FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Allen County is seeing more positive COVID-19 cases now than ever before, which the health commissioner predicts will soon cause some interruptions to the daily lives of Hoosiers.
“I would expect that we’re going to see some disruptions in schools and in workplaces as more and more people get infected and are in isolations and quarantines,” said Dr. Matthew Sutter, the Allen County Health Commissioner. “All of those are going to lead to kind of shortages in the workforce and likely in schools.”
Over the last seven days, Allen County has averaged 592 cases per day, shattering the record high. On Wednesday, the Allen County Health Department reported a staggering 1,244 new cases, nearly double the previous record high set last week.
According to the health commissioner, the previous peak was in the fall of 2020 when the county was seeing about 450 cases a day on average. He predicts that cases in the county will peak even higher within the next few weeks before dropping off.
Nationwide, new COVID-19 cases per day have more than tripled over the past two weeks, reaching an average of 480,000, also a record high.
The number of positive cases the county’s facing now are likely even higher than what’s reported to the health department for two reasons.
“Because many people choose not to get tested at all when they’re sick or have no symptoms are mild symptoms,” said Dr. Sutter. “Adding to that now is the fact that there are a large number of rapid tests taken at home. These are very useful, but they’re not reported to us.”
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For the tests to be reported, someone who tested positive for COVID-19 with an at-home test would need to go to an official testing site. Dr. Sutter said this helps the health department monitor trends, however there’s currently no way to enforce it. The amount of at-home tests that are purchased in the county are also not tracked.
Dr. Sutter attributes the current surge to two things: Holiday gatherings and the Omicron variant, which he said has the ability to evade the immune system in ways that other variants didn’t.
He also said this high case count translates to hospitals and emergency rooms seeing “lots” of patients, which are mostly people who are unvaccinated.
“When I talk to the hospitals this week, they were telling me that 90% or more of the people in the hospital are unvaccinated,” said Dr. Sutter. “If you look at the ICUs and people on ventilators, it’s even a higher percentage… in many ways, not being vaccinated is one of the biggest risk factors for people who are going to have severe illness.”
National hospital admissions averaged 14,800 per day last week, up 63% from the week before, but still short of the peak of 16,500 per day a year ago, when the vast majority of the U.S. was unvaccinated. Deaths have been stable over the past two weeks at an average of about 1,200 per day, well below the all-time high of 3,400 last January.
Statewide, Indiana is currently seeing 3,207 COVID patients hospitalized. The previous peak was 3,401 in November of 2020.
These numbers, taken together with the amount of positive cases, reflect the vaccine’s continued effectiveness at preventing serious illness, even against omicron, as well as the possibility that the variant does not make most people as sick as earlier versions.
“[The vaccine] protects you from severe COVID-19, from being in the hospital or from being on a ventilator,” said Dr. Sutter. “So, it doesn’t prevent you from being an auto accident, but it’s like a seatbelt. It protects you when you’re in the accident.”
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