For the first time in more than four months, Knox County on Wednesday reported no new COVID-19 cases, followed by only two confirmed cases on Thursday.

“We’re just a half point away from going blue,” county health officer Dr. Alan Stewart said, referencing the least-severe designation on the state’s color-coded metrics map.

Currently, Knox County is painted yellow, the second most severe designation, after spending several weeks in orange.

Over the past five days, the county has reported just seven new cases, bringing the total number of active cases down to 45 — a far cry from days that reached as high as 335 active cases during the holiday surge.

The drastically reduced caseload brings much-needed relief to local healthcare workers — with Good Samaritan reporting only three Knox County residents as currently receiving in-patient care for COVID-19; none of them are on ventilators or in intensive care at this time.

Nearby Pike, Sullivan and Daviess counties are all currently in the blue on the state map, and Stewart said Knox County would have joined them if it weren’t for one day last week that saw 23 new cases.

“National numbers are going down too,” Stewart said, “even in areas that haven’t had a great vaccine rollout.”

While it’s too soon to pinpoint a specific cause in the sharp drop in cases, Stewart speculates there may be a few contributing factors.

“I think we’re seeing some pockets of early herd immunity for one,” he said, specifically referencing populations in places like long-term care facilities that were previously battling outbreaks not that many months ago.

While folks over 80 account for only about 7% of the population, Stewart explained that roughly 60% of the 82 local deaths came from that elderly demographic.

“And that age group really came out in droves when the vaccine became available,” Stewart added.

While continued vaccinations, as well as improved masking and social distancing efforts, are making a significant difference, he says there’s also the possibility of a somewhat natural waxing and waning of the virus.

“Look at the pandemic flu that hit in early 1918, and then hit again with a vengeance that fall,” Stewart said. “So we’re going to have to continue to watch that.”

Though the community must remain vigilant and proactive, Stewart says there is certainly good reason to be optimistic.

“We will be allowing the community to open up more as our color continues to get better,” he said, noting the county’s seven day positivity rate has now dropped to 3.2%. Just one month ago that number was nearly five times higher.

Knox County has now recorded a total of 3,539 COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic nearly a year ago.

Indiana has seen 652,210 total cases and 11,854 fatalities from the virus.

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