TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) - It's been a week and a half since Governor Eric Holcomb moved the state into Stage 5. Local health leaders want to remind people that Tippecanoe County is not at that stage completely.
"I was a bit surprised about advancing the state to Stage 5," said Tippecanoe County Health Officer, Dr. Jeremy Adler. Especially since Indiana's case numbers have climbed since.
Stage 5 of the Back on Track Indiana plan says size limitations on social gatherings are removed completely. Restaurants, bars, nightclubs, gyms and event venues can resume normal operations.
As we've previously reported, Tippecanoe County's mandate on food and beverage businesses still imposes restrictions. That mandate has no official end date. It was amended last week to allow the businesses to stay open until 1 a.m. instead of midnight.
Holcomb said he moved the state forward because of progress made in numbers. Last week saw Indiana's highest daily COVID case total at 1,482 cases on October 1st. And the percent positivity rate has started to trend back up.
"One of the questions that came up was would we advance our restaurant and bar restrictions to match the Stage 5 plan, I didn't feel that this is the right time to do that," said Dr. Adler.
Governor Holcomb has made it clear that he supports local leaders across the state imposing stricter guidelines that meet their community's needs.
One of the biggest concerns remains those who are asymptomatic with COVID-19. According to a study by the Indiana University School of Public Health, about 40 to 45 percent of the state's diagnosed cases are from people who are asymptomatic. The highest number of cases in the state and Tippecanoe County continues to be the 20-29 age range.
The statewide mask mandate is still in effect until October 17th when the governor will re-evaluate it. Dr. Adler continued his message on Wednesday, urging people to wear face coverings, social distance, wash hands and get their flu vaccine.
Local health leaders are keeping a close eye on what the flu season may bring. Doctors want people to remember that there are significant differences between influenza and COVID-19.
Doctors from IU Health Arnett and Franciscan Health said they have not seen a flu increase so far. However, things are still early and could go either way. Here in the U.S., flu season generally runs from the end of October to the beginning of April, with January and February being the peak.
Dr. Jim Bien from IU Health explained some of the major differences between the flu and coronavirus Wednesday afternoon. He said while they are both viruses, they come from a completely different germ. He said on the most crucial differences is that we have a vaccine for the flu.
Dr. Adler said another difference is that the flu is seasonal. Whereas COVID-19 has continued to spread throughout the spring summer and now the fall months.
Dr. Bien and Dr. Adler said one of the biggest differences is the mortality rate.
"The mortality rate with the diseases is markedly different, probably 10 fold with COVID so they are really not comparable from an outcomes perspective," he said.
"Influenza here in the U.S. claims usually 15,000 to 25,000 lives per year, and sometimes even more," said Dr. Adler. "Thus far in just 7 or 8 months of COVID-19 we've had more than 200,000 Americans lose their lives."
Some encouraging news, Dr. Bien said he feels flu vaccination numbers are up from previous years.
While it could go either way, flu data from other parts of the world suggests that flu numbers could trend down this year. Much of that is thanks to the precautions people are taking with slowing the spread of COVID-19. Local health leaders hope people keep that up on top of getting vaccinated.