La PORTE — COVID-19 cases are back on the rise, with La Porte County downgraded into the yellow level on the state’s virus spread risk map this week.
“Probably one of the worst things is, we’re going up again. We’ve been in blue for a number of weeks, we’re now going back up to yellow,” La Porte County Health Officer Sandra Deausy said at Tuesday’s quarterly meeting of the La Porte County Board of Health.
Statewide, there are now 30 counties listed in the blue category, including Porter, Lake, St. Joseph, Starke and Marshall; 15 in the orange, including Newton; and 47 in yellow.
“Unfortunately, our vaccines have really plateaued, down about 9,000 doses a day. That’s not enough to get everybody done,” Deausy said.
There are 2.9 million Hoosiers that are fully vaccinated at this time. People under age 35 are the least vaccinated and are the ones with the highest number of new infections. Individuals ages 70-74 are the most vaccinated.
“All over the United States, and La Porte County and La Porte, we are trending up with our numbers,” Deausy said.
“This is turning into a pandemic of the unvaccinated. Yes, there are some breakthrough cases, but 98 percent of the Indiana cases are unvaccinated.”
The Indiana State Department of Health map shows the county with 50 new cases per day per 100,000 residents, and a 7-day all-test positivity rate of 5.09 percent. There were 12 new cases reported Wednesday.
There have also been 56 reports of breakthrough cases of COVID-19 in La Porte County, Deausy said.
“If you’re fully vaccinated, the odds of ending up in the hospital are one in 19,000. If you’re not fully vaccinated, the chance of ending up in the hospital is one in 235. That’s a huge difference,” she said.
La Porte County Health Administrator Amanda Lahners said the county is currently at 51.6 percent vaccinated, ahead of the state rate of 50 percent.
“We are a little bit ahead but not much. We still definitely need to increase that vaccination number. There’s plenty of vaccine – that’s not a problem. The problem is getting people in to get those shots done,” Lahners said.
Vaccinations are still available throughout La Porte County, including at the health department clinic in the old La Porte Hospital at 1007 Lincoln Way.
Lahners said in the second quarter, both testing and vaccinations have dropped.
In April the county’s testing site performed 731 tests. In May the number dropped to 491. By June they administered 151 tests.
With vaccinations, in April they had a high of 514 for one day’s vaccinations. By the end of June, they had 20 vaccinations in a day.
“On the second quarter, it was like a roller coaster when it came to COVID. Our numbers just dropped. It brought the county back down into the blue,” Lahners said.
And 83 percent of the cases now being seen are the more contagious Delta variant, Deausy said.
“In our area, it’s primarily Delta, although more [overall] cases have been Alpha because it was around longer.”
According to La Porte County nursing supervisor Jennifer Smith’s second quarter report, 128 variant COVID-19 cases were reported though June.
There have been 103 cases of the B.1.1.7 Alpha variant, 20 cases of the P.1 Gamma variant, two cases of the B.1.351 Beta variant, and three cases of the B.1.427 Epsilon variant reported.
A question that keeps coming up, Deausy said, is whether there will be a booster for the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The answer is nobody knows yet. They are looking at them. They are trying to figure out if they can do it, would it have to be an exact same type of vaccine … those answers just are not available at this time,” she said.
Mask mandates are also being discussed.
“Obviously there’s a lot of recommendations in terms of who should wear a mask, who does not need to; and probably in places where the very poor vaccination rates are, probably everybody should be wearing them,” Deausy said.
“But there are not mandates suggesting this right now.”
She said some employers are requiring proof of vaccination and will fire employees who are not vaccinated.
“That’s happening in some of the hospital systems in Indiana,” Deausy said.
Regarding children returning to school, masks and other guidelines remain a question.
“There are very strict CDC guidelines. Some school districts are saying we’re going to make our own (guidelines) and I honestly don’t know where that’s going to go yet,” she said.
In other matters, the county has its eye on two other diseases – West Nile virus and chickenpox.
West Nile, said Deausy, has been reported in Indiana, but not in La Porte County.
“Down in the southern counties they’re starting to see some West Nile. That’s something obviously that’s going to be watched,” she said.
There are also increased pockets of chickenpox cases.
“The assumption is maybe some people are skipping their immunizations because of COVID ... just because people are not getting any of their vaccinations. That’s something that the state’s watching very carefully,” she said.