Section: News

As Knox’s COVID-19 cases rise, two employees test positive

As Knox’s COVID-19 cases rise, two employees test positive

Knox County Health Commissioner Julie Miller issued new restrictions as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the region. | REID STAUTBERG

As local COVID-19 case numbers rise, Knox County Health Commissioner Julie Miller has issued new restrictions in the county: Businesses must make masks mandatory and all public gatherings are limited. Miller warned that, if cases continue to rise, she will issue stay-at-home orders. Knox County was placed under red alert Thursday.

“Nine months into the pandemic we have let our guard down,” Miller told Knox Pages. “People are not wearing masks. They are not social distancing. As a community we need to take care of one another. It’s time to step up and mask-up.”

In the first 10 days of November, Knox Public Health (KPH) reported 200 new active COVID-19 cases — four times the amount of September cases and more than the October total.  There have been 771 total confirmed cases in the county and 335 people are currently being monitored for the virus, with 212 active cases as of Thursday.

Two of these active cases are Kenyon employees, whose test results showed up on Kenyon’s COVID-19 Dashboard on Monday. Director of Cox Health and Counseling Chris Smith called this rise in Knox County cases “very concerning.”

“Increased community spread may prompt new restrictions by KPH and the Governor’s Office,” he wrote in an email to the Collegian. “Increased levels enhance the risk of transmission on campus and can strain local resources required to keep our campus community safe.” 

Knox County is not alone in its high case count. As of Wednesday, Ohio reported 6,508 new COVID-19 cases in a single day. Across the country, hospitalizations are at an all-time high, with 61,964 hospitalizations on Tuesday alone — 40% more hospitalizations than two weeks ago.

On Wednesday, Gov. Mike DeWine imposed a revised mask order, threatening to close businesses for violations. He said that if the current trends continue, he will close down bars, restaurants and fitness centers a week from Thursday. DeWine also warned that colleges and universities may need to shut down in-person operations come January if  the COVID-19 case count continues to rise.

“I am very well aware of the burden this will place on employees and the owners,” he told the Columbus Dispatch. “But, these are places where it is difficult or impossible to maintain mask-wearing, which we know now is the chief way of slowing this virus.”

In Knox County, twenty-five people are currently hospitalized for COVID-19, three times the amount of hospitalizations from last week. KPH ordered the shutdown of a preschool after COVID-19 spread among students and staff members. 

Miller told the Mount Vernon News that these cases come from all around the community through close contact in stores, businesses, churches, schools and at home. 

Miller also noted that this increase in cases could be diminished if more people were to wear masks. “Typically, when both people were wearing masks, we don’t find as many positive cases coming from that,” she told the News. 

Though the College is optimistic about its plans to bring more students back for the spring semester, Smith said that these plans may have to be revised depending on how the virus continues to spread. 

“While we are hopeful this pandemic will diminish, if COVID-19 continues increasing Kenyon College may have to amend current plans for the Spring 2021 semester before students arrive on campus,” Smith said.

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