Tippecanoe County officially dropped into the blue category on the state’s COVID-19 metrics map Wednesday, which indicates the least-serious level of COVID spread. The shift came as the state this week announced a major expansion of vaccine eligible groups and a rollback to COVID restrictions.
Tippecanoe County Health Department administrator Khala Hochstedler said downgrading Indiana’s mask mandate to an “advisory” level and removing other COVID guidelines could be a setback for the county, which has reported decreasing case numbers and deaths for weeks.
“The lifting of all restrictions is concerning right now,” Hochstedler said. “Yes, we have a vaccine available, but we have not vaccinated enough citizens in Indiana or our county to have herd immunity at this time.”
Hochstedler said the state’s restrictions should have remained in place for a few more months, allowing vaccination providers more time to inoculate residents while a mask mandate and other orders were still in place -- and while the health department braces for a possible jump in case numbers as local residents return from spring break vacations and prepare for Easter gatherings.
On Wednesday, State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said Hoosiers could be waiting up to six weeks for vaccination appointments when the state opens up eligibility to those 16 years of age and older on March 31.
“Right now we are in a race against the clock to vaccinate as many people as fast as we can,” Hochstedler said.
The state will allow local governments and businesses to enforce stricter guidelines. Hochstedler said discussions about the best path forward locally are underway.
The Indiana Department of Health reported 34 additional coronavirus cases in Tippecanoe County Wednesday, and no deaths; the seven-day all tests positivity rate was at 1.9%. As of Thursday morning, IDOH reported 21,794 Tippecanoe County residents had been fully vaccinated.