Local virus death toll continues to rise

The COVID-19 death toll continued to climb during the first half of November, increasing the number of lives cut short by the virus to 110 since a summer surge primarily driven by the delta variant swept across the region and sent more than 3,400 of local residents to hospital emergency rooms.

A total of 14 people in the Columbus area died from COVID-19 during the first half of November, or nearly one person every day and on pace for around 28 deaths this month, according to the Indiana Department of Health.

The area — which includes Bartholomew, Brown, Decatur, Jackson, Jennings and Shelby counties — saw 33 virus deaths in October and 46 in September.

A total of 29 Bartholomew County residents died from the virus from Aug. 1 to Nov. 15, or nearly 1 death every 3.5 days.

Overall, 186 Bartholomew County residents have died from COVID-19 over the past 19 months — 1.6 times more than the 111 influenza and pneumonia deaths reported in the county from 2010 to 2019.

Local health officials have said that the vast majority of COVID-19 are avoidable if people were to get vaccinated. As of Friday morning, around 32,640 eligible Bartholomew County residents were not fully vaccinated, according to state records.

The climbing death toll comes as the Upper Midwest experiences a surge in coronavirus cases and booster shots are being made available to all adults, raising concerns that cases could rise in Columbus once again this winter.

Cold weather states are dominating the fresh wave of cases over the last seven days, including New Hampshire, North Dakota and Wisconsin, The Associated Press reported. But the Southwest had trouble spots, too, with more than 90% of inpatient hospital beds occupied in Arizona.

Cases have already started to rise in Indiana, according to the Indiana Department of Health. The seven-day average went from 1,852 on Nov. 7 to 2,711 this past Wednesday.

There were 19 people hospitalized with COVID-19 at Columbus Regional Hospital as of Wednesday, up from 10 on Sunday but down from 40 on Oct. 14, according to hospital records.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report