Montgomery County heads into the new year following the worst month for coronavirus infections and deaths, as preparations for the first public distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine provide a long-awaited glimmer of hope in the pandemic.
The surge in positive cases pushed the county into the red zone for COVID-19 spread just before Christmas, placing additional restrictions on social gatherings and sporting events.
A total 1,245 new cases were reported in December, the highest single-month total since the pandemic began, up from 915 the previous month. The number of new cases in October was 224.
An additional 20 residents died from the coronavirus in the final weeks of 2019, the most in a single month, pushing the total number of virus-related deaths to the second highest of surrounding counties.
A COVID-19 outbreak at long-term care facility The Lane House contributed to the increase in deaths. The county had six coronavirus deaths in November and one in October.
As the number of positive cases continues to rise, local hospitalizations are neither clearly increasing or decreasing, according to hospital data from the Regenstrief Institute. Earlier, local officials warned the area healthcare system was at capacity.
However, emergency room visits and admissions to the intensive care unit are trending down, according to Regenstrief.
Public health officials urge residents to wear a mask and maintain at least two arms’ length distance with people they don’t live with.
Under the red zone restrictions, indoor and outdoor social gatherings that cannot be canceled are limited to 25 people. Attendance is also limited for school sporting and co-curricular events. Churches and religious gatherings are exempt from the crowd size limits.
The restrictions will stay in place for at least another week even if average positivity rates drop because counties must show improvement for two consecutive weeks to move to a lower advisory level.
The Montgomery County Health Department received approval last week to lease a vacant grocery store building for a community vaccination site.
The vaccines will be administered to the next priority groups, which have not been finalized, at the former Save A Lot on South Boulevard.
“We walked through the building and [the owners] still got a few things to get out of the way, but [there’s] plenty of space to do what we need to do in there and have a really nice flow and ample room for people to sit and be monitored before they leave,” health department administrator Amber Reed said during a special health board meeting to approve the lease Thursday.
Free coronavirus testing remains available from the health department. Testing is done Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at the former Horner Automotive, 221 N. Green St. Enter the site off Spring Street.
Tests are also available Mondays and Fridays outside the health department’s new offices in the former Crawfordsville Family Care building, 308 W. Market St.
Registration is required. To schedule an appointment or find other testing sites, visit scheduling.coronavirus.in.gov.