INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The number of Indiana counties approaching high risk for community spread of COVID-19 has nearly quadrupled in a single week as an especially contagious coronavirus variant continues spreading. Friday afternoon State Health Commissioner Kris Box, M.D. and Chief Medical Officer Lindsay Weaver , M.D. confirmed that the delta variant is now the dominant strain of coronavirus in Indiana.
New evidence shows the delta variant is almost as contagious as chickenpox and measles, meaning infected persons can typically infect approximately eight others.
Indiana is seeing more than 900 cases per day and a 6.8% positivity rate this month, according to state health department data. Indiana was below 2,000 cases per week in June; however, in July, the state is seeing between 4,000 and 6,000 new cases per week. The demand for testing has been on the rise since the end of May.
Dr. Box stressed that anyone who comes in contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 should get tested, even those who have been fully vaccinated.
Statewide, hospitalizations are on the rise. COVID-19 deaths have not surged, but Box noted that deaths tend to lag behind hospitalization.
Box strongly recommended that everyone 2 and up wear masks based on revised recommendations from the CDC announced this week. She fully endorsed masks in schools but said the state wouldn’t mandate masks because it was “clear” that local leaders wanted more direct control over how their communities respond to the pandemic.
“I know many Hoosiers have different beliefs about masks, the vaccine and the pandemic as a whole. What I hope is we all share a personal responsibility to do no harm to others,” Box said.
“Until we increase our vaccination rates and unless we use every tool available to us to stop the spread of the disease, this virus will continue to have the advantage. It will continue to mutate, and we will constantly be playing whack-a-mole for the foreseeable future.”
On Friday, the Indiana State Department of Health reported 1,461 new CPVOD-19 cases bringing the total number of positive cases to 771,299. Another six people have died, bringing the death toll to 13,576.
An update posted Wednesday on the state’s coronavirus dashboard shows that as of Monday, 15 Indiana counties were in the orange category that’s Indiana’s second-riskiest rating for coronavirus spread.
Four counties had been in the orange category one week earlier.
Weaver said vaccine demand has fallen off after the initial enthusiasm. The state measures vaccine progress “one shot at a time,” though Weaver said progress has slowed down significantly. Last week, the state saw its highest first-dose vaccination rate since the end of May. Indiana saw the largest vaccination gains in the age groups of 12 to 15 and 16 to 19, Weaver said.
Weaver also discussed breakthrough cases, noting that no vaccine is 100% effective. Vaccinated individuals who get COVID-19 have milder infections and tend to avoid being hospitalized.
“Breakthrough infections are still very low and tend to be mild, but we’re finding they’re more likely with delta than other variants,” Weaver said.
Weaver asked those who were still hesitant about the vaccine to “research credible, science-based sources.” She also recommended they talk to those who had already received the shot.
Ninety-eight percent of COVID-19 cases are occurring in Hoosiers who are unvaccinated, Weaver said, while 96% of COVID-19 deaths involve unvaccinated individuals.
Tests conducted this month on a sample of Indiana’s coronavirus cases show that as of Thursday nearly 92% of those cases were the delta variant, a mutated coronavirus that spreads more easily than other versions.