After two weeks in blue, Knox County this week returned to the orange designation on Indiana’s COVID-19 dashboard.

For several days, local positivity rates and active case numbers dipped, but by the middle of last week, Knox County Health Officer Dr. Alan Stewart was urging caution as he watched numbers creep up again.

“When we hit blue it was like everyone was doing this high-five thing, but that was premature,” Stewart said. “Really, our blue numbers may have just been a statistical anomaly from a delay of recording the cases quickly at the state combined with a couple of days of low case numbers.”

The county saw 50 new cases in a single day late last week. Currently there are 105 active cases, and Knox County has a 10.5% positivity rating, up significantly from recent weeks of positivity rates below 5%.

Stewart, too, says he expects a post-Thanksgiving surge across the county and state, as has become the norm after holidays and large events.

“People really need to be careful during the holidays,” he said. “If you have anyone who is vulnerable, like someone with a chronic illness, see that all of your guests are vaccinated. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”

Vaccinations, including booster doses, are the best way to prevent spread during large family gatherings over the next several weeks, noting that while masking is effective, it’s not practical in this kind of scenario.

“I would also be really careful with travel and with having out-of-town guests,” he added.

While Stewart anticipates an upturn in the number of COVID-19 cases during, and immediately following, the holidays, he’s cautiously optimistic about the new year.

“I expect a little bit of an uptick at the holidays, but then after that I hope to see us really go down in cases,” he said.

Though too late for most Thanksgiving gatherings, Stewart says there is still time to be vaccinated for the first time, or to receive a booster dose, before Christmas.

His advice to be vaccinated, he says, extends to young people, too.

While the vast majority of children and young adults who contract COVID-19 come through relatively unscathed, it can prove fatal to some.

“The odds of getting very ill are very slim the younger you are, but when you are that one, it’s devastating,” Stewart said.

The health officer says he is pleased to see an increase in the number of individuals seeking the first dose of the COVID vaccine.

“It’s encouraging.

“It means people have kind of looked around at what’s been happening and reconsidered,” he said.

Initial doses of the vaccine are available to all adults and to children ages five and older.

All adults who are six months or more beyond the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are now eligible for a booster dose.

Both the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently approved booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine for all adults 18 and over, opening up booster shots to tens of millions of people across the country.

Those seeking a COVID-19 vaccine are encouraged to visit the health department on Monday, Wednesday or Friday — with Tuesdays and Thursdays being reserved specifically for childhood immunizations.

In addition to its regular business hours, the department will offer COVID vaccinations the first Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. until noon.

To schedule COVID-19 vaccinations, visit KCHDCovidClinic.as.me or call 812-882-8080.

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