On Wednesday, the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) updated their weekly dashboard showing Wabash County, like most of the rest of the state, as being in the orange, or second-highest, level.

However, that designation may soon turn to red, the highest level, if the current trend of increased cases continues.

During last week’s update, Wabash County’s COVID-19 spread was showing as being 2 out of a possible 3. That figure now sits at 2.5. Once the local rate reaches 3, it moves into the red category.

The last time Wabash County’s local rates of transmission were this high was in February.

On Friday, the ISDH reported 44 new local COVID-19 cases, bringing Wabash County’s total to 4,446, with 17,615 tests. The local seven-day positivity rating for all tests was 13.4 percent. The local seven-day positivity rating for unique individuals was 26.4 percent.

A total of 86 local COVID-19 deaths have been recorded since the start of the pandemic.

During a televised press conference Wednesday morning, Holcomb flatly said “no” when asked if he had given any thought to re-instating the state-wide mask mandate.

However, Holcomb said he was still encouraging vaccinations.

“To the skeptics or unbelievers or deniers, I would just plead to look at the facts, to look at the numerical data that shows we can all stay safe if you get vaccinated. And that truly is my appeal, to get vaccinated. This is what is interfering with our supply chains. This is what is holding parts of our economy back. This is what is pulling kids out of school,” said Holcomb.

Executive orders

Holcomb also signed a series of executive orders related to the pandemic this week.

On Monday, Holcomb signed Executive Orders 21-22 and 21-23. In Executive Order 21-22, Gov. Holcomb renewed the public health emergency for 30 days. It is set to expire on Sept. 30. The governor also signed 21-23, which extends the Executive Order specific to COVID-19 through Sept. 1, said press secretary Erin Murphy.

“The short-term extension will allow for ongoing conversations with healthcare stakeholders to evaluate pertinent information that supports hospitals during the current COVID surge,” said Murphy.

On Wednesday afternoon, Holcomb signed Executive Order 21-24. The Executive Order outlines directives to help manage the spread of COVID-19, said Murphy.

“The recent surge of cases due to the infectious Delta Variant has created a strain on the hospital system,” said Murphy. “Health care systems will use evidence-based decisions to monitor patient capacity and staffing levels to assess whether non-emergent procedures should be delayed or reprioritized. Hospitals must report diversion information to the ISDH to assist with monitoring resources and capacity statewide.”

Murphy said to assist the health care systems as they reprioritize non-emergent procedures and surgeries, ISDH would be extending prior authorizations for non-emergent procedures that are postponed due to capacity or staffing issues because of COVID-19 and directing insurers to enable hospitals to expedite the process of transporting patients out of hospital care to the next appropriate setting.

Murphy said “to support the ongoing efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” the ISDH would be issuing a COVID-19 control measure.

“The measure will allow for schools and day cares to modify quarantine provisions if the facilities adhere to the following orders and guidance set by ISDH,” said Murphy.

Schools and daycares that have mask requirements that are consistently followed throughout the day do not have to quarantine students, teachers and staff who are close contacts and aren’t showing symptoms of COVID-19. Schools and daycares must continue to contact trace by notifying their local health department as well as parents, teachers and staff who were in close contact. The executive order will expire on Sept. 30.

Statewide figures

On Friday, the ISDH announced that 5,079 additional Hoosiers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 through testing at state and private laboratories. That brings to 873,480 the number of Indiana residents now known to have had the novel coronavirus following corrections to the previous day’s dashboard.

To date, 14,121 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, which includes 20 newly reported deaths. Another 449 probable deaths have been reported to date based on clinical diagnoses in patients for whom no positive test is on record.

A total of 3,960,242 unique individuals have been tested in Indiana, up from 3,946,603 on Thursday. A total of 12,450,587 tests, including repeat tests for unique individuals, have been reported to the state Department of Health since Feb. 26, 2020.

To find testing sites around the state, visit www.coronavirus.in.gov and click on the COVID-19 testing information link. Clinics are being added regularly around the state.

Hoosiers age 12 and older can receive a COVID-19 vaccine; individuals younger than age 18 are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine only. To find a vaccination clinic near you, visit https://ourshot.in.gov or call 211 if you do not have access to a computer or require assistance. Appointments are preferred, but walk-ins are accepted at most sites.

The ISDH is deploying mobile clinics to the following counties this week to provide testing and vaccinations: Allen, Brown, Clark, Elkhart, Harrison, Howard, Marion, Marshall, Monroe, Putnam and Spencer.

Many of the locations also will include free COVID-19 testing. Hoosiers in the ZIP codes in which the clinics are located will receive a text message or email informing them of the locations and services offered.

As of Friday, a total of 6,259,795 doses have been administered in Indiana. This includes 3,140,793 first doses and 3,119,002 individuals who are fully vaccinated. The fully vaccinated number represents individuals who have received a second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines and those who received the single Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Rob Burgess, Wabash Plain Dealer editor, may be reached by email at rburgess@wabashplaindealer.com.