Though Indiana’s COVID-19 dashboard currently paints Knox County in blue and faring well, Dr. Alan Stewart says a recent surge in cases will likely soon change that.
“There’s a bit of a lag in the updates to the state site,” the county health officer explained Wednesday.
During the first two weeks of October, Knox County averaged fewer than 5 new cases per day, but in the seven days since, the average has grown to 14 new cases daily.
At one point last week, the county saw only 33 active cases, but that number now stands at just over 100.
The current spike in cases is about double what was seen across the county during the surge after the Fourth of July holiday.
Stewart said the rapid increase in cases is, in part, because of a few significant instances of community spread as well as an outbreak in one long-term care facility.
Too, he says, surrounding counties have been experiencing significant problems attempting to control their own outbreaks.
Vanderburgh, Pike and Gibson counties have all seen startling numbers in recent weeks, with 230 new cases in the past three days in Vanderburgh county alone.
Recently, Evansville area hospitals had to issue an alert to the state indicating they may soon need additional ventilators because of the number of COVID-19 patients requiring support.
But, Stewart said, thus far Knox County has been fortunate in that Good Samaritan Hospital has not been so inundated with critical cases.
Locally, there are ten patients in the hospital, with two on ventilators.
And, there have been no COVID-related deaths this month.
“It’s a real credit to our hospital staff, their preparedness and the way they have been fine-tuning treatments,” Stewart said.
“Some of it may also come down to luck.”
The health officer said Knox County is also in line to get some of the first doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine.
He recently submitted an application to the State Department of Health to be a distribution site for the coronavirus vaccine — when one becomes available.
“We anticipate that some vaccines may be available by the end of the year, but it will be distributed on a tiered system,” he said, explaining that first responders and healthcare professionals would likely receive the first doses.
Next up to get it, he said, would be “vulnerable” populations, such as the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions that make being infected with the novel coronavirus far more dangerous.
He hopes that a vaccine could be made available to the general population by the middle of next year — a vaccine that would then likely be in Phase 4 trials and, therefore, the side effects, if any, better understood.
But until an effective vaccine is widely distributed, Stewart says he can’t emphasize enough the importance of wearing a mask and keeping adequate social distance, especially in the coming months.
“With the colder weather, people are going back inside,” he said.
“It’s almost basketball season. So it’s time to put on the full court press against this virus — wear your mask and keep your distance.” he said.
The total number of confirmed cases in Knox County now stands at 703.
As for local schools, The Vincennes Community School Corp. is reporting two active cases of the coronavirus in its buildings — one at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School and the other at Clark Middle School.
The North Knox School Corp. is reporting no active cases at this time; South Knox is reporting two cases in the middle/high school.