Confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to climb in Miami County and the rate has increased in recent weeks as it has in much of the rest of the state.

From July 14 to Monday’s noon update from the Indiana Department of Health, the number of confirmed cases in Miami County has risen from 197 cases to 236.

That jump of 39 cases is nearly double what the county saw between June 17 and July 14 when the numbers climbed from 177 to 197.

The quick rise is indicative of what caused Gov. Eric Holcomb, last week, to announce a mask mandate to tamp back down the rate that the disease caused by the novel coronavirus is spreading, according to Miami County Health Officer Dr. Christi Redmon.

“These masks are going to slow the spread,” she told the Tribune on Monday.

Redmon said it was too early to tell whether the acceleration of newly identified cases here is due to a “hotspot” or event.

“You won’t know that until the contact tracing,” she said.

But the rise does illustrate the importance of the masks and avoiding another near shutdown of the economy like the one stemming from the stay-at-home orders in the early days of the pandemic.

It’s a hard thing to communicate to people, Redmon said.

Particularly when statistics provided by the state show that there are still plenty of beds in intensive care units and available ventilators.

“But what can we do to get this back down to a gradual spread?” she said was the question on many officials’ minds.

Doing so would hopefully keep those medical resources from being overrun.

Holcomb announced the mandate, which went into effect on Monday, after officials noted that positivity rates had hit a seven-day average of “just about 7 percent.”

That is up from “a low of 3.6 percent just a month ago,” he said.

“And as a lagging indicator our overall hospital census has increased from about 600 a day at the end of June to about 800 where we are now,” he said.

Additionally, Holcomb said, counties that had not been a “blip on the screen” at the outset of the pandemic are now reporting double-digit positive tests. Neighboring states are also seeing an increase.

“Face coverings will help us blunt this increase,” Holcomb said.

Redmon said it is important for people to remember that the masks are meant to protect others, not necessarily the wearer of the mask.

“I don’t think (people) grasp that,” she said. “My mask is protecting someone else.”

And while there are some who argue that the masks are not 100 percent effective, Redmon said she is not swayed by the argument.

The virus, she said, is not going away anytime soon, so people should take any measure – even if it is less than 100 percent effective – to keep the rate of spread down, particularly if it helps avoid another stay-at-home order.

Such measures can’t rid the population of the virus.

“But what can we do to slow the spread?” she said.

As of Monday’s update from the Indiana Department of Health., two people have died from the virus in Miami County. The 236 positive cases identified were the result of 3,426 administered tests. The county has an infection rate of 66.4 cases per 10,000 people.