Just ahead of Christmas, 35 of the state's 92 counties, including Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton and Jasper, are classified as "red," meaning uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus, according to the Indiana Department of Health. Indiana Department of Health image
Just ahead of Christmas, 35 of the state's 92 counties, including Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton and Jasper, are classified as "red," meaning uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus, according to the Indiana Department of Health. Indiana Department of Health image
The Hoosier State is heading into the holiday weekend with some of the highest COVID-19 case counts of the entire coronavirus pandemic.

Data released by the Indiana Department of Health show 4,813 people tested positive for COVID-19 Tuesday, with 13.4% of all tests coming back positive over the past seven days.

A total of 2,940 Hoosiers also were hospitalized due to COVID-19. That's a slight decline from 3,052 COVID-19 hospital patients last week, but still within sight of the peak hospitalization tally of 3,460 recorded Nov. 30, 2020.

Statewide, just 12.2% of intensive care unit hospital beds are classified as "available." In Northwest Indiana, only 24 ICU beds are vacant, according to the state health agency.

The limited availability follows warnings by the Indiana Hospital Association that the high number of COVID-19 infections in Indiana — particularly among the unvaccinated — means health care providers may be unable to treat everyone needing medical services in the months ahead.

Data show the total number of unique COVID-19 cases in Indiana since the start of the pandemic has passed an unbelievable 1.2 million.

The state also tallied 86 additional deaths due to COVID-19 Tuesday. The coronavirus has killed 18,696 Hoosiers when confirmed (18,057) and suspected (639) COVID-19 deaths are combined.

The Indiana Department of Health said this will be the last daily update of COVID-19 data until Monday due to state agencies being closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as well as the usual lack of weekend updates.

In the meantime, state and local health officials are urging Hoosiers to protect themselves from COVID-19 by getting vaccinated as soon as possible and getting a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot when they are eligible.

The free COVID-19 vaccine is available to anyone 5 and older at more than 1,400 pharmacies, health clinics and hospitals across the state — often without an appointment. A full list of COVID-19 vaccine sites is available online at ourshot.in.gov.

Since the start of the pandemic, unvaccinated Hoosiers have accounted for 97.3% of COVID-19 infections, 99.95% of COVID-19 hospitalizations and 99.97% of COVID-19 deaths, according to the Indiana Department of Health.

At the same time, more 3.53 million Hoosiers have gotten vaccinated against COVID-19 since the vaccine first became available a little more than a year ago.

In Northwest Indiana that includes 53.1% of Lake County residents age 5 and older, 58.7% in Porter County, 53.6% in LaPorte County, 39.5% in Newton County and 44% in Jasper County.

According to the Indiana Department of Health, the statewide vaccination rate (age 5+) stands at 54.3%, while the adult vaccination rate (18+) is 61.1% — putting Indiana near the bottom among the 50 states.

The state's comparatively low vaccination rate and high COVID-19 case count is perhaps most dramatically visualized in the state health agency's color-coded county map of COVID-19 spread.

Thirty-five of the state's 92 counties, including Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton and Jasper, are classified as "red," meaning uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus.

Another 57 counties — none in Northwest Indiana — are one notch lower for COVID-19 spread at "orange." No counties are rated "yellow" or at the ideal "blue" designation.

In response to the continuing COVID-19 emergency, officials have directed face masks be worn in all Lake County and Porter County government buildings, and masks are recommended in all indoor venues — especially where it's not possible to maintain six feet of social distancing.

"All those who are medically able to do so should wear a face mask in public indoor settings when near others, regardless of vaccination status," said Dr. Sandra Deausy, the LaPorte County health officer.

"Health care facilities, businesses and other organizations may require masks to ensure the safety of their employees and customers based on individual circumstances."
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