What you should know about COVID-19 this week

Johnson County is in “yellow” with an “orange” advisory level. What does that mean?

The county this week moved to “yellow,” based on COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents. The county had already reached the “yellow” threshold based on the 7-day positivity rate which, on Wednesday, was 4.7%.

But the county remains in the “orange” advisory level, which is used to determine gathering limits in counties.

In “orange,” the capacity is 50 people or 25% of a venue’s capacity.

Once the county moves to “yellow” officially, gatherings may increase to 100 people or 50% of a venue’s capacity, guidelines say.

This week across the state, there are 11 “blue” counties, 73 “yellow” counties and eight “orange” counties. No counties are in “red.”

The statewide 7-day positivity rate on Wednesday was 4.7%.

Cases are lower than they have been since September. Can I let my guard down? 

On Sunday, then again on Monday, newly reported COVID-19 cases throughout the state dropped below 1,000 for the first time since September.

On both days, there were fewer than 900 newly reported cases, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

On Wednesday, newly reported cases ticked up slightly to 933.

In Johnson County, a high of 37 new cases were reported Feb. 11, and a low of 17 were reported Tuesday, state data shows.

Factors playing into the lower case counts include more vaccines in the arms of the most vulnerable and the most at-risk for exposure, as well as being nearly two months out from the holidays, local health officials say.

At Johnson Memorial Hospital, two COVID-19 patients are hospitalized with severe cases of the virus, said Dr. David Dunkle, the hospital’s president and CEO. In the last seven days, there were one to three COVID-19 patients at a time, he said.

The hospital still has not had any admissions for seasonal influenza. Dunkle attributes this year’s lack of flu cases to mask-wearing and increased handwashing, as COVID-19 prevention measures protect against the transmission of any virus, he said.

Like always, local and state health officials say folks should continue to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines. Though it is tempting to go “back to normal,” caution is recommended.

How is the vaccine rollout going?

This week, more than 80 vaccine clinics, including the county’s main clinic at Johnson Memorial, closed due to the winter storm that blanketed the state with nearly a foot of snow.

Some appointments were rescheduled, if there were times available. The state health department asked that second-dose appointments be made within 42 days of an initial shot.

Locally, between 400 and 600 vaccine appointments were canceled.

Across the state, about 43,000 vaccine appointments had to be rescheduled, said Dr. Lindsay Weaver, state medical examiner, during the state’s weekly news conference Wednesday.

The storm also delayed new doses of the Moderna vaccine, which may cause more appointment cancellations, Weaver said.

The Johnson County Health Department asked to extend its hours, but those additional appointment times are not yet available, said Betsy Swearingen, director. Once that happens, the clinic will be open 8 a.m. to 5:50 p.m. on weekdays, and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.

Data released Wednesday shows 12.5% of Johnson County residents have been vaccinated, and 12.4% of state residents have been vaccinated.

In terms of raw numbers, 19,900 county residents, and 834,400 state residents have received at least the first shot.

When will I be up for the vaccine?

Vaccine eligibility remains the same, with only Hoosiers 65 and older, first responders and health care workers qualifying.

State officials are evaluating the appropriateness of opening up eligibility to Hoosiers age 60 to 64, depending on the need for second doses and vaccine availability, Weaver said.

The next group will be Hoosiers who have five specific health conditions, including individuals with Down syndrome, active dialysis patients, post-solid organ transplant recipients, sickle cell disease patients, cancer patients and Hoosiers who have received cancer treatment within the last three months. Then, Hoosiers in their 50s would be up.

To date, about 60% of the eligible populations have been vaccinated or are registered for an appointment including: 57% of Hoosiers 80 and older, 65% of Hoosiers 70 to 79, 56% of Hoosiers 65 to 69 and 68% of health care workers and first responders, state data shows.