KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — As the COVID-19 situation improves across the country, local health officials are reminding the public that the pandemic isn’t over yet. Knox County Health Department Director Dr. Martha Buchanan says only those who are vaccinated are protected right now.

“The folks that aren’t vaccinated or choose not to get vaccinated or can’t get vaccinated they are not protected yet. They need to continue to protect themselves and their families by wearing masks, avoid large crowds, they’re putting themselves and others who are not vaccinated at risk. And some folks can’t get vaccinated so we need to remember that,” Buchanan said.

The Knox County Health Department website reported three new COVID-related deaths since June 8. In previous weeks one death or less was reported.

With the USA Cycling weekend approaching and large crowds coming to Knoxville, Buchanan says it is an especially crucial time to practice safe and healthy habits.

“We’re seeing new variants emerge, so what I would say to people is if you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan says even though the health department updates aren’t coming as frequently, their role in the county stays the same. They will continue to protect and promote health, and prevent disease.