Health

Indiana’s escalation in COVID-19 cases continued Tuesday with more than 5,500 new cases.

It marked the seventh day in a row in Indiana in which the daily total exceeded 5,000. More than 80 new deaths were also reported.

Cases have increased on every metric since Gov. Eric Holcomb pushed the state into Stage 5 of reopening Sept. 26. Holcomb lifted nearly all coronavirus restrictions, allowing bars, restaurants, gyms and other indoor venues to operate at full capacity.

The seven-day moving average of daily cases has gone from 856 to nearly 6,200 in that time. Hospitalizations and average daily deaths have tripled. Last Friday, the state reached its all-time high of 8,307 new cases.

“The state’s seven-day rolling average has been the highest in the last seven days of any point in the pandemic,” said Floyd County Health Officer Dr. Tom Harris in a video released Tuesday. “We have certainly seen a marked increase in the number of cases here in Floyd County. Additionally, the case totals have doubled every week in Indiana for the last four weeks.”

After taking no action despite weeks of uncontrolled spread throughout Indiana, Holcomb announced last week the state would adopt a color-coded map system and reinstate some restrictions. All but five of the state’s 92 counties currently fall into the orange and red categories, which indicate high community spread.

Red counties, according to the new executive order that went into effect Sunday, must limit social gatherings to 25 people. Only parents and participants are permitted to attend indoor sporting and extra-curricular events for grades K-12. Orange counties can have gatherings of up to 50 people and 25% capacity at school events.

Events that will exceed the permitted limits must be approved by local health departments. Religious services are exempt from the limits in the executive order.

The map will be updated Wednesday, and Harris said Floyd County is “closing in” on the red category. Clark County Health Officer Dr. Eric Yazel said in a Facebook post Sunday that it’s likely his county will enter the red zone, too.

While the statewide order doesn’t apply percentage-based capacity limits to bars and restaurants, Harris released his own set of local restrictions Tuesday. Bars in Floyd County must close at 10 p.m. every night, and restaurants must decrease seating capacity to 75%. The order will remain in effect until Dec. 21.

COVID-19 cases in Floyd County, like the rest of Indiana, have increased since moving into Stage 5 about seven weeks ago. The 7-day moving average for daily cases has increased by 370% in that time. Hospitalizations in Indiana’s District 9 health zone, which includes Clark and Floyd counties, have doubled since Halloween.

Harris said positivity rates for people 18 and younger have nearly doubled in the first two weeks of November. That figure is up to 14.73%, up from October’s average of 8.09%,

To combat the local spread, New Albany Floyd County Schools (NAFCS) are shifting to e-learning. The school system has used a hybrid learning model since the start of the semester. Students will begin virtual classes Friday and continue through the end of the semester. Intensive intervention students are exempt from the switch and will still receive direct services.

Superintendent Brad Snyder said he’s proud that NAFCS has held more than 60 days of in-person classes, noting that many districts across the country have had none.

“But at the same time, in the last few weeks, there’s just no doubt that the increase with the virus’s presence has had an effect on us,” he said in a video released Tuesday. “We’ve had significant increasing numbers of positive cases with our students and our staff. More importantly, the number of quarantines that are required to mitigate that has impacted us dramatically.”

Community use of school facilities is also postponed until next year. High school sports will continue based on the statewide color-coded restrictions.

John Boyle covers southern Indiana communities and health for WFPL News. He is a Report for America Corps member.