MOUNT VERNON – After seven straight weeks on the lowest level of Ohio's Public Health Advisory System, Knox County turned 'orange' on Thursday.
The county met two of the state's seven indicators, which are meant to track the spread of COVID-19:
Non-congregate cases: State data showed that 75 percent of Knox County's cases from Sept. 16 to Sept. 22 were attributed to individuals in non-congregate settings.
Outpatient visits: Data also showed the 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) had increased for five straight days, from Sept. 26 to Oct. 2.
Counties triggering two or three of the state's indicators are deemed 'orange,' or Level 2, in the Public Health Advisory System. This rating is meant to symbolize "increased exposure and spread" of COVID-19 in a community, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Residents in 'orange' counties are advised to "exercise a high degree of caution."
Knox County had remained 'yellow' in the state's system for seven straight weeks up until Thursday, triggering one indicator or fewer. The county's coronavirus caseload has fallen off substantially since late July, when increased community spread and an outbreak at a local long-term care facility caused it to meet three of the seven indicators.
Despite going 'orange' for two straight weeks heading into August, Knox County never turned 'red.' It has remained Level 1 or Level 2 since the Public Health Advisory System was introduced July 2.
Knox County wasn't alone in turning 'orange' on Thursday. Per this week's map, 58 of Ohio's 88 counties are Level 2. Just 12 are Level 1 (yellow) and 18 are Level 3 (red).
Counties that are 'red' (meeting four or five indicators) have "very high exposure and spread," according to the ODH. Residents in those counties are advised to "limit activities as much as possible." Counties that are 'purple' (meeting six or seven indicators) have "severe exposure and spread," and residents are urged to "only leave home for supplies and services."
Two of Knox County's neighbors remained 'red' this week (Richland and Ashland counties), while three stayed 'orange' (Holmes, Licking and Delaware counties). Coshocton County went from 'orange' to 'yellow,' and Morrow County stayed 'yellow' for the fifth straight week.
Knox County recorded five new coronavirus cases on Thursday, according to Knox Public Health, bringing its pandemic total to 308. There have been 15 new cases so far this week, up from 12 last week and seven the week before.
KPH is currently monitoring 19 active cases, and one county resident is hospitalized. Fifteen residents have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began in March.