INDIANAPOLIS — As Indiana announced yet another record-shattering number of new COVID-19 cases on Friday, public health officials are also tracking other coronavirus data that they consider to be troubling.
“Anytime the case rate increases, I think that is cause for concern,” said Shaun Grannis, vice president for data and analytics at the Regenstrief Institute, which collects and analyzes detailed COVID-19 data from across the state.
The research institute updates its coronavirus data on an online portal daily and offers a two-week summary of trends for the state and all 92 Indiana counties.
The most current trends are not promising.
Over the summer, the vast majority of counties in Indiana were showing decreased cases of COVID-19. Counties with decreasing cases are highlighted in green on a statewide map.
Now, nearly all counties in the state are marked either in red, showing a 2-week of trend of increased COVID-19 cases, or they are marked with a red asterisk which signifies early warning signs of increased COVID-19 activity.
Heading into this weekend, only eight of Indiana's 92 counties show a decreased number of cases without early warning signs of a future COVID spike, according to Regenstrief’s data.
“The fact that cases are going up in the fall is not surprising,” Grannis told 13News. “As it gets colder, people tend to congregate indoors more, and so that distancing tends to be challenged. And so I think we need to be even more vigilant about how we think about mitigating the spread here. We have to be able to maintain that distancing.”
It's not just the number of positive cases that's climbing across Indiana.
Regenstrief says the number of emergency room visits and hospital admissions are also increasing statewide – a troubling trend for health care professionals who worry a fall COVID-19 surge will overwhelm emergency rooms.
Public health officials are also closely tracking the COVID-19 positivity rate (the percentage of total COVID-19 tests that result in a positive diagnosis).
In places like Marion County, there is some good news: While the number of total new cases has sharply increased, the positivity rate has remained relatively steady near 5 percent. In other places like Fountain County, both the number of new cases and the positivity rate are skyrocketing, according to Regenstrief data.
“For those counties where we see increasing cases and increasing positivity, that tells us we need to be watching those counties a bit more closely,” Grannis explained.
The data, which comes from hundreds of health care providers, medical centers, testing labs and health departments across Indiana, is meant to help identify hotspots and to guide future policy decisions.
Right now, much of Indiana is considered a COVID-19 hotspot based on the most recent data.
So far, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has resisted calls to walk back the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan despite weeks of steadily increasing numbers. The question is: what comes next?
“What I think this tells me is we need to remind ourselves we are still in a pandemic,” Grannis said. “I would treat this as a call to action on all Hoosiers’ part that we need to become very vigilant.”
State health officials insist that social distancing, wearing masks while in public places, staying home if you feel sick and frequent hand washing are the most effective ways to prevent the spread of the virus.
You can access the Regenstrief COVID-19 data and its trends section here.