INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Indiana’s top health official announced Wednesday an overhaul of a new
county-by-county rating system for coronavirus risks just before it was
becoming public as a guide for school leaders on whether to keep students in
The coronavirus has
contributed to the deaths of 13 more people in Indiana, with many of the
state’s deaths continuing among nursing home residents, the state health
The state health
department will now assign scores to all 92 counties based on the number of
new cases per 100,000 residents and the percentage of tests confirming
COVID-19 infections. Those scores then coordinate with a color-coded rating
system for the county’s level of community spread and risk.
It’s a change from
the state’s unveiling of the system last week, which additionally calculated
the week-by-week change in positivity rate at the county level, State Health
Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said.
Box said the
ratings were changed based on feedback received from school leaders in the
past week. The new metrics, she said, will be “less volatile” to rapid
COVID-19 changes at the community level and more representative of “true
community spread” within a county.
“We want these maps
to be useful tools, but do not want them to give people a false sense of
security when COVID-19 is still very active in their communities,” Box said.
“The goal is to provide an easy to understand system that local and school
officials can use to inform their decisions.”
Some local school
district leaders have been reluctant to embrace the new system, saying
countywide statistics might not indicate the coronavirus risk in their
The county ratings
provide only recommendations for schools and does not trigger any mandates
from the state, Box said. Even in the poorest scoring counties, Box said
that the state still does not recommend closing in-person instruction at
“We are trying to
give some direction in the form of a map with a color-coded system that’s
more basic so that the average person can really look at that and understand
the importance of saying to their kids ‘Put that mask back on or you’re not
going to have your friends over,’” Box said.
recorded deaths raise the state’s pandemic death toll to 3,325, including
confirmed and presumed coronavirus cases, since Indiana’s first fatality was
reported in mid-March, according to the health department. The new deaths
occurred between Friday and Tuesday.
The state’s weekly
update on nursing home cases added 29 deaths among those residents. That
gives the state 1,849 COVID-19 fatalities linked to long-term care
facilities, making up nearly 56% of the state’s death toll. Seventeen of
those deaths happened in the past week.