MOUNT VERNON – Knox County was "red" once again Thursday in the state's Public Health Advisory System, marking its second straight week at the third of four emergency levels.
Counties that are "red" are said to have "very high (COVID-19) exposure and spread," according to the Ohio Department of Health. Residents in these counties are advised to "limit activities as much as possible."
Knox County met four of the state's seven indicators, which are meant to track the spread of COVID-19 at the local level: new cases per capita, new cases increase, non-congregate cases and outpatient visits (tied to eventual COVID-19 diagnoses).
These were the same four indicators Knox County met last week, when it turned "red" for the first time since the system was implemented in July.
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 458.91 cases per 100,000 residents over the last two weeks – up from 300.5 last Thursday – with 286 new cases during that time. (Interestingly, Knox County had the 18th-lowest per-capita rate in the state this week, despite this number.)
New cases increase: This indicator is flagged if a county sees its rolling daily new-case average increase for five consecutive days over a three-week span. Knox County's new-case average increased every day from Nov. 2 to Nov. 10 – eight consecutive days.
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 met this indicator each of the last three weeks, as 75 percent of its cases occurred in non-congregate settings from Oct. 28 to Nov. 3; 75 percent of its cases occurred in non-congregate settings from Nov. 4 to Nov. 10; and 60 percent of its cases occurred in non-congregate settings from Nov. 11 to Nov. 17.
Outpatient visits: This indicator is flagged if a county's seven-day rolling outpatient average (reflecting the number of people who had gone to a health care provider with COVID-19 symptoms before receiving a confirmed or suspected coronavirus diagnoses) increased for five straight days over a three-week span. Knox County saw its outpatient average increase every day from Nov. 1 to Nov. 8 – seven consecutive days.
Knox County was one of 72 counties deemed "red" this week, up from 68 the week before. Franklin County became Ohio's first "purple" county, having met six indicators for the second straight week. According to the ODH, "purple" counties are experiencing "severe exposure and spread," and residents are advised to "only leave home for supplies and services."
There are now three more counties on the verge of turning "purple": Montgomery, Lorain and Lake. These counties met the requisite six or seven indicators this week, but will have to meet that threshold again next week to officially turn "purple."
Meanwhile, there were 15 "orange" counties Thursday (down from 17 last week) and, for the first time since the system's creation, zero "yellow" counties.
All seven of Knox County's neighbors – Licking, Delaware, Morrow, Richland, Ashland, Holmes and Coshocton – were "red" for the second straight week. Counties that meet four or five indicators are deemed "red," while those meeting two or three indicators are "orange." Counties triggering one indicator or fewer are "yellow."
Knox County has seen a dramatic increase in cases over the last month, according to data from Knox Public Health. The county reached the 1,000-case mark on Wednesday, with 500 of those coming since Oct. 31. There are currently 18 county residents hospitalized with COVID-19, and 12 have died in the last month.
County leaders are urging the public to wear a mask, practice social distancing, and avoid large gatherings in order to save lives and keep the local healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed.
Knox County Health Commissioner Julie Miller plans to address the community and answer COVID-19 questions via Facebook Live on Thursday at 6 p.m.