The new positivity rate map can be found on the state’s COVID-19 dashboard at coronavirus.in.gov. The color-coded map displays seven-day averages for positivity rates, allowing people to see where cases may be popping up more often as tests are completed. Indiana State Department of Health images
The new positivity rate map can be found on the state’s COVID-19 dashboard at coronavirus.in.gov. The color-coded map displays seven-day averages for positivity rates, allowing people to see where cases may be popping up more often as tests are completed. Indiana State Department of Health images
INDIANAPOLIS — How often is COVID-19 showing up in people tested in your community?

The Indiana State Department of Health has now made it easier to find out.

Positivity rates — the percentage of tests conducted that come back positive — are one of Indiana’s four main factors being considered in its reopening and a metric that gives a clue as to whether the virus is more or less prevalent.

As the raw numbers of new cases can be affected by the number of tests done, positivity rates can help determine how serious that raw number is. For example, finding 500 cases of COVID-19 on 5,000 tests, 10% positivity, has a different weight than finding 500 cases in 20,000 tests, 2.5%.

One of the best methods to see whether COVID-19 may be picking up steam in your community is to look at both case counts and positivity rates. If both metrics are increasing at the same time, it’s likely the sign of a new outbreak of cases.

If cases are going up by positivity is not, that typically signals that more tests are simply being done and, while they are identifying more cases than before, a lower percentage of those being tested are found to be infected.

Throughout July, rising positivity rates were one of the factors as to why Indiana chose to slow and then later pause its reopening plan.

The state’s COVID-19 dashboard at coronavirus.in.gov has recently been updated to include another tab for “Positivity,” which will display both a color-coded map and historical data about local rates for the state as a whole, health districts or even single counties if users click to select one.

The new map displays seven-day moving averages for positivity, so users can see what the rates have been over the last week, as well as quickly identify whether new areas are showing increased or decreased positivity.

One major drawback of the map, however, is that positivity rates for smaller counties that run fewer tests may potentially have much higher positivity rates displayed.

As a whole, Indiana’s most recent positivity average is 7.3%, which is down slightly from a high of recent high of 7.9% in mid-July, but still significantly higher than the historical low point of 4.7% on June 19.

Ideally, Indiana wants to see positivity rates under 5%, Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said in a previous statewide press conference. As of Tuesday, only about two dozen of Indiana’s 92 counties were at or below 5% positivity.

Locally in the four-county area, two counties are currently in the 5-10% range, while two more are in the 10-15% group.

Steuben County currently boasts the lowest rate at 6.5% positivity over the last seven days, while Noble County is just behind at 6.7%.

DeKalb County currently sits at 13.6% and LaGrange County has not only the highest rate in northeast Indiana but the sixth highest overall in the state at 13.8%.

Only five counties have rates above 15% at this time — Grant, Tipton, Franklin, Pike and Dubois counties.

Among neighboring counties, Allen County clocks in at 10.2%, Elkhart County is at 9.1%, Whitley County is at 7.4% and Kosciusko County is on the low side at 4.5%.

LaGrange County’s numbers are likely impacted by the low number of tests being run, with the county averaging only about 15 tests processed per day. DeKalb County has averaged 35-40 tests per day lately.

Steuben County’s average tests per day has remained at around 25 per day over the last month, with a short spike present in late July, while Noble County — which still has a free OptumServe testing site open at the Community Learning Center in Kendallville — has the most robust testing averages at 50-60 per day.

Volume, however, is relative. Regional population center Allen County runs about 325-375 per day on average over the last month, more than all four counties in the northeast corner combined.

State Health District 3, which includes the four-county area, Allen and Whitley counties and five others, currently has an average positivity rate of 8.8%.

Those numbers are down from late May and early June when the region went through a localized surge in cases that saw several counties add significantly more to their all-time totals. However, the region came out of that surge by mid-June and growth in cases has slowed since.
© 2020 KPC Media Group, Inc.