INDIANAPOLIS – As most of the state is set to enter Stage 3 of Gov. Eric Holcomb's Back on Track plan for reopening the economy Sunday, new data from the Polis Center at IUPUI shows a slowing rate of COVID-19 deaths.
“The deaths and the cases are dropping across the state of Indiana and in Allen County. That can be attributed to the normal patterns you expect in an epidemic where multiple waves occur,” said Tammy Toscos, director of Health Services and Informatics Research at Parkview Health.
“I think everybody should be cautiously hopeful right now. Social distancing does help and if we do see cases on the rise again, we know that the actions we took in the past can help again.”
As of Tuesday, an additional 481 positive cases were confirmed for a statewide total of 28,705. There have now been 1,678 deaths – up 57 from the day before.
In Allen County, there are now 1,044 cases and 65 deaths.
While cases and deaths continue to go up as more testing comes online, the rate is slowing.
The Polis Center is an applied research unit at IUPUI committed to linking university and community knowledge. The center created graphs showing a seven-day rolling average of cases and deaths for the state and Allen County at the request of The Journal Gazette.
Marianne Cardwell – GIS Projects Coordinator for Polis – said even as cases are going up deaths are dropping. She attributed that to an increase in testing and opening up guidelines for that testing. In the beginning only the sickest people could get tests and now anyone who is symptomatic and many who aren't can.
She said using a rolling average helps even out the data, which can be impacted by less reporting on weekends or delays in testing results. Even deaths sometimes are reported weeks later.
Some Hoosiers are worried the state is opening up too fast. Starting Sunday – unless Holcomb rolls back the plan – social gathering limits will rise to 100; gyms and fitness centers can open with limited capacity; playgrounds, sports fields and courts and community pools may open; movie theaters can start back up at half capacity; retail stores and restaurants can start adding capacity.
Cardwell said the state needs to keep watching the statistics to see if they change under the staggered opening.
“If we keep everything locked down there will be consequences from other things – food pantries are running out of food, increased risk of domestic violence, more suicides,” she said. “There are lots of consequences to a lockdown – we have to find the right balance.”
Toscos said the data clearly shows Allen County running about a week behind the initial wave in central Indiana.
She thinks a large spike in late April is related to an increase and deaths as well as a reporting change.
She also said in general Allen County and surrounding areas benefited from having more time under social distancing and stay-at-home orders than the central part of the state where the outbreaks started.
Jessica Pater, manager and research scientist at Parkview Health, said this is a marathon – not a sprint.
She noted that the Spanish flu epidemic had four or five waves that went on for about a year.
“We are seeing a positive leveling off, but it's important as we start the phase three opening that we wear masks, be cautious with limiting interactions with people and try to keep those numbers down,” Pater said.
The Polis Center also operates an Indiana Coronavirus Data Hub at https://polis.iupui.edu/savi-indiana-coronavirus-data-hub/.