Red COVID-19 restrictions remain in place

Local health officials expect Jackson County to move back down to the orange advisory level today due to improving numbers of COVID-19 cases, but that doesn’t mean things are going to change any time soon.

Despite the decrease in hospitalizations over the past month, the county will maintain red level restrictions through January, said Dr. Christopher Bunce, public health officer for the Jackson County Health Department.

That means social gatherings of any kind, indoor or outdoor, are still limited to 25 people. In orange, that number increases to 50 people.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the county had a 14.5% seven-day positivity rate, Bunce said during Schneck Medical Center’s weekly community COVID update. That represents a 0.1% decrease from Monday.

The current positivity rate for Jackson County is for Dec. 23 to 29.

It’s too early to tell if the Christmas and New Year’s holidays will lead to a surge in positive cases similar to what happened after Thanksgiving, Bunce said.

“Our rates are fairly steady right now, but this could go up,” he said. “Regardless of our color, we definitely want to maintain, be proactive and continue to do what’s helping us, which is to maintain this current level of restriction for crowds.”

Bunce said the health department should receive a shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of this week and will start administering doses next week.

The health department doesn’t have any control of how much vaccine will be available or who will get it, he added.

“The state department of health is completely in control of our allotments, which will be small, and our priority groups, which will probably start with the remainder of whatever health care workers and first responders are left who haven’t been vaccinated,” he said.

Bunce hopes the next priority group is people 75 and older.

Dr. Eric Fish, president and chief executive officer of Schneck, said the Seymour hospital is maintaining a steady rate of COVID patients.

“We’re hovering somewhere around nine to 11 patients over the last week, which has been markedly down from about a month ago, so that has been good,” he said.

Fish said the hospital continues to see success using a monoclonal antibody therapy to treat certain COVID patients.

“We’ve had that since about the first week in December, and we’ve treated numbers of patients and have seen great results with that,” Fish said.

The treatments, which are mainly for those 65 and older, 55 and older with co-morbidities or younger than 55 who have suppressed or compromised immune systems, have helped reduce hospitalization times, he added.

“I think we’ve had just a couple that have stayed a day or so,” he said.

The state announced Tuesday that 3,864 Jackson County residents have tested positive for COVID-19 since March, an increase of 19 from Monday’s total.

One new death attributed to COVID-19 was reported Tuesday, meaning the death toll in Jackson County stands at 44. Indiana’s total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 is 8,292 with 142 new deaths being reported Tuesday.

There have been 35,503 COVID tests administered to 15,474 individuals in Jackson County since March 18, an increase of 175 from Monday’s total.

The latest results were as of 11:59 p.m. Monday. The Indiana State Department of Health’s coronavirus dashboard is updated at noon daily.

On Tuesday, 3,477 additional Hoosiers were diagnosed with COVID-19 through testing at the ISDH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and private laboratories.

This brings to 533,083 the total number of Hoosiers known to have had the novel coronavirus following corrections to the previous day’s total.

For the state, a total of 5,845,344 tests have been administered, an increase of 31,444 from Monday’s total.