Health

Spikes in confirmed coronavirus cases similar to those seen recently in Kentucky are also occurring across the Ohio River in Indiana.

The state has reported a total of 57,206 cases. More than 2,400 new cases have been identified over the past three days, including 916 on Sunday – the second-highest daily total seen during the pandemic.

The seven-day moving average is now up to 742, which is nearly double the average of 391 seen at the beginning of the month.

Clark County Health Officer Eric Yazel says a number of factors could make the recent situation more of a concern for local health departments.

“The timing of this uptick in activity really is problematic,” Yazel said. “If it was in earlier June, it’d be a lot easier to manage. But now you’ve got businesses starting to reopen, schools going to start back up, some of the extended care facilities have loosened some of their visitation guidelines.”

Greater Clark County Schools and New Albany-Floyd County Schools – two of the largest school corporations in Southern Indiana – are set to open back up on July 29. Unofficial school proms that have seen hundreds of young people throughout the region celebrate without masks could also play a role in the activity, Yazel said.

Yazel said the state-sponsored Optum site in Clarksville, which is one of the busiest in the state, has been completely booked over the past week. If that pace continues, the county may follow Jefferson County, Kentucky by limiting testing to those who are showing symptoms.

“To be honest, I thought some of that might be a phenomenon of some of the prom exposures and the back-to-school things, and that still may be it,” Yazel said. “But if it continues to where the average citizen who’s symptomatic has trouble getting in to get tested, then we may have to back down from everybody getting tested anytime they want to, [and] encouraging more just symptomatic people getting tested.”

Daily totals in both Clark and Floyd counties have been on a steady incline throughout July. Clark County has seen 161 new cases so far this month, and Floyd County has reported 129. Neither county has reported any new deaths in that time.

Though Clark County has yet to implement a mask mandate, Yazel isn’t ruling out the possibility if the case load worsens. Though the New Albany City Council passed a resolution recommending the use of masks last week, Floyd County doesn’t have an enforceable mandate, either.

As COVID-19 surges continue to be seen across the country, Yazel said his team is moving forward with the assumption that Southern Indiana could also see a rise in diagnoses.

“There’s nothing magical we’re doing here locally that Florida, Texas and those other places aren’t,” he said. “We have to reasonably assume that that kind of level might well be heading our way. And that’s especially sobering considering that schools are getting ready to start and things like that. So we’re progressing as if that’s a real threat and kind of holding in place on some of our recommendations, starting to kind of ramp up our [public outreach] again on mask compliance, and even considering more aggressive measures, too.”

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