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Health officials update supervisors

Regular Tuesday briefings on COVID-19 now livestreamed

The Hamilton County Board of Supervisors heard an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Public Health officials, Van Diest Medical Center health care professionals and emergency management Tuesday morning.

The briefing was audio streamed on the county website, www.hamiltoncounty.org and will become a regular Tuesday morning update. Area residents can click on the COVID-19 button on the county website to access the briefing.

Shelby Kroona, Hamilton County Public Health administrator, told the board that currently, there are no positive tests in Hamilton County. Across the state, the cases have ballooned in recent days, with

124 people in 30 counties testing positive for the disease. A total of 7 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19, Kroona said.

“If you look at a map on the Iowa Department of Public Health website, you will see that it’s kind of on the border sides and is moving toward the center of the state,” said Kroona. “There is one case in Story County and one in Hancock County. Hamilton and Wright counties are right in between those two counties.”

There is new guidance for essential workers from the Centers for Disease Control. Kroona said essential workers, even those with known exposures to COVID-19, will be allowed to work until they show symptoms.

“They’ve noticed that in other states that have been quarantining doctors and nurses it’s just putting too much strain on the workforce,” she said.

Kroona said that personal protection equipment is in short supply in Hamilton County and while an order has been placed, the administrator asked for help from other sources.

“I would ask if any construction people, people who paint cars, or others who have N95 masks, or hand sanitizer or gowns, and would like to donate them, we have people who would appreciate that,” she said. Two large bottles of hand sanitizer were donated to her department this week.

Home Health visits are still underway, she said.

“The Center for Medicare and Medicaid are saying that is ‘business as usual.’ So we are continuing to see clients in their homes. We are also open anding willing to take on referrals.”

She said if there were hospitalized COVID-19 patients who were returning home, Home Health could care for the patients.

Nursing homes still continue to be in lock down status and not accepting visitors. Kroona said.

Kroona said her agency has opened up some appointments for children needing immunization shots.

“If people have newborns or infants who need shots, we don’t want them to get behind,” she said. “But they do need to call ahead to make arrangements.”

She added that her building, along with the other county buildings, is closed to the public

Emergency management Coordinator Tim Zahn said he was meeting several times a day with Kroona.

“We’ll continue to support Public Health any way we can,” he said.

One of those ways is by requesting PPE from the state. He said he received word from the state asking that counties reduce requests down to a seven-day supply.

“I have done that. The schedule says we should get that on Friday, but I suspect it will be next week sometime,” he said. “We have surgical masks and N95 masks on the order. They took the sanitizer and wipes off the order.”

Zahn said that small business loans are now available through the Small Business Administration for Iowa businesses. Gov. Kim Reynolds has also announced there will be small business grants for businesses with 2 to 25 employees. Between $5,000 and $25,000 are available for those businesses.

“They know it’s not a fix but they hope it will be a stop gap so these small businesses can continue to operate past this,” he said.

Carla Johnson, infection prevention and employee health and wellness nurse at Van Diest Medical Center, told the supervisors that VDMC is allowing essential staff to come back to work if they have traveled outside of Iowa.

“We’re monitoring 19 right now, but since they are essential staff, if they are taking care of patients within six feet, they wear a mask. Many are wearing the mask pretty much all day,” Johnson said. “I take their temperature at the beginning of the shift and the end of the shift. If there are any symptoms that start – a cough or a tickle or anything – we’re sending them home.”

New visitor restrictions went into effect Tuesday at VDMC. No visitors are allowed, with the exception of pediatric patients and end-of-life patients. In those cases, visitors must be at least 18 years of age, immediate family members, those with powers of attorney or guardian, and all must be healthy to be allowed in, Johnson said.

“We’re trying to be more proactive for our patients and staff,” she said.

Sheriff Doug Timmons said the county’s emergency services would continue operations as usual. But dispatchers would screen callers with COVID-19 questions.

“We ask that people be patient. We’re just trying to keep all the central services healthy,” he said.

Patty Treibel Leeds, social services director, said the agency’s website list ways to access mental health services through the county during the pandemic precautions.

“You can access applications for assistance under the website hamiltoncounty.org and go to the social services page to find the forms. That can be filled out on line and submit it.” she said. “Once the application is processed, we’ll call the person to let them know what happens next.”

She added that the crisis lines are available to anyone feeling stressed or anxious during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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