9/7/2021 - Positive cases of COVID-19 continue to increase in Knox County with more than 200 cases and seven people hospitalized since Sept. 1. Currently, there are more than 600 active cases of COVID-19 in Knox County – the highest number of cases locally since the pandemic began, 18 months ago.
“One of the issues we are seeing is that people are not isolating for the proper amount of time when they test positive,” said Starr Roden, communicable disease nurse for Knox Public Health. “Whether you test positive using a rapid test or get your results from a lab, you need to isolate for 10 days, regardless of your vaccination status.”
To isolate means being separated from other household members and disinfecting shared surfaces like restroom facilities and kitchen utensils. “Isolation also means not going back to work or school or to any public place until after 10 days,” said Roden.
For someone who is symptomatic, the isolation period is 10 days from the onset of symptoms. For those who are asymptomatic, the isolation period is 10 days from the date the test specimen was collected. Symptoms of COVID-19 are: fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell; sore throat; congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea.
“We are seeing a lot of positive cases as a result of people who live in the same household and among people who are going back to work or school while they are still sick and passing the virus onto others,” said Roden.
“Employers should not require their employees who have tested positive to be back at work before the 10-day isolation period is complete,” said Roden. “The same is true for teachers and all students, especially athletes.”
If someone is asymptomatic or their symptoms go away, it's possible to remain contagious for at least 10 days after testing positive for COVID-19. People who are hospitalized with severe disease and people with weakened immune systems can be contagious for 20 days or longer.
“When you go back to being in close proximity to family members or workers or classmates, before the 10-day isolation period is complete, you run the risk of passing on the virus to someone else,” said Roden. “And if that someone is not vaccinated or has a weakened immune system, the virus could affect them more severely.”
The recent surge in positive cases is being attributed to variants, especially the Delta variant which is almost twice as infectious as the original virus. The Delta variant was first reported in Knox County in early August. Since that time, there have been over 1,100 positive cases reported.
Current vaccines have shown effectiveness in protecting against or at least minimizing the infection from the COVID-19 virus. The vast majority of infections and hospitalizations have been among the unvaccinated. In Knox County, over 85 percent of those testing positive since vaccine became available at the beginning of the year, have not been vaccinated.
COVID-19 vaccine remains plentiful in Knox County and is available at Knox Public Health as well as several pharmacies and doctor’s offices. Three different brands of vaccine are available for adults age 18 and older. The Pfizer vaccine has been approved for children ages 12 -17. It takes five weeks to be fully vaccinated.
Knox Public Health strongly suggests everyone wear a mask whether or not they have been vaccinated, especially when inside public places, such as department stores and grocery stores or at social gatherings.