The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Knox County climbed over the weekend, bringing the total to 61.

County health officer Dr. Alan Stewart said there are now 22 active cases of the coronavirus here, more than at any other time since the pandemic forced the state shutdown in mid-March.

One patient who had been discharged from Good Samaritan Hospital into its inpatient rehab unit has been readmitted.

A second COVID-19 positive patient at GSH, according to health officials, is from outside Knox County.

Among the cases reported since Friday, Stewart said most of them are the result of family spread.

“What we’re seeing right now,” he said, “is mainly within families.”

There are, however, two “brand new cases,” and Stewart is unsure exactly where they contracted the virus.

The threat of continued community spread, he said, is still very real, so he is encouraging local residents to practice social distancing and wearing masks when out in public or in large groups.

The vast majority of Knox County’s active cases are still less sick than cases early on, Stewart said, and are recovering well at home.

Dr. Scott Stine said during his weekly Facebook live videos that while there have been a surge in cases in Knox County since Memorial Day weekend, he agreed that the majority of cases have not been critical.

He also added that “the number of hospitalizations and number of deaths are going down, despite the fact that the number of daily cases remains about the same” across the state.

On June 12, the state entered stage four of Gov. Eric Holcomb's back-on-track plan, which further loosened restrictions on businesses and upped the number of people allowed at social gatherings to 250.

On Saturday, the state is scheduled to move to the final stage of the plan, which sees all restrictions on gatherings and businesses lifted.

However, Stine, too, warns that as business and social interaction opportunities continue to expand, so do opportunities for the local spread of the coronavirus, so appropriate precautions will be necessary for the foreseeable future.

The lifting of legal restrictions, he says, “does not release us all from the responsibility to continue on with good hand hygiene, continue with mask-wearing whenever appropriate when we cannot maintain social distancing, and limit our exposure to individuals we think are a concern.”

“That will continue to be the new norm as we continue past stage five,” Stine said.

Stine also urged caution during the summer travel season, as popular beach destinations in states such as Florida have become hotspots for the virus.

“It’s important to realize what the risks of that travel are,” he said. “And, again, maintain those precautions.”

Stine says while he can’t predict the future, he envisions a need for social distancing and masking, particularly for at-risk groups, well into 2021, with the possibility of another stretch of home isolation needed this fall or winter.

“As we go into flu season and we see our normal spread of viral infections come around, I think that we’re going to see some increase in lockdown as far as people being concerned about those viral infections,” said Stine.

Despite the need for caution, Stine is still optimistic. He says Knox County’s relatively low infection rate of less than 1% of the more than 1,500 tests administered and the fact that “not nearly as many patients are gravely ill” as positives for the region.

Though a vaccine for COVID-19 is not yet available, local antibody testing is — as is the test for COVID-19 itself.

Antibody testing can confirm if an individual had coronavirus, but, Stine says, “keep in mind that there isn’t a great deal of utility in performing the test.”

He also added that testing positive for antibodies does not necessarily mean an individual is immune to contracting the virus again.

Though the local state-run coronavirus testing facility was recently closed because of a low volume of tests being performed, area residents can still access free COVID-19 tests through the state’s testing facilities in Princeton and Terre Haute.

Registration for the free testing can be done online at https://lhi.care/covidtesting or by phone at 888-634-1116.

The antigen testing can also be done at Good Samaritan’s Convenient Care Clinic at 1813 Willow St.

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