MOUNT VERNON – Knox Public Health reported six new COVID-19 cases on Friday, the largest single-day increase in Knox County since the pandemic began.
Five of the six confirmed cases are being attributed to community spread, KPH spokeswoman Pam Palm said. The sixth case, a 31-year-old healthcare worker who lives in Knox County but works in Licking County, has had known exposure to the virus.
Knox County has now seen 46 confirmed cases, nine hospitalizations and one death due to the novel coronavirus. The Ohio Department of Health added a new metric to its COVID-19 data dashboard on Thursday – “presumed recovered” – which will track the number of confirmed cases in each county that have presumably recovered based on an equation (take the number of cases, then subtract the number of deaths and the number of cases with an onset in the past 21 days). Of Knox County’s 46 cases, 33 have presumably recovered.
Knox County’s previous single-day high for reported cases was two, set four different times – on May 1, June 10, June 24 and June 26. Friday’s total triples that. Palm said the health department is not phased by the increase, however, given the uptick in gatherings this time of the year.
“We’re not surprised at the increase due to most activities and locations being open to the public, plus the increase in private gatherings of people,” Palm said in an email. “We have noticed more people wearing masks at retail locations, but that’s probably not the case at private gatherings or at outside locations.”
Knox County Health Commissioner Julie Miller expressed concern last week about the increasing number of new cases in Knox County being attributed to community spread. “Community spread” is the term used to define cases for which the source of infection is unknown. Eleven of Knox County’s last 13 cases (and 15 of the 46 total) have been given this designation – a trend that parallels what health officials believe is happening at the state level.
“Our COVID-19 experts say that there is likely community spread in every Ohio county,” Gov. Mike DeWine said in a press briefing Thursday.
Ohio has seen a steady rise in cases over recent weeks, and over a thousand new cases have been reported each day this month. The state reported its fourth-highest single-day total on Friday with 1,091 new cases (well over the 21-day average of 706).
Hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths have also continued to increase during this time. Over 8,000 Ohioans have been hospitalized from COVID-19 and nearly 3,000 have died as of Friday. Nearly 40,000 Ohioans have presumably recovered from the disease, according to the ODH.
Miller believes travel and increased exposure have contributed to Knox County's recent increase in community spread. She said last week that residents have returned from weddings, graduation parties and out-of-state gatherings in recent weeks and have tested positive for COVID-19. This continued behavior will cause Knox County’s numbers to rise, and will put more individuals at risk of infection.
“There is travel, there are mass gatherings now, I think we’re just going to see more community spread,” Miller said. “It doesn’t surprise me that the state numbers are up. It won’t surprise me if our numbers go up because of those things.”
Four females and two males made up Knox County’s six new confirmed cases reported Friday. Three cases are from Mount Vernon, two are from Howard and one is from Gambier. The youngest case is a 14-year-old boy and the oldest is a 76-year-old woman.
Since the pandemic began, 1,706 specimen tests have been conducted in Knox County, according to Knox Public Health. Forty-six have come back positive and 1,599 have returned negative. The health department is awaiting the results of 50 tests.
Despite Friday’s increase in cases, Knox County still has a lower per-capita infection rate than any of its neighbors. In Knox County, just 74 residents out of 100,000 have tested positive for the virus, which is a lower rate than Ashland (108), Coshocton (246), Licking (250), Delaware (259), Morrow (328) and Holmes (501) counties, respectively. Knox County still has the fewest confirmed cases of any county in the Columbus metropolitan region.
While Saturday would typically be one of Knox County’s most social days of the year, traditional Fourth of July celebrations in Mount Vernon, Fredericktown, Gambier and Centerburg have either been canceled or postponed due to the pandemic. Apple Valley will hold a physically distanced fireworks show on Saturday night, open to residents only (AV ID cards will be required to attend).
Miller encouraged residents in her Facebook Live press briefing Wednesday to continue wearing masks and practicing physical distancing, as doing so will give Knox County the best shot at keeping its numbers low.
“We’ve got to follow the guidance or we’re going to see our numbers increase...” she said. “Our expectation, if anybody would ask, is that you distance your family or yourselves from people you don’t know as much as you can. If you’re in an area where you’re too close to people – less than six feet – then I’d suggest you have masks.
"Do the right thing and protect other people from you, and hopefully protect yourselves as well.”