Knox County health officials over the weekend received news of its first two confirmed cases of COVID-19.
The two cases are unrelated, according to county health officer Dr. Alan Stewart, and neither has required hospitalization.
Dr. Scott Stine, a family practitioner at Good Samaritan Hospital, on Monday confirmed that the two locals are self-quarantining and “recovering well” at home.
But there is a third case, too, that has caused a ripple effect at the hospital itself.
During a live video posted to the hospital’s Facebook page Monday morning, Stine said a GSH employee — but a resident of another Indiana county — tested positive for the coronavirus.
That employee, according to chief operating officer Adam Thacker, didn’t come into direct contact with patients.
“No patients are at risk,” he said.
But a process used by the health department, called “contact tracer,” identified five other GSH employees who worked directly with that person.
All six were contacted by health department officials and have been quarantined at home. They are asymptomatic at this time, Thacker said.
“But that person is not one of the two Knox County positives because that individual does not live in Knox County,” Thacker said, adding that confirmed COVID-19 cases are registered to that person’s county of residence, not where the test was issued.
Hospital officials have said little else about the two local positive cases, only that they have been able to maintain their symptoms at home.
Stewart did say on Sunday that the two local residents had been “active and working” in the community, so they are preparing for additional cases.
State healthcare officials on Monday reported a total of 1,786 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including 35 deaths.
A total of 11,658 have been tested so far.
Locally, healthcare workers at GSH have submitted 41 COVID-19 tests. Among them, 25 have come back negative, and another 15 results are still pending.
According to the hospital’s website, they’ve seen just over 160 people at the drive-thru respiratory clinic set up outside the Convenient Care Clinic on Willow Street.
Stine and Thacker said the testing guidelines for COVID-19 have not changed in light of the two positive cases. The tests will continue to be administered only to those with the most severe symptoms.
They are, however, “excitedly” awaiting the arrival of more rapid, on-site testing kits, Stine said.
A number of companies have done “a fantastic job,” Stine said, of ramping up the production of those rapid tests, and they hope to have some here within the next 14 days.
As those tests do become available, healthcare workers will know the results in as little as 15 minutes.
Stine said people adhering to social distancing rules have definitely helped to “flatten the curve,” which is essentially the delay (or to put off altogether) a spike in cases of COVID-19.
If there is a sudden surge in COVID-19 cases, it’s possible it will take a “regional approach” to care for them, Stine said.
Stine and Thacker, too, said the fact that Knox County is just now seeing confirmed cases will make it possible for local healthcare officials to learn from others in larger communities, ones who are already seeing an influx of COVID-19.
Both are speaking regularly with colleagues across the country about their own experiences in dealing with the coronavirus.
Among those conversations is information regarding medications that could help to lessen the symptoms. Upwards of 70 clinical trials are currently ongoing, and Stine is hopeful that the first results of those clinical trials could benefit sick people here.
“We’ll be able to use that (information) here in our community when, in larger cities, they didn’t get to do that,” Stine said.
Thacker added that he felt “really strong” about the hospital’s position to address a surge in COVID-19 cases. Hospital officials, he said, are meeting twice a day (at least) and have had the opportunity of more time to prepare than larger cities where the coronavirus hit and hit hard.
“We are learning from organizations that have already lived through it,” he said.
But Stine stressed that most people who do contract COVID-19 will only have mild to moderate symptoms; some don’t have any symptoms at all.
Common symptoms associated with COVID-19 include fever, a dry cough and shortness of breath.
The key, Stine said, is in paying attention to your symptoms should you begin experiencing respiratory illness.
If symptoms worsen a week or so after the initial onset, then it’s time to be evaluated by a physician.
“Cough, congestion, fever are common symptoms that can cross over,” he said, adding that they an be the result of something simple, such as allergies or even the common cold.
“Really, it’s the progression of those symptoms that concern us the most,” Stine said.
More than anything, Stine and Thacker encouraged local residents to continue practicing social distancing and good hand-washing practices.
To stay safe, they advise, “assume everyone you come into contact with could potentially be (COVID-19) positive.”
Stine also encouraged people to get out and enjoy the nice weather — as long as it’s done responsibly.
“I don’t want everybody cooped up and worrying,” he said. “The more you can get outside and enjoy this nice weather, all while separating yourselves, the better off we’ll be.”
BY THE NUMBERS
Confirmed Knox County cases: 2
Total number of GSH tests given: 41
Number returned negative: 25
Results still pending: 15
Respiratory clinic visits: 162
Nurse triage calls: 438
Virtual health visits: 9
Total number of confirmed cases in Indiana: 1,786
Total number of deaths in Indiana: 35
Total number of tests issued statewide so far: 11,658