State Health officials believe parties and gatherings leading to rise in COVID-19 cases

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INDIANAPOLIS — State health officials are warning Hoosiers that parties and gatherings may be leading to spikes in coronavirus cases.

“We have seen all these metrics increase significantly a couple of weeks after July 4, when many people gathered and didn’t practice social distancing,” explains State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box.

Indiana hit a low of 595 people hospitalized for COVID-19 at the end of June, but as of August 10, that number was back up to 964. Dr. Box says the State Health Department has been able to trace an alarming number of those cases back to graduation parties, weddings, or holiday celebrations.

“I’m not surprised by that at all,” remarks Thomas Duszynski, director of epidemiology at Indiana University’s Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, “Anytime we have a gathering of people that aren’t physically distancing, aren’t wearing masks, this disease is still out there, and transmission can happen easily.”

Duszynski says the demographic for positive cases has shifted since the pandemic began. At the onset, doctors were seeing patients in the 30 to 60-year-old range. Duszynski adding that those figures would make sense since that represented the essential worker age range at the time.

“Since mid-June into July, that shifted from the 0 to 19-year-olds to the 20 to 29-year-olds, which tells us the younger populations are out and about. They may not be wearing a mask, may not be maintaining a physical distance,” explains Duszynski.

The State Health Department now fears the Labor Day weekend could be the next spike if people do not take their warnings seriously when it comes to masks and distancing.

“This is our story right now, and if we want to change the narrative, we all have to do our part,” Dr. Kristina Box says.

Experts with IU’s Medical School suggest people socially distance themselves at family gatherings along with wearing a mask. While it may seem safe to be around family, Duszynski says their studies at the university show that roughly 40% of positive cases may be asymptomatic.

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