INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana State Department of Health on Wednesday nearly doubled the number of counties designated as higher-risk locations for coronavirus spread.
Forty of Indiana’s 92 counties were placed in orange or red levels under the agency’s color-coded weekly tracking map update, while 22 counties were at those levels last week.
Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, who was scheduled to take part in a Wednesday afternoon briefing on the pandemic, decided three weeks ago to lift nearly all of Indiana’s restrictions while extending the mask mandate. Holcomb announced last week another month-long renewal of the mask order until at least Nov. 14, but tougher restrictions on businesses and crowd sizes were not reinstated despite continued increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations and rates of new infections.
Holcomb has defended his actions, urging residents to continue taking precautions and saying that the COVID-19 spread is being monitored daily.
The highest-risk counties are now scattered across the state, including hotspots in western Indiana, some rural counties in the eastern part of the state and those around Evansville in the southwestern corner.
Indiana’s remaining 52 counties received yellow or blue ratings based on the number of new cases per 100,000 residents and the percentage of tests confirming COVID-19 infections.
The 1,484 COVID-19 hospitalizations as of Tuesday put Indiana at its highest level since early May, the Health Department reported. Such hospitalizations have grown by more than 50 percent since Sept. 22 — the day before Holcomb announced the changes.
State officials added 15 more coronavirus deaths on Wednesday to raise the state’s death toll to 4,023, including confirmed and presumed coronavirus cases. That’s an increase of 187 deaths in the past week.