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Analysis: Spike in Indiana COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations leads to pause on reopening

COVID-19 cases worldwide surpasses 9 million
Posted at 8:12 PM, Jul 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-01 20:12:37-04

INDIANAPOLIS – A spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases in Indiana led Gov. Eric Holcomb to delay the state’s move to its next phase of reopening.

But how did we get to that point?

An analysis of three key measurements – cases, deaths and hospitalizations – shows where Indiana started and where we are now.

Cases

After reaching its first “peak” of new cases in late April and early May – with a high of 946 new cases on April 26 – Indiana’s number of daily new cases have slowly decreased in the last month, with a low of 233 on June 7.

State leaders have attributed the drop in new cases to Hoosiers following the protocols put in place, such as wearing masks and social distancing.

A fluctuation in cases could come from an increase or decrease in tests. As Indiana tests more people, the cases will naturally increase – if the rate of infection remains the same. But if the number of cases decreases as the number of tests increases, fewer people are getting sick.

On the day Indiana had its highest number of new cases, April 26, it also had a 51% positive rate. That means 51% of all tests reported on April 26 were positive. In June, the positive rate remained less than 9% every day.

These positive numbers have given state officials the confidence to move forward with the reopening plan. But the number of cases – and the positive rate – have increased in the last few days, leading to Holcomb’s decision to pause reopening.

Deaths

The number of deaths in Indiana have followed a similar trend to the number of cases in the state.

The first reported COVID-19 death came on March 16. The number of deaths peaked five weeks later with 50 reported on April 22. But Indiana averaged 34 deaths per day in April, 29 in May and 13 in June.

But unlike the number of cases, the number of reported deaths in Indiana hasn’t spiked in recent days. The last few days of reported deaths are 9, 7, 7, 4 and 2.

Hospitalizations

Holcomb and other state health leaders have pointed to hospitalizations, ICU and ventilator capacity for the main signs that it’s time to reopen. On the state’s Back on Track plan, one of its four guiding principles for reopening is hospitalization.

“The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients statewide has decreased for 14 days,” the site states.

Indiana’s number of hospitalized patients hasn’t decreased for a 14-day period since officials started releasing the data, but there are currently less than half the patients from the peak.

The number of people hospitalized peaked in early May with 1,558, but a month later in late June, it was down to about 600, according to the COVID Tracking Project by The Atlantic.

Recently, the number of hospitalizations has ticked back up from the low a few days ago.

Indiana officials announced Wednesday they would pause the reopening plan until July 17 at least.

“While most of our health indicators remain positive, our data indicates a need to be extra cautious, which is why we will pause much of our Back on Track roadmap,” Holcomb said.