INDIANAPOLIS (WANE) — State health officials pleaded with Hoosiers to wear masks and get vaccinated to mitigate the surging COVID-19 virus.

During a statewide briefing Friday, State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said it was the “darkest time of the pandemic. Chief Medical Officer Lindsay Weaver said it was “incredibly heartbreaking” to see the unvaccinated become sick and die.

Both appeared visibly exasperated at times during the briefing. Dr. Box said she was not sure what else the state could do to slow – much less stop – the spread of the virus.

“We can show the data – how this is affecting Hoosiers – and people feel very strongly that this is a personal thing that they want to have control over, and I understand that,” said Box. “I think this is a time where lives have felt very out of control for a lot of people across our state, and so the ability to have control over what they thing is most important to them is something that is very difficult for them to give up, and I respect the fact that they have the right to make that decision for themselves and for their family.

“I do not understand how wearing a mask is so difficult for people to try to prevent transmitting this virus.”

Friday’s press conference came as Indiana reports its highest daily COVID-19 case counts since January. The state department of health reported over 5,000 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday and Thursday, and more than 4,800 more on Friday. The last time the state reported over 5,000 new cases on back-to-back days was on Jan. 8 and 9. Across the state, the 7-day positivity rate is at 10.8%, which is the highest since Jan. 14.

Deaths linked to COVID-19 are also on the rise, but not at the same rate compared to late Fall 2020 and early Winter 2021. Currently, the 7-day average deaths are at 15, the highest since early March.

The rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths comes at a time when just more than half of eligible Hoosiers are fully vaccinated.