There’s is a chance the worst of COVID-19 may be behind us, according to county health officer Dr. Alan Stewart.
But, he says, that hinges on whether or not Knox County experiences a post-New Year’s surge.
“If we can avoid a major surge after the new year holiday, and if we continue pumping this vaccine into arms, I think we’re going to be through the worst of it,” he said Wednesday.
Roughly 2,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine have been administered since becoming available to front-line workers at Good Samaritan and in surrounding counties on Dec. 17.
With approximately 6% of area residents now vaccinated, and another 8% having been infected with and recovered from the virus, Stewart says we are close to having 15% immunity countywide.
Too, he says, the continued supply of vaccine looks promising.
“The flow of the vaccine looks good,” said Stewart, adding that the vaccine clinic — next week — is expecting doses of the newly-approved Moderna vaccine in addition to its supply of the Pfizer vaccine.
As most students and teachers head back into classrooms next week, Stewart said that he was particularly excited to be able to offer the vaccine to educators so that in-person learning can likely continue.
Despite some much-needed good news, the county’s health officer says the pandemic still continues and therefore precautions should be taken.
“Right now our numbers are quite low, but I’m still on guard for a possible surge of cases from New Year’s celebrations. We will have to wait until next week to see that,” Stewart said.
Though there is a lower caseload than the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Knox County on Wednesday recorded 34 new COVID-19, doubling the number reported just the day before.
The infection rate too, has bumped back up in recent days, moving from 11.4% just over one week ago to 13.1% on Wednesday, a possible sign of the holiday surge Stewart feared.
But, he added, Good Samaritan is currently treating only 17 COVID-positive patients, a number that has continued a downward trend over the past several weeks.
Too, he says, there are currently no COVID-19 patients requiring a ventilator.
Stewart credits the use of Eli Lilly’s monoclonal antibody transfusions, which provide synthetic versions of antibodies to help the immune system reduce levels of the virus.
Of the more than 100 patients thus far to receive the antibody treatment at Good Samaritan, Stewart said only one patient had to later be admitted into the hospital for longer term care.
But to receive the antibody treatment — and for it to be effective — Stewart explains it must be timed just right, so those who fall into the high-risk category are encouraged to be tested for COVID-19 at the earliest possible sign of symptoms.
Individuals who test positive for the virus and are at a higher risk of severe illness or death may be eligible for the antibody transfusion if evaluated quickly enough.
To date, Knox County has recorded 3,300 total COVID-19 cases to date and 39 deaths.