Tri-County seeing COVID-19 numbers trending downward

TRI-COUNTY—The Tri-County is beginning to see a downward trend in COVID-19 cases, as Whitley County has made it out of the “red zone.”

Despite a continued downward trend, both Laurel and Knox counties are still in the “red zone” but both counties were able to drop their red zone status for a couple days before jumping back up into the red zone this week.

The zoning or seven-day incidence is calculated by taking the total number of unique cases in each county over the past seven days, divided by seven to get a daily average, divided by the U.S. census bureau county population, and then multiplied by 100,000 to get the incidence per 100,000 people.

Mark Hensley, executive director of the Laurel County Health Department, said that Laurel County dropped into the orange zone over the weekend before seeing its incidence rate rise to 35.9 percent as of Monday’s incidence report according to the state’s COVID-19 website.

In Whitley County, Public Health Director Marcy Rein said that the county dropped into the orange zone on Thursday and Friday but rose back to the red zone by Saturday. Whitley County’s incidence rate of 24.4 percent as of Monday helped the county to find its way back out of the red zone and into the “orange zone.”

Knox County was sitting in the orange zone with an incidence rate of 24.3 percent as of Sunday’s incidence report but was back into the red zone with an incidence rate of 29.4 percent as of the latest report.

“We have seen a decrease in cases over the last two to three weeks,” Hensley said of Laurel County. “In January, we seemed to see a surge in cases and that was most likely due to the holidays and those gatherings and things of that nature but we have seen a decrease in cases the last couple weeks. We think that could be in part because of folks getting vaccinated, the weather, you know, people are probably staying home more and those large gatherings are not happening or participating in events, and then those persons who are actually taking it serious and adhering to those CDC guidelines in regards to social distancing, wearing a mask and hand washing.”

Rein agreed with Hensley and said that Whitley County’s numbers were likely higher in December and January due to the holidays. Both believe that the recent winter weather may bring case numbers down over the next couple weeks.

“I think the winter weather may keep our numbers down some, but maybe that is more to do with it being harder to get out and get tested than anything else,” she said. “If it reduced people’s activity enough to really impact our numbers, we’ll see that in the next week or two.”

Rein said the likelihood of Whitley County staying out of the red zone was high if the county continues its downward trend and said there are some things community members can do to help get there.

“The best thing to do is continue to wear a mask, wash hands frequently, keep your distance from people and stay home if you feel unwell at all,” she said. “Get vaccinated when it’s your turn.”

“If you’re sick and you feel like you have the symptoms of COVID, stay home or get tested and continue to social distance, continue to mask up, continue to wash your hands,” Hensley said. “Continue to practice all those guidelines that have been set in place, established over the last year now almost. Those persons also need to get vaccinated. It is important that everyone is vaccinated.”

And with more people getting vaccinated and more vaccination sites popping up across the Tri-County, Hensley believes we will continue seeing a downward trend in case numbers.

“I think we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel,” Hensley said. “It is positive and it couldn’t have come at a better time. We are getting close to spring and summer and I do feel positive about that and I feel like the timing of it could not have been better because for the last year we’ve been restricted in what we could and could not do, so it could not be better timing. Hopefully by mid-summer or early fall, the vaccine will be available for all the population.”

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