Evansville-area counties remain yellow despite number of COVID cases increasing again

EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Coming on the heels of two weeks of reductions in new local COVID-19 cases, recent increases likely will trigger guessing games about the virus's course.

But in the short term, Vanderburgh, Warrick and Posey counties remained "yellow" — the second-lowest of four levels — in Wednesday's update of the state's color-coded COVID-19 severity map. Better yet, Gibson County transitioned from "orange," the second-highest level of severity, to yellow. The map, which is updated weekly, assigns each county a color based on data tracking cases and positivity rates.

The bad news is deeper inside the data. In most area counties and around the state, COVID-19 metrics are headed in the wrong direction once more.

Last week Vanderburgh County followed two weeks of falling COVID-19 case counts with a 36% increase. Warrick and Posey counties saw week-to-week increases of 69% and 28%, respectively, while Gibson County saw cases drop 35%.

More: Vanderburgh County COVID-19 vaccine tracker: 52% of people fully vaccinated

In the first three days of the current week, Vanderburgh County already has recorded 166 new COVID-19 cases, which puts it on pace to exceed last week's 282.

Statewide, the seven-day daily case average Wednesday topped 2,000 for the first time in nearly a month, according to the Indiana State Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard. The seven-day positivity rate average, which dipped as low as 7.3% at the end of October, is now at 8%.

More: COVID-19 vaccine for kids gets a push from Ascension St. Vincent Evansville

Forget about speculation that a fall and winter surge in coronavirus cases is coming, said statewide COVID-19 data analyst Micah Pollak. This just may be the cyclical nature of the virus asserting itself again.

"It's pretty consistent that you go from the start of one wave (of new cases) to the start of the next wave in roughly two to three months, so we're kind of due for it," said Pollak, an economics professor at Indiana University Northwest.

"It's just part of the natural cycle of how the virus works that we're just going to start seeing cases rise again."

The most recent surge of cases in August began quietly in Vanderburgh County on June 20, the day the county registered its first consistent increase in the average number of positive tests collected per day. It was almost exactly two months before Vanderburgh reached a surge peak of 1,302 new cases in the final week of August.

Pollak pointed to COVID-19 deaths and the speed at which cases rise as indicators.

By the time June 20 arrived, weekly case counts in Vanderburgh County had not increased for nearly a month. The week after June 20, the weekly count rose 264%, albeit with small totals — from 14 to 51. It continued growing until the end of August.

Vanderburgh County recorded no new deaths in the week leading up to June 20 and two in the week after. The county has reported no new COVID-19 deaths in the past week.

More: Deaconess Henderson's surge from F to A highlights local hospital grades from Leapfrog

Pollak accepts the premise of most health care experts that COVID-19 will never be eradicated but can be contained.

"I think we're going to see over time, smaller and smaller waves," he said.

Nearly 95,000 Vanderburgh County residents had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 vaccine as of Thursday morning, according to the Indiana Vaccination Dashboard. That constitutes nearly 53% of county residents.

One week after children ages 5 to 11 became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, state data records 15 kids in that age group in Vanderburgh County have received first doses. But that number is likely too low. Ten children — employees of Ascension St. Vincent Evansville — were vaccinated at the local hospital's Manor building on Friday alone, although not all of them live in Vanderburgh County.

Deaconess Health System also is among health care providers who offer the children's vaccine. Local residents also can use www.vaccines.gov to find providers offering COVID-19 pediatric vaccines.

COVID-19 vaccination appointments can be scheduled at any vaccine clinic at https://ourshot.in.gov. Individuals without a computer or cell phone can call 211 (866-211-9966). Walk-in appointments are accepted at most vaccination sites.

COVID-19 cases in Evansville-area counties

Overall tallies as of Thursday:

  • Vanderburgh County has reported 32,987 COVID-19 cases in all during the pandemic and 488 deaths.

  • Warrick County has reported 11,531 COVID-19 cases in all during the pandemic and 189 deaths.

  • Gibson County has reported 6,756 COVID-19 cases in all during the pandemic and 115 deaths.

  • Posey County has reported 3,865 COVID-19 cases in all during the pandemic and 44 deaths.

COVID-19 continues to strike unvaccinated individuals the hardest, as evidenced by data posted on Facebook by Deaconess Health System. The Deaconess data also illustrates the coronavirus's recent decline in this area.

Deaconess reported on Sept. 1 it had 179 COVID-positive hospitalized patients. The new number is 35 — 83% of whom are "not vaccinated." There are 11 infected patients in the ICU at Deaconess, the local health system reported. All but two are unvaccinated.

Eight coronavirus patients are on ventilators, Deaconess reported — seven of them unvaccinated.

The numbers include all Deaconess hospitals and The Women's Hospital.

Ascension St. Vincent Evansville hasn't regularly released patient vaccination data, but it has said anecdotally it knows the data would show the same trend.

Thomas B. Langhorne can be reached by email at tom.langhorne@courierpress.com.

This article originally appeared on Evansville Courier & Press: Evansville COVID cases on the rise, but area counties remain 'yellow'