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Indiana's BA.5 peak expected in mid-August, as reinfections account 1 in 5 newly reported cases

COVID-19 tests in a plastic bag at at vaccine and testing clinic.
FILE PHOTO: Justin Hicks
IPB News
In addition to being fully vaccinated and boosted, Dr. Scott Stienecker said most Hoosiers can protect themselves by seeking early treatment if and when they test positive.

Epidemiologists say Indiana is a few weeks away from its BA.5 peak of COVID-19 cases. Nearly 1 in 5 new cases reported to the state is a reinfection, and the rate has steadily risen since May 1.

Dr. Scott Stienecker is an epidemiologist with the Society of Healthcare Epidemiology of America and is based in Fort Wayne. He said that data suggests a few things.

“We are clearly in a very significant rise in number of cases of COVID and the number of admissions of COVID,” Stienecker said. “And we’re expecting that to peak out somewhere around the second week of August.”

The state’s weekly average for COVID-19 cases is now more than 2,000 cases per day. Because of the availability of at-home tests, Stienecker said that’s a small fraction of the current total.

“We’re undercounting by a factor of approximately 20,” Stienecker said. “When COVID first started … we could tell we were undercounting by a factor of about six.”

But he said hospitalizations provide a better picture of COVID-19 in Indiana. Those are at their highest point since late February, with COVID-19 accounting for more than 8 percent of total hospitalizations.

Stienecker said that’s because there isn’t herd immunity against this variant.

“BA.5 is now the most infectious disease known to man, on the planet,” he said.

In a bit of good news: Deaths throughout the BA.5 wave have remained very low.

READ MORE: Indiana crosses 1.8 million cases, as new confirmed positives steadily rise

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In addition to being fully vaccinated and boosted, Stienecker said most Hoosiers can protect themselves by seeking early treatment if and when they test positive.

“If you’re like me: obese and male, and diabetic and hypertensive, I’m the high-risk kind of guy,” Stienecker said. “And if I’ve not been vaccinated or up-to-date on my boosters and I’ve not been receiving the kind of care that I need, I’m the one that’s going to end up in the hospital if I don’t get that great treatment up front.”

And he recommends specific masks for people who have to go into crowded places.

“The KF-94s protect me from you, even if you’re unmasked,” he said.

Stienecker said especially as students return to school, it’s important to make sure kids are vaccinated – both to protect them from severe infection or long COVID, and to protect their older or immunocompromised relatives.

Contact Lauren at lchapman@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @laurenechapman_.

Lauren is the digital editor for our statewide collaboration, and is based in Indianapolis at WFYI. Since starting for IPB News in 2016, she's covered everything from protests and COVID-19 to esports and policy. She's a proud Ball State University alumna and grew up on the west side of Indianapolis.