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The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

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April 15, 2024
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COVID-19 Update: Knox County sees ongoing spike

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Senior Max Caplan is tested for COVID-19 by a Knox Health Services worker. (Rob Nguyen/TKS)

Senior Max Caplan is tested for COVID-19 by a Knox Health Services worker. (Rob Nguyen/TKS)

While as of Knox College’s last October report the school maintains its low COVID rates with 26 positive cases among about 2,700 tests this term, the surrounding area of Knox County remains in the midst of a spike—having reached levels of 25-30 new cases per day by the end of October. 

Knox County COVID levels in October were the highest they have been for the entire pandemic, with The Register-Mail reporting on Nov. 5 that among the 25 total COVID deaths in the county, 22 took place in the month of October. The numbers are reflective of a spike being seen throughout Illinois, which recently surpassed 10,000 total COVID-19 deaths.

Representatives of the Knox County Health Department (KCHD)—Director of Wellness Erin Olson and Program Director for Knox County Contact Tracing Elizabeth Hippen—stated that the October rise in cases was expected as cold weather leads to more indoor gatherings and less social distancing, and the spike is likely to continue through the following months. 

They described the bulk of the county’s recent cases as being the result of spread among whole family units following large social gatherings of 20+ people.

“You don’t think about potentially having COVID when you get together with your family. They’re family, you don’t want to keep those guidelines… they’re just more relaxed,” Hippen said. 

The KCHD’s current message to residents includes emphasizing that this year getting the flu shot will be more important than ever, as the flu season is likely to result in people being positive for both. They also continue to stress social distancing, mask wearing, and limiting gatherings—even if that means spending the upcoming holidays only with your household family members.

“If you have any of those cold, flu, COVID-like symptoms—we encourage you, as hard as it is and sometimes as much as you want to go to stuff—stay home. It’s better to be safe than sorry,” Olson said. “Because you could be asymptomatic or think it’s just an allergy and end up testing positive for COVID.”

And while the county is aware of how well Knox is currently doing, they hope students will continue to and stay safe and follow the expected guidelines, especially to make sure in their living spaces they continue the regular cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces. 

On its end, Vice President for Student Development Anne Ehrlich says the school is monitoring the local rise in cases closely, but as Knox’s numbers remain low and do not yet show any signs of reflecting the local spike, Ehrlich says the school currently has no plans for major changes.

The school did on Wednesday, Nov. 4 respond to an announcement by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, who set new guidelines for North-Central Illinois following the region showing three straight days of COVID positivity rates over 8%. In a campus email, President Teresa Amott stated that while the school was not required to follow limits on social gatherings of more than 25 people, the school would voluntarily adhere to the guideline. 

Ehrlich described herself as confident about Knox’s ability to make it to the finish line of the term—now less than three weeks away—without a major COVID incident as long as “no one gets cocky.”  But while the regional COVID numbers do not worry Ehrlich in context of Knox College, they did trouble her in a broader sense.

“We’re not seeing an end to this anytime soon, and that’s concerning,” she said. 

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