CHICAGO (CBS) — At a time when coronavirus infections are “on fire,” three of five counties in Northwest Indiana rank among the worst in the state metrics that assess weekly spread of COVID-19, while the two other counties are not far behind.

Lake, Newton and Jasper counties are in “red” status and all three easily exceed the thresholds in terms of cases per 100,000 (above 200) and the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests (above 15%).  Lake is 677 per 100,000 and 17.9%; Jasper is 864 and 19.7%; Newton is 514 and 19.2%).  Porter (632/14.95%) and LaPorte (568/13.1%) counties meet the per capita threshold and are just under the test positivity marks and remain in “orange” status.

Across the state, more counties entered red status this week-up to 36, which is more than double last week.  All the counties are either red or orange. Every county exceeds the 200 cases per 100,000 metric, but lower positivity rates are keeping the orange counties from flipping to red.

Gov Eric Holcomb, at his weekly news conference, said Indiana is “on fire.”

While the number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital has been leveling off in the past week, the number of ICU beds remains in short supply–lower than 20% in some areas of the state, including Northwest Indiana. Fewer than 50 ICU beds are open in Northwest Indiana–for a population of about 800,000. On a per capita basis nationally, only Nevada (579 per 1,000,000) and South Dakota (555 per1,000,000) have more people in the hospital than Indiana’s 483, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

To help ease the hospital burden Holcomb is asking hospitals to delay non-essential in-patient surgeries from Dec. 16 to Jan. 3. The governor said the state will get an initial batch of 55,000 doses of COVID vaccine this month, a number he said was not nearly enough.


(Credit: COVID Tracking Project)

The state reported an additional 5,853 new COVID-19 cases and 98 deaths, bringing the death toll to more than 6,500. That makes COVID the third largest killer of Hoosiers this year, behind heart disease and cancer.

“We are in a place that none of us want to be,” said Indiana’s health director, Dr. Kristina Box. “This surge is far from over.”