Cases of COVID-19 in Jay County are growing at a faster rate than at any time during the ongoing pandemic.

In the 14 days since the county recorded its first death from the disease caused by coronavirus, there have been 56 new cases reported. That’s a rate of four new cases per day, with a peak of a dozen Oct. 3.

Jay County also has had two additional deaths result of COVID-19. The county was one of the last in the state without such a death, but has now had three since Sept. 28.

“Any death is too much,” said Heath Butz, administrator and environmentalist for Jay County Health Department. “It’s definitely sad to see the three deaths we’ve had. And I think that’s partly in correlation with the positives we’ve seen in that population that’s more at risk. As you see more people in that high-risk category that become infected, you’re going to increase that likelihood of more deaths occurring in the future. Those people who are at higher risk for the severe version of illness, you need to take extra precaution.”

Details about those who have died are not being released because of privacy considerations.

Among the counties adjacent to Jay County, Delaware has the highest COVID-19 death total at 71. It is followed by Darke (50), Mercer (27), Randolph (eight), Wells (five), Adams (four) and Blackford (three).

Only four counties — Union, Benton, Switzerland and Martin — in Indiana have not had a death related to COVID-19.

Jay County has continued to see an increase in its rate of new cases per day. That number had doubled to 4.0 over the last two weeks after coming in at 2.02 from mid-August through the end of September. It was below 1 during the first two-and-a-half months of the pandemic.

There has also been an outbreak of cases at Persimmon Ridge Rehabilitation Centre in Portland. Indiana State Department of Health’s website indicates that currently there are five positive cases at the facility.

“We’re obviously concerned with any congregate setting when we have an increase, especially when we have a higher risk population because there’s more risk of those individuals having a more severe reaction to it,” said Butz.

Jay School Corporation currently shows no positive cases of COVID-19. Since the dashboard was initiated Aug. 18 — in-person classes did not begin until Sept. 9 — there have been four student cases and nine employee cases, all of which have since been released. There are currently 21 students and five employees “excluded” from school because of close contacts with someone who has COVID-19.

Jay County’s total of 246 cases as of the state health department’s Tuesday update is second-lowest in the region behind Blackford County (167). Other area county case totals are as follows: Delaware (2,513), Mercer (1,336), Darke (1,007), Adams (400), Wells (339) and Randolph (289).

Butz emphasized the importance of Jay County residents getting their flu shot this year. He recommended working with primary care physicians to do so, adding that shots are also generally available at pharmacies and as well as the health department while supplies last. Vaccines are available at IU Health’s primary care facilities in Jay County, and Meridian Health Services and Mercer Health have each scheduled free flu vaccine clinics this month.

“There’s extra emphasis on it this year,” said Butz. “Make sure you get a flu shot so hospital systems and medical providers aren’t inundated with, on top of COVID, people with the flu.”

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb moved the state to Stage 5 of its Back on Track Indiana with an executive order Sept. 24. The move removed previously issued capacity limits for restaurants, bars and other facilities. The state’s mask mandate remained in place.

Holcomb is scheduled to give an update about COVID-19 at a press conference at 2:30 p.m. today.

With many restrictions lifted, Butz emphasized the continued importance of taking precautions to help slow the spread of the disease.

“I think a lot of people as we moved into stage have made an assumption that maybe, ‘OK, we’re OK now, we’ve moved beyond it,’” he said. “But we still have COVID in the community. We still have community spread going on in Indiana, across the United States and locally. So it’s still important to do all those measure to help reduce the risk of getting it — social distancing, wearing your mask and hand sanitizing and washing your hands. The more time you spend and the closer proximity you spend around people without any protection, the higher risk you’re going to have for contraction of COVID.”