit a daily low for the month reporting only 3.8% of people tested came back positive for COVID-19.
Marion County had a good day, too, with a 5.8% daily positive return rate.
But whether it was the reopening of the economy and the bars, restaurants and retailers of Indiana getting back to work or the thousands of people who filled the streets in protest over social injustice, the numbers of Hoosiers testing positive for the coronavirus have rocketed in the past few weeks prompting Governor Holcomb’s statewide face mask order to go into effect Monday.
From June 20-26, there was a seven day daily positive test result average of 4.5% across Indiana, 3.8% in Marion County.
A month later, with more tests than ever being conducted, the seven day state daily positive test result average is 11.5% compared to 9.2% in Marion County.
“I think the data you just laid out is worrisome,” said Dr. Nir Menachemi of the IU Fairbanks School of Public Health when I read him the latest statistics from the Indiana State Department of Health. “Given the case positivity rate and the increase in hospitalizations and changes in the death rates, the number of people who are dying, taken together, it certainly indicates that we have some thinking to do about how to move forward.”
The governor’s face mask order goes into effect just a couple days after Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and Marion County Public Health Director Dr. Virginia Caine announced they were restricting public gatherings and reducing crowd sizes in restaurants, fitness centers and museums to mitigate a comeback of virus infections.
Holcomb’s face mask order was amended on Friday to eliminate a possible criminal penalty for non-compliance after Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill challenged his right to create a new law without calling the General Assembly into session. Local police chiefs had also said they had no intention of enforcing the order.
Even though ISDH reported 860 new cases in Indiana Sunday, and 151 in Marion County, Dr. Menachemi said it would be misleading to focus on the raw numbers since the extent of the pandemic’s spread through Indiana may be tenfold what the current data shows.
“Confirmed cases represents only the tip of the iceberg, so you’re missing a lot of people who are also infected,” he said. “Infections are the ones that occur out there in the community and cases are the ones that test positive.”
ISDH reports that 2706 Hoosiers have succumbed to the coronavirus since March.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation expects that number to grow to 3382 by November 1.