Coronavirus Southern Indiana

A Southern Indiana health official is reporting a marked increase in the COVID-19 positivity rate – specifically among younger adults – as the omicron variant surges locally and nationally. 

In its Tuesday update, the Indiana Department of Health reported around a 16% positivity rate for all tests over a seven-day period in Floyd County, with 54 new cases.

But in Floyd County’s internal analyses, which track all tests performed at Baptist Health Floyd in New Albany and at the county health department, the rate was higher than 28%. 

Floyd County Health Officer Dr. Tom Harris said that is nearly double the 16.7% rate of a week ago. 

He also confirmed Floyd County remained “orange” on the state map that tracks COVID spread, and it could bump up to red, the most severe  

“We’re seeing a dramatic increase in cases and whether it will still be orange next week is very uncertain at this time,” he said. 

Harris calls the spike “one of the most rapid increases in cases we’ve ever had,” and said it’s primarily affecting those 20 to 39, one of the least vaccinated demographics.

“The bloom in cases has been in the 20 to 40 age group so this current wave is striking a younger population. And it comes back to the fact that the people over 65 are vaccinated and if they do get sick it is a fairly minor illness.”

The Indiana Department of Health shows that the younger adult age group makes up only about a quarter of vaccinations and accounts for more than a third of all COVID-19 positive cases since the start of the pandemic. 

He said those with serious illness are still mostly unvaccinated people, especially those with comorbidities. 

But there have been some breakthrough cases in older vaccinated adults, and fatal cases in younger, unvaccinated residents. 

“I think the real question is just how many people get sick,” he said. “The secondary question is how much of a disruption is this just to society in general? Are we going to have food shortages or gasoline shortages because we don’t have enough people to move the product to the consumer?”

Harris said local health officials haven’t yet seen the current surge hit schools, which he attributes to mask usage. The New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corporation requires masks when Floyd County is at the orange level or above. 

About 17% of kids 5 to 11 statewide are fully vaccinated. 

“But as the level of disease increases, we expect to start seeing more school age cases as well,” Harris said.

Information about COVID-19 testing and vaccinations in Indiana can be found at https://www.coronavirus.in.gov/

Aprile Rickert is WFPL's health reporter.