Day one of year two

Kroona: ‘Our future starts today’

— File photo Hamilton County Public Health has begun holding mass vaccine clinics at Briggs Woods Conference Center on Saturdays. As of this week, Hamilton County residents from age 18 to 64 with underlying conditions are eligible to receive a dose of the vaccine.

Shelby Kroona warned the Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning that she might get a little choked up as she read her bi-weekly COVID-19 update. This report was much different than others presented over the past year. This report looked toward a more hopeful future

“Today is day one of year two in our fight against COVID. Our future starts today,” the Hamilton County Public Health administrator said.

“Our focus now will look a little different in my reports as we move forward because we have hope for the future through our vaccination process,” she said.

She shared a comment from Director Kelly Garcia of the Iowa Department of Public Health.

“This has been a year of grief. We’ve lost so much in our everyday life, including so many little things we used to take for granted,” Kroona said, quoting Garcia. “For some of us, that loss may include the loss of a loved one. As we move forward, life will be different, our futures will be new, but we have hope.”

Kroona started her update by thanking her staff. Her department has logged 2,881 hours directly related to COVID-19 and much of that time was after hours and on weekends.

“We have tested, we have contract traced, we have investigated, we have prepared messages and reports, we’ve worked with community partners and now we move into our hopeful phase of our vaccine clinics,” she said.

Kroona said the health department has learned to shift its work as the staff tried to carry out programs and projects — some of which were shut down for many months.

“We’ve learned to do things differently. We need to thank our clients who have learned to do visual visits, online training programs and classes. They’ve seen our staff behind masks, gowns, gloves and face shields. And they have held on for this day.”

She thanked the many partnerships that developed in the past year.

“We have partnered and worked together like never before. For all of these new partners, I’m very thankful,” she said. “Working together has made our load lighter at the health department.”

She recalled the process of assembling a pandemic committee back in the spring of 2020.

“Van Diest Medical Center and Family Clinic, Life and Health Care, Iowa Specialty Clinic, McFarland Clinic, Crestview Nursing, Southfield Wellness Community, Windsor Manor, Stratford Care Center, (Emergency Management Director) Tim Zahn and Duane Hendrickson (EMS) have met countless times over the past year. They have been a sounding board and a planning group for what the next steps would be,” Kroona said.

The business community and the area schools have also been partners in the journey through the first year of the pandemic, with the health department supporting them through surveillance testing and through outbreaks.

“And they have all been willing participants as we tried to keep our community safe.”

As the vaccine clinics proceed, a new normal will emerge, according to Kroona. But in order to move forward, she said the past cannot be ignored.

“As of today, 7,205 people in Hamilton County have been tested for COVID-19 with 5,460 testing negative and 1,739 have tested positive. That leaves a yearly annual rate of 24 percent positivity,” Kroona said.

She offered a few other statistics:

• There have been 1,309 case investigations

• Between Nov. 1, 2020 and March 8, 2021, the health departments contact traced 1,270 individuals.

•There were 23 Hamilton County individuals who were hospitalized at some point between Nov. 1, 2020 and March 8, 2021 who were severely ill, including an intensive care unit stay

• There were four outbreaks in longterm care facilities

• There have been 42 deaths in Hamilton County in the past year related to COVID-19

Hamilton County Public Health has been receiving about 300 doses per week of the Moderna vaccine since just before Christmas. So far, 2,092 people have received the first dose of the vaccine and 1,195 have received the second dose. Sixty percent of those over 65 have received at least one dose. Teachers, law enforcement workers, health care workers have also been in the vaccine pool. Those numbers do not include long term care residents who have received the vaccine, she said.

Last week, Gov. Kim Reynolds opened up the vaccine clinics to those from 18 to 64 with underlying health conditions, as well as continuing all previous categories.

“We still receive a very scarce amount of vaccine. But we’re prepared with a large group of community volunteers to deploy the 300 vaccines every Saturday morning,” she said. The mass clinics will be held each Saturday at Briggs Woods Conference Center. To make a vaccine appointment, call Hamilton County Public Health at 832-9565.

With the help of community partners, Kroona said she believed the county could reach the 70 percent vaccination rate

“That would mean we would have herd immunity and could participate in life — with a new normal — because life will not go back to what it was before,” she said.


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