MOUNT VERNON – Knox County's COVID-19 caseload dropped again this week, according to the Ohio Department of Health, as the winter surge subsides and the vaccine becomes more widely available.
The county recorded 54 new cases over the last two weeks, down from 62 in the two weeks prior. COVID-related emergency department visits, outpatient visits, and hospital admissions also dropped this week locally. Knox County remained "orange" in the state's Public Health Advisory System, triggering two of the seven indicators:
New cases per capita: This indicator is flagged if a county records 50 or more cases per 100,000 residents over the last two weeks. Knox County recorded 86.65 cases per 100,000 residents over the last two weeks – down from 99.48 last Thursday – with 54 new cases during that time. This is Knox County's lowest per-capita rate since Oct. 22, 2020.
Non-congregate cases: This indicator is flagged if the proportion of a county's cases occurring in non-congregate settings goes over 50 percent in at least one of the last three weeks. Knox County reached this indicator each of the last three weeks, as more than 90 percent of the county's confirmed COVID-19 cases occurred in non-congregate settings during that time.
Knox County currently boasts the 18th-lowest per-capita infection rate in the state, according to the ODH. There were 40 active COVID-19 cases in Knox County as of Thursday, according to Knox Public Health, and two county residents were hospitalized with the virus.
Saturday will mark one year since Knox County saw its first confirmed COVID-19 case. In the time since, more than 4,100 residents have tested positive for the virus, hundreds have been hospitalized by it, and 82 have died from it. The virus has touched all corners of the county, from Mount Vernon (2,070 cases) to Bladensburg (18).
But cases, hospitalizations and deaths have declined in recent months, as the holidays have passed and the vaccine has become more accessible. Nearly 12,000 county residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine as of Thursday, according to the ODH, comprising roughly 19 percent of Knox County's population. Nearly two-thirds of the county's senior citizens have been inoculated.
Knox County turned "orange" in the OPHAS last week for the first time since Oct. 22, 2020. If its per-capita case rate (currently 86.65) drops below 50, the county could turn "yellow" for the first time since Oct. 1.
Knox County is one of 23 "orange" counties in Ohio, alongside five "yellow" counties and 60 "red" counties. Two of Knox County's neighbors, Morrow and Holmes, are "orange," while the rest are "red."
Ohio's per-capita case rate over the last two weeks is 143.8, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday, down from a high of 845.5 in mid-December. If the state dips below 50 new cases per 100,000 residents in a two-week period, DeWine has promised to lift all pandemic-related health restrictions.
Cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to decline at the state level. Ohio is averaging 1,590 new cases per day over the last three weeks, down from a peak of 13,402 new cases on Nov. 30. The state is averaging 97 new hospitalizations per day over the last three weeks, down from a high of 412 new hospitalizations on Nov. 30. Nearly 18,000 Ohioans have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to the ODH.
Roughly 22 percent of Ohio (2.5 million residents) has received at least one dose of the vaccine to-date. Residents age 40 and older will become eligible to receive the vaccine Friday, alongside those with cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, and obesity. All residents age 16 and older will be vaccine-eligible by the end of the month.
Eligible Ohioans can book an appointment to receive the vaccine at any one of Ohio's 1,300 local vaccine providers using this online portal.