The average number of daily new COVID-19 cases in Northwest Indiana is on the rise again, and daily deaths remain at or near record levels.

Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton and Jasper counties saw a decline in new positive cases in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, but the number has been increasing since Nov. 29, according to data provided by Indiana University Northwest associate professor Micah Pollak.

"We've been kind of lucky," he said. "The state has kind of rebounded to where it was before Thanksgiving."

In Northwest Indiana, the average number of new daily cases per capita as of Dec. 3 was about 25% less than it was Nov. 12.

Statewide, more than 90 new daily cases per 100,000 people occurred Dec. 3, slightly more than the number that occurred Nov. 12.

Regional and state trends typically follow each other closely, and the reason for the recent divergence remains unclear, Pollak said.

The number of tests administered daily has picked up, resulting in a slight decrease in the seven-day average positivity rate in Northwest Indiana.

"Things are kind of stable," Pollak said. "Things aren't getting better, but they're not getting worse."

Positivity rates and the number of positive cases are warning signs for what really matters: hospitalizations and deaths.

Northwest Indiana saw its highest number of deaths in a single day Dec. 7, when 11 occurred, according to data provided by the Indiana State Department of Health.

The previous record of 10 deaths in one day has occurred three times, twice in late November and once in April.

The average number of daily hospital admissions in Northwest Indiana has fallen since mid-November, but the cause for the decline is unclear.

"It seems to have stopped getting worse, at least for now," Pollak said.

The percentage of COVID patients being admitted to hospitals in Indiana declined to 3.3% for the week ending Dec. 6, the lowest point seen during the pandemic.

"It doesn't seem reasonable that people aren't in need of being admitted," he said.

It's more likely patients with less severe cases are being sent home.

"Once the hospitals are full, the hospitalization rate has to go down, because they just don't have the beds to put people in," he said.

The Thanksgiving holiday may have caused some people to delay getting tested or put off seeking medical care, Pollak said.

A similar trend is likely as Christmas approaches.

In addition, data may be reported more slowly around the holidays.

"There's just so many variables during the holidays," he said. "It's really just a period where you shouldn't read too much in the numbers."

The good news is the FDA is poised to approve a coronavirus vaccine, he said.

"It gives some hope," he said. "It's much easier if you know there is an end coming, as opposed to it's just totally open-ended."
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