KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — In one week, Knox County saw more than 500 new cases of COVID-19 and three more deaths from the virus. The latest numbers show 220 Knox County residents are currently battling the virus in the hospital.

Dr. Buchanan is concerned about the spike. “It’s going up faster than it did last time. So, we’re concerned we’ll peak out at a higher number, potentially, than we did in the past,” she said. While the delta variant has changed the landscape, and active case count, the number one weapon for fending off the spread has remained the same.

“Getting vaccinated is the way we’re going to slow the spread of this disease and take control back of our everyday lives from the virus…getting the vaccine is still your best protection from ending up in the hospital and your best protection from getting disease. It reduces your risk, it doesn’t eliminate it,” Buchanan added. The latest numbers show 46% of Knox County residents are fully vaccinated.

A large portion of the unvaccinated include children younger than 12, who are currently ineligible. With the start of a new school year getting underway, she urged parents to keep students home when they’re sick and to make an informed choice about mask-wearing.

“Children can get COVID, they can get very sick from COVID. parents need to read the information and look at their child’s medical history and their child’s risk and make a decision about whether they should mask their child when they send them to school,” she said.

Though Buchanan has doubts about whether mask mandates would be effective, she does believe wearing face coverings indoors can be effective at slowing the spread of the virus but noted they’re simply one layer of mitigation.

“Getting more people vaccinated will let us all go back to life. If you look at CDC recommendations, they’re based on the local situation. So, if you get more people vaccinated, our cases will go down and we’ll get to go back to life again.

Buchanan is also waiting on a legal opinion regarding her role as health officer of the county during the ongoing coronavirus health crisis. As for the future of cases spread of the disease, Buchanan pointed to many fall activities ahead, including football.

“It’s not too late right now to have that conversation with your doctor, get vaccinated, and be better prepared to go to those events and be more protected. it’s not 100 percent protection. you can still get COVID, but a much milder case than you would have had if you didn’t get vaccinated.”