MOUNT VERNON — Knox County’s total for confirmed COVID-19 cases stood at 62 as of Wednesday, having crossed the 60 mark in reported cases Tuesday, according to Knox Public Health.
The two most recent cases reported Wednesday, with exposure attributed to community spread, involve a 29-year-old woman and an 8-year-old girl. Both are isolated at home. The 60th case, a 38-year-old man who had been exposed to a positive case, was reported Tuesday and he is also in home isolation. All three were tested in Knox County.
The rate of positive cases in Knox County has increased markedly since reopenings began in May, according to KPH’s chart. Case number 50 was reported on July 4, as were four other Knox County cases. Case number 40 was reported just two days earlier, on July 2. The 30th case was reported on June 10, one of two reported that day.
Knox County’s first COVID-19 positive case was reported March 20, and, by contrast to recent cases occurring at a faster rate of spread, the county’s 10th case was not reported until April 12, with the 20th case not until May 6. Local cases have involved a few hospitalizations.
While KPH Health Commissioner Julie Miller has said people should wear masks in public for their own safety, and with a Mount Vernon firefighter and the safety-service director of Mount Vernon having tested positive, mandatory mask-wearing has not happened in Knox County. That is something Miller has said she cannot enforce and would have to come from municipal leaders. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart has announced that mandatory mask-wearing in its stores will start Monday, and Kroger announced it will also require masks.
Joan Slonczewski, a professor of microbiology at Kenyon College, said she believes masks in public places should be mandatory in the county, and she has advocated for it recently before the Village of Gambier councilmembers. The council opted to recommend it instead and offer access to free masks.
“The problem is, everybody wants to wait until it’s a big deal before they do anything,” said Slonczewski.
Slonczewski leads a Kenyon project measuring shed COVID-19 particles from wastewater samples in Gambier water. Although there have only been two reported coronavirus cases in Gambier, recent results from the wastewater tests indicate there has been a spike. However, she added that could be from just one person given the small size of the community. More results due this week from a Florida lab should offer more on the presence of the virus, she added.
As of Wednesday, Knox County is at Level 1 under Ohio’s recently announced Ohio Public Health Advisory System for COVID-19, which assesses risks for community spread. Level 1 refers to active exposure and spread.
Every county surrounding Knox County, except Ashland, is at Level 2. Level 2 means there is increased exposure and spread present. Three other nearby counties — Franklin, Pickaway and Fairfield — are at Level 3, meaning there is very high exposure and spread. With Ohio experiencing its largest single-day new case totals in recent days, no Ohio counties are reported yet at Level 4, which is severe exposure and spread.
The Ohio Alliance for Innovation in Population Health and Ohio University have released a map showing COVID-19 disease rate penetration in Ohio counties. Knox County shows a rate of 94 cases per 100,000, one of the lowest rates in the state. Neighboring counties — such as Holmes, with 618 cases per 100,000, Licking with 360, and Richland with 383 — have a much higher disease rate penetration than Knox.
KPH has announced that its next free drive-thru testing will be Monday from 3-6 p.m. at the East Knox school campus in Howard, with no appointment required. The testing involves a partnership between KPH and the Ohio National Guard. Testing is for those ages 18 and over, and those tested do not have to exhibit symptoms to be tested.