Things aren’t going well. There’s no other way to put it that doesn’t involve a blur of obscenities.

Deaths are increasing at a nauseating rate. Cases have climbed. And based on criteria put forth by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, Vanderburgh County is now a COVID-19 hotspot.

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As of Wednesday, our positivity rate for those tested for coronavirus stood at 6.7 percent – well above Redfield’s 5-percent threshold for a hotspot. And our seven-day average for positivity rates, considered a better barometer of the virus’ spread, languished at a nightmarish 10.2 percent.

According to Redfield, any community with those kinds of numbers shouldn’t even think about opening schools for in-person instruction.

During a video podcast on Tuesday, Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. Superintendent David Smith said the seven-day figure “needs to be much lower than it is right now.” But EVSC spokesman Jason Woebkenberg repeatedly dodged questions from the C&P over whether the number would affect the district’s decision to restart classes on Aug. 19.

That brings us to the question that’s gnawed at our guts for five months now: when are things going to get better?

We could – possibly, maybe – have some idea in the coming days and weeks.

Starting July 15, Mayor Lloyd Winnecke required city residents to wear face coverings in most public places. A supremely delayed statewide mandate from Gov. Eric Holcomb superseded that on July 27.

According to Payal Patel-Dovlatabadi, an infectious disease expert and associate professor of public health at the University of Evansville, that means we could soon start seeing if the mask mandates worked as intended and slowed down the virus.

It should take around two-to-three weeks from the start of a mandate to see if the numbers are going to change, she said. But like everything else associated with COVID-19, that comes with a giant caveat.

“This is assuming mostly everyone is abiding by the mandate,” she said.

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So the real answer? Mask orders turn things around about two-to-three weeks after people start taking them seriously.

And man, who knows when that will be?

A small but adamant slice of the population doesn’t believe face coverings help at all. And others simply forget to slap one on sometimes, or just assume they don’t need them during private gatherings.

Aside from store employees, I rarely saw anyone wearing a mask in the days after Winnecke’s initial order. Since Walmart, Schnucks, Target and others have issued their own mandates, compliance has seemed to increase.

Then there are problems with the coronavirus numbers themselves.

Because of how hard it is to track the virus, state reports never accurately depict what’s happening on the ground. Even that seven-day average – which is supposed to give a real-time picture of how COVID-19 is cutting through the community – comes from July 22-28: decades in coronavirus-time.

Plus, Vanderburgh County abruptly stopped reporting COVID data last week, handing the job to already overworked state agencies.

All that could make things even harder for local schools and universities as they barrel toward their start dates. And it will leave the general public marinating in uncertainty.

Answers may come soon. As far as when that will be, and whether they’ll be complete, is tough to say.
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