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Public Health gives update on pandemic

The number of COVID-19 cases in Hamilton County remains at 11 as of Wednesday.

Four hundred eighty-two people have been tested in Hamilton County, with no deaths or hospitalizations.

Shelby Kroona, Hamilton County Public Health administrator, said during her weekly COVID-19 update to the Board of Supervisors, that her agency has been working with Van Diest Medical Center to do some surveillance testing for an area business.

“We’ll also be working with the nursing homes and long-term care facilities to see if this is something they want to have happen at their facilities,” Kroona said.

Kroona said the goal of surveillance testing is to find those people who are asymptomatic – people who have the virus but show no obvious symptoms.

“They don’t know that they are ill so they can spread the virus, maybe causing someone who is high risk to catch the illness and get very sick.”

Kroona also said that isolation guidance has changed.

“If they have symptoms, it’s 10 days from the time symptoms arise. People have to be fever-free for three days and symptoms have to be improving before they will be let out of isolation,” Kroona said. “People who are asymptomatic need to be isolated for 10 days after their test.”

“A minimum of 10 days is the marker for sick people,” she said.

Screening guidance has changed somewhat, also. Kroona said public health screeners are not necessarily looking at out-of-state or international travel – something that was scrutinized in the early days of the virus spread. Now they are looking more at signs and symptoms of the virus.

“We’re looking at coughs, shortness of breath or at least two of the other symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat or loss of taste or smell,” according to Kroona.

Kroona said whenever they have an asymptomatic or a symptom positive case, contact tracing implemented to determine who has been exposed to the virus. The health department conducts an interview with the person to come up with a list of people with whom they have been in contact including family, coworkers, or anyone else the person has been around.

“The time frame is usually two days before the onset of symptoms or for the asymptomatic, two days before they took their test,” she said. The nurses with the health department then reach out to those contacts to make sure they are not ill or experiencing symptoms.

“Those people also need to isolate and be monitored for 10 days to see if they develop symptoms,” she said.

With Gov. Kim Reynolds relaxing many of the restrictions on businesses in the past week, Kroona said she has had many questions from concerned businesspeople and Kroona said she has talked through many different scenarios with businesses.

“This virus is going to be with us for a while, at least until a vaccine is developed. I like to say that a slow, methodical approach to reopening is a great way to think about it,” she said. “We may see businesses asking people to wear masks or see traffic flow plans in various businesses or ‘x’s’ on the floor to remind of social distancing.”

Kroona said that those with chronic conditions or who are considered high risk should still consider only leaving home for essential trips, wearing a mask when away from home and continue to practice good handwashing and sanitizing measures.

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