MOUNT VERNON -- Like most of Ohio and throughout the U.S., Knox County is seeing an increase in cases of COVID-19, Knox Public Health reported on Wednesday night.
In the last two weeks, Knox Public Health (KPH) reports there have been more than 100 new cases among Knox County residents, including two outbreaks. Almost all of the individuals testing positive have not been vaccinated.
KPH officials estimate the number of positive cases to be even higher than the reported number due to lax reporting and sick individuals refusing to be tested.
“Some people don’t want to be tested because if they know they have COVID-19, they might have to miss work or won’t be able to attend a social event,” said KPH Director of Nursing Lisa Dudgeon, RN. “But if people are positive and continue to be in close contact with family members and co-workers, they run the risk of passing the virus on to others.”
Among the outbreak cases is an outdoor wedding with 200 guests, many from outside of Knox County. The second outbreak is at a local business where the spouse of an employee tested positive.
Knox Public Health stated in a press release that the employee continued to go to work and eventually tested positive. Currently, there are nine positive cases from the business that have been reported, none of whom were vaccinated.
Positive cases need to isolate for approximately 10 days. Anyone who is a close contact of a positive case should quarantine for 14 days to monitor for symptoms and avoid transmission to others should they become positive.
Employers can require their employers to get vaccines as a condition of employment as long as it is job related and considered a business necessity, according to Knox Public Health. Also, requiring proof of vaccination is not a HIPAA violation, so employers can ask employees to show their vaccination card.
Since the beginning of July, 94 percent of the positive cases - or 115 people - have been unvaccinated with five of those individuals hospitalized, several in the intensive care unit, according to Knox Public Health. There have been seven positive cases – or six percent - in which the individuals were fully vaccinated. Two of the fully vaccinated cases – both in their 80s – were hospitalized but did not require the ICU.
It’s unclear if the delta variant is present in Knox County due to limited sequence-testing which identifies specific strains of the virus, according to Dudgeon.
“Considering the increased reporting of variants throughout Ohio, it’s possible that some of the recent increase in Knox County cases is the result of the delta variant, but there’s no definite confirmation – at least not yet.”
Presently, there is no mask mandate – locally or statewide. However, the CDC recommends that even fully vaccinated people wear masks in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission. For the week July 27 to Aug. 2, the CDC has labeled the level of community transmission in Knox County as “substantial” based on a 186 percent increase in positive cases for the week July 26 – Aug. 1, compared to the previous week.
Businesses, including restaurants and retail locations, are allowed to request or require patrons to wear a facial covering, according to KPH Deputy Health Commissioner Zach Green.
“If you are in an indoor location and unable to social distance from your group, i.e. your family or friends or co-workers – regardless if you have been vaccinated – we recommend wearing a facial covering,” Green said.
Being vaccinated is still recommended as one of the best ways to avoid getting COVID-19.
“Even if you are vaccinated and you get COVID-19, the symptoms are far less severe and your chances of being hospitalized are much lower,” Dudgeon said.
According to the Ohio Hospital Association, 22,891 Knox County residents – or 43 percent of the eligible population - have received at least the one dose of vaccine. Of the total number receiving COVID-19 vaccine, 21,781 are fully vaccinated (41 percent), meaning they have received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson. The eligible population includes anyone 12 years of age and older.
COVID-19 vaccine continues to be available at several locations including KPH and most pharmacies. To make an appointment at KPH, call 740-399-8008. For other vaccine locations, check the COVID page at knoxhealth.com.