County adds two more COVID-19 cases over weekend

Two more cases of COVID-19 were reported in Knox County over the holiday weekend, bringing the total of known cases of the coronavirus up to 25.

And with Gov. Eric Holcomb’s decision to bump up the beginning of Stage 3 of his back-on-track plan county health officer Dr. Alan Stewart is anxiously waiting to see what the county’s caseload looks like this time next week.

“It frightens me,” he said of people venturing out for the holiday weekend. “It seems to me that a lot of people aren’t wearing masks, they aren’t really social distancing.

“They’re tired of staying at home. We have good weather, and it’s a traditional holiday weekend to be out,” Stewart said. “But that’s a lot of risk to take. We’ll just have to keep our guard up and see what comes of it.”

As part of Stage 3, anyone working from home is encouraged to continue doing so. Likewise, those over the age of 65 should continue to quarantine.

But as of last Friday at midnight, retail stores were allowed to open at 75% capacity. People could gather in groups of 100. Movie theaters could open at half capacity, and gyms and fitness centers were allowed to reopen as well, given that they could follow social distancing guidelines.

And all right in time for Memorial Day weekend.

Stage 4, set to get under way on June 14, allows for gatherings of up to 250 people, restaurants to open at 75% capacity and bar seating at half capacity. Large gathering spots like museums, zoos and bowling alleys will be able to open at 50% capacity, and water and amusement parks may reopen as well.

It’s all leading up to what the governor hopes is a full reopening on the Fourth of July, although to get there, Indiana must continue to see a steady decrease in hospitalizations related to COVID-19 as well as the continued availability of widespread testing.

Stewart said these two new local cases of the coronavirus have him somewhat puzzled as he’s not completely confident as to where the viruses were contracted.

The two new cases are not related to one another, he said.

The county’s Joint Information Center announced the two new cases on Sunday, saying one was doing well at home and other was hospitalized.

Stewart said one of them tested positive for the virus at a state testing facility, which reopens today at Vincennes University’s Green Activities Center, 120 W. Harrison St., after being moved there from the U.S. National Guard Armory.

The site is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. Registration for testing can be done online at https://lhi.care/covidtesting or by phone at 888-634-1116.

There is no charge for the tests and insurance is not required.

Stewart didn’t know about the case reported from the testing facility until someone noticed Knox County’s number on the state map on the Indiana Department of Health’s website tick up by one.

Once he knew who it was, he said the health department reached out to this person, who had planned, per the state’s recommendation, to come out of quarantine within a day’s time.

Stewart advised the patient, however, of his local policy to keep COVID-19 positive patients in isolation for a full two weeks following the disappearance of symptoms, a rule more strict than guidelines set forth by either the state or the Centers for Disease Control.

Stewart said he, too, is the one who got a list of contacts, notified those contacts and placed them, too, in a 10-day isolation.

“I am still concerned with the state’s post-test procedures regarding patients’ care,” Stewart said in a recent press release. “The state needs to make sure that each patient’s primary care physician is included in this process in order for the patients to receive the appropriate care.

“So far, it looks like the state testing protocol does not include this important step in caring for these patients. It is not enough to only give them a negative or positive test result.”

Stewart, too, hasn’t been able to trace either case specifically, which concerns him in terms of keeping it contained.

“One works out of county, so that could be it,” Stewart said. “One says they haven’t been doing much stuff, just staying at home with family. And they’ve all been contacted.

“I think I have everyone isolated,” he said, “but we’ll just have to watch.”

The thing that concerns Stewart the most, however, is travel outside Knox County.

“Travel frightens me more than anything,” Stewart said. “But every person who wears a mask and follows social distancing helps to protect us.

“With more places opening, we’ll just have to see. We still have relatively few cases. There have been no mass infections at a major business or healthcare facility.

It’s just going to continue to be important to isolate each case and contact the people they’ve been in contact with to snuff it out.”

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