Marion County restrictions possible as COVID-19 positivity rate continues to rise

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INDIANAPOLIS — As Indiana’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to hit record levels, new restrictions in the state’s largest county could be on the way.

Last week, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and Marion County Public Health Director Dr. Virginia Caine said that they would consider taking action if the county’s positivity rate hit 10 percent. At the time, Caine reported the rate around seven percent.

State data released Friday shows the county’s seven-day average positivity rate at 9.3%. That number rises to 13.7% when you take out people with multiple tests, plus it only accounts for testing through October 30 and preliminary data since Halloween suggests a positivity rate for the county could be headed toward as high as 20 percent.

“The trend is pretty clearly in the upward direction,” said Dr. Peter Embi, President and CEO of the Regenstrief Institute, which compiles and analyzes COVID-19 data in partnership with the state.

Embi said he was very concerned about the numbers, which continue to rise in conjunction with hospitalization and death rates.

“I would say we’re not at a crisis yet, but we are heading in that direction and we don’t want to wait until we get there to be concerned. We should be concerned now and we should be taking precautions now,” Embi said.

A spokesperson with the Mayor’s Office told FOX59 that Dr. Caine met with other county health officials Thursday and an update should happen next week.

In the meantime, IU Health’s Nursing Director of Infection Prevention, Kristen Kelley, said Hoosiers should be limiting their contact with people outside their household, including extended friends and family, especially when it comes to gathering indoors.

“I know it’s hard for us to say no to the things we love doing. It makes us sad. We don’t really want to do that, but I think a way of thinking about this is [that] as we really band together collectively … [and] pare down on some of those activities, slow the pace of this virus spreading, we can all really make it forward to a brighter day when we can do these activities again,” Kelley said.

Embi agreed, saying that the rising positivity rate is the best indication of how fast the virus is spreading and that the numbers cannot simply be attributed to greater testing.

“Our hospitalization rates are starting to get closer to where they were back at the worst parts of March,” Embi said. “It really should be an alarm bell for all of us to say, ‘Okay, it’s time to take this very seriously and really try to slow this down for the sake of all our fellow citizens and residents of the state,’ because otherwise we’re going to end up with a lot more sick people and a lot more people in the hospital.”

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