Despite an additional 3,733 positive coronavirus cases announced on Thursday, health officials say Indiana is trending downward for community spread.
According to the Indiana State Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard, Indiana has not reported daily case counts this low since November.
“We’re just now starting to see the continuance of that downward slope that I think we were trying to get to actually back in November if it hadn’t been for the traveling and the clustering that the holidays entail,” said Dr. Cole Beeler, Medical Director of Infection Prevention at IU Health Hospital.
Doctor Beeler said the slight downward slope of Indiana’s cases could be caused by a variety of factors – from slower spread to vaccinations taking effect.
“Right now, there’s just too many unknown variables to say that we should really be celebrating,” Dr. Beeler said.
The state’s downward trend, however, also comes with a decrease in testing.
“Back in November, [IU Health was] doing like 3,000 tests per day-ish,” said Dr. Beeler. “Now we’re down to maybe 900-1,000 tests per day.”
Director of Public Health Informatics at Regenstrief Institute, Dr. Brian Dixon, said a decline in testing could very well be the reason cases are also dropping.
“We’re seeing essentially levels of testing that are probably similar to what we saw last summer – even though our number of cases is higher than what we saw that summer,” Dr. Dixon said. “So that tells us that not everyone who has the disease is getting tested.”
Dr. Dixon said Hoosiers could be self-diagnosing themselves and self-isolating – two key measures that would lead to the state’s decline in positive cases.
“We think that some people are just ‘oh, I have COVID and I can deal with it I don’t need to go get a test’,” said Dr. Dixon. “[Hoosiers] know enough at this point to know that if they’re in a lower-risk group and they get COVID then they most likely will be able to just have mild symptoms and be home for a while.”
Nonetheless, both health experts said this downward trend is no reason to celebrate – yet.
“We have a new very infectious variant of COVID that is definitely in Indiana. I think it’s been detected four times – which means it’s everywhere,” said Dr. Beeler. “That infectious variant will take advantage of every single break in infection prevention procedures.”
Dr. Beeler said news of this new variant should not discourage people, rather encourage people to get the vaccine.
“We could easily come back for a third wave in Indiana in the springtime if we’re not careful,” Dr. Dixon said.