Knox County on Friday saw 37 new cases of COVID-19, down from Thursday’s 51.

Health officer Dr. Alan Stewart says the county currently has 275 active cases of the virus, and yet many individuals continue their daily lives as if there is no reason to be alarmed.

“People continue planning weddings and large events. Others, who should know better, still don’t believe in wearing as mask,” he said.

“Do people not know there’s a pandemic going on?” Stewart said, clearly frustrated by the lack of compliance with proven safety measures.

The hospital, too, continues to see its resources taxed, he said.

There are currently 46 COVID-positive patients at Good Samaritan Hospital, including four on ventilators.While the hospital still has available ventilators, what it is running out of are ICU beds and enough skilled medical professionals to care for COVID patients, Stewart said.

“The hospital is essentially full,” said Stewart, adding that while Good Samaritan has not yet had to begin diverting patients to other hospitals in the region, without immediate changes, that could very likely become a reality.

After working incredibly long hours for more than six months, and with a continued surge in COVID-19 cases, there simply aren’t enough nurses to adequately care for the influx of patients.

Stewart said that reinforcements should be on the way, after the hospital hired a team of traveling nurses, but he says it will be a few weeks before they arrive, and even then they will need to complete training before stepping into their new, temporary positions.

But, Stewart says, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon.

“We should be getting a vaccine from Pfizer in the coming weeks, and that will be ready to go as soon as there is FDA approval,” he said.

The COVID-19 vaccination from Pfizer has, thus far, proven 90% effective, according to reports issued this week.

“It looks really promising,” Stewart said, adding that it will first be distributed to front-line healthcare workers, and then to individuals in long-term care.

“We will start with those who are most at risk and vulnerable,” he said.

Though a vaccine will be coming soon, the health officer says now is not the time to become lax with health and safety measures.

“We still have to get our numbers down,” Stewart urged, noting that it will likely still be months before doses will be widely-available to the general public.

The county’s total number of confirmed cases is now 1,358, and it continues with a designation of orange, the second-most-severe using the state’s color-coded system.

Gov. Eric Holcomb this week, too, implemented greater restrictions for orange and red counties.

Gatherings of any more than 50 people are prohibited in orange counties, 20 in red counties. High school athletic events, too, are limited to only immediate family of the athletes.

The mask mandate also continues.

And Stewart says while he recognizes people are fatigued from dealing with the pandemic and and constraints it imposes, he is pleading with people to wear masks when out in public.

Currently, North Knox School Corp. is reporting six confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the primary school as well as another two at the intermediate school and one in the junior senior high school. The entire first-grade glass remains quarantined.

South Knox is reporting just one case at the elementary and two at the middle high school.

Vincennes Community School Corp. Superintendent Greg Parsley said Friday that 17 students in VCSC are confirmed, active cases of the virus, and Lincoln High School remains closed after more than 200 students there were quarantined last week.

Indiana has now seen more than 236,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 4,863 deaths.

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