Virus death toll on the rise

COVID-19 has continued to cut lives short in Columbus and the surrounding area.

State health officials on Wednesday reported six new coronavirus deaths in Bartholomew County and the surrounding area, pushing the overall death toll past 700, according to the latest figures from the Indiana Department of Health.

Among the six deaths reported Wednesday, two were in Jennings County, and one death each was recorded in Bartholomew, Brown, Decatur and Jackson counties.

A total of 14 people in Bartholomew County and the surrounding area have died from COVID-19 so far this year.

Bartholomew County’s death toll stood at 209 as of press time Thursday, as well as 103 in Jackson County, 74 in Jennings County and 54 in Brown County.

The update from state health officials came as COVID-19 hospitalizations continued rising to their highest level of the pandemic.

A total of 3,488 people in Indiana were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Wednesday, according to the latest figures from the Indiana Department of Health.

Before this latest surge, the record for hospitalizations in the state was 3,460 on Nov. 30, 2020. Just under 9% of the state’s ICU beds are available. Nearly 40% of ICU beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Locally, 50 people were hospitalized with COVID at Columbus Regional Hospital on Tuesday, just nine short of the all-time high of 59 on Dec. 2, 2020.

Overall, 19,319 Hoosiers have died from COVID-19 since the virus swept through the state in spring 2020. By comparison, Japan — a country with more than 18 times the population of Indiana — has recorded 18,412 deaths from the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Local officials continue to urge people to get vaccinated and get their booster when eligible.

Some 30,200 eligible Bartholomew County residents had yet to get vaccinated as of Wednesday morning, as well as 18,970 Jackson County residents, according to state figures. Just 44% of eligible Jennings County residents are fully vaccinated.