Coronavirus Southern Indiana

After a spike in COVID-19 infections this summer, cases in Southern Indiana have significantly dropped in recent weeks.

Health officials reported 407 cases in Clark and Floyd counties over the last seven days. That’s about half the total announced three weeks ago, and the lowest weekly total in two months.

Clark County Health Officer Dr. Eric Yazel said he expects the surge in cases to continue to ease in the coming weeks.

“I think we’re maybe looking at another six-week or hopefully eight-week period of a little more normalcy, kind of like we did last spring,” Yazel said. “As delta’s moved through, we’ve got the booster shot coming, we’re seeing some increased vaccine uptake.”

The decrease in local cases mirrors a statewide downward trend. Weekly COVID-19 cases in Indiana have decreased for six weeks in a row.

State health officials reported 15,488 new COVID-19 cases between Oct. 4 and Oct. 10. In late August and early September, weekly totals were closer to 30,000.

Yazel said he still has concerns about upcoming holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas. But the uptick might not be as extreme as last winter, when COVID-19 figures reached some of their highest levels.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see a little upswing after those [holidays],” Yazel said. “Hopefully, the difference this year versus last year is we were already trending up going into those holidays, and we kind of got a stair-step effect from them. This year, if we can keep our community spread relatively low, then hopefully we won’t see as much of a bump.”

Despite improvements in COVID-19 case numbers, hospitals are still facing capacity issues in Indiana’s Public Health Preparedness District 9, which includes Clark and Floyd counties. Over the last month, ICU bed availability dipped lower than 5%.

That number is now closer to 17%, which is still lower than the state’s 24.2%. Yazel said he hopes a steady decrease in hospitalizations will follow the drop in COVID-19 cases.

“We’re still very full in the hospital setting,” Yazel said. “One thing that’s been a problem in our system for a long time is hospitals are running it at virtually 100% capacity at all times. … And it’s backed up the whole system at almost every level. That’s still going on right now, though we’re starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel and a little bit of improvement.”

The moving average for new daily COVID-19 cases in Clark and Floyd counties has been cut in half over the last month, down to 58. Indiana’s statewide moving average for daily COVID-19 cases exceeded 4,000 in early September but is now down to 2,196.

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