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Second case of COVID-19 in county

Hamilton County has its second positive COVID-19 case, according to public health officials.

The news came at the regular weekly COVID-19 briefing held at the courthouse Tuesday morning.

“I want to assure the public that the two individuals who have had the positive tests have gone through the questionnaire that the Iowa Department of Public Health has for us to do a contact investigation,” said Shelby Kroona, Hamilton County Public Health administrator.

Kroona said no names, identifying information or their place of residence or work will be released.

“I received a lot of Facebook messages and phone calls asking to release the identity of these individuals, but it is the stance of the health department that we do not release any protected health information about an individual,” she said. “Anyone who has been exposed – we have been in contact with them. We’ll monitor these individuals for up to 14 days depending upon their symptoms.”

Kroona said both of the individuals are recovering at home and have what is considered to be a mild to moderate case.

She said that whether Hamilton County sees just two cases or 100 cases, the message is still the same from the health department.

“People need to stay home and only go out for essential things, such as groceries, going to the pharmacy and they need to limit exposure even to people they might meet on the sidewalk or the walking trails. It’s important to get out – we’ve been cooped up in our houses for a number of weeks,” she said. If people do decide to go out for a walk, run or bike ride, Kroona said they should make sure there are less than 10 people in the group, preferably just immediate family.

“Keep social distancing in mind if you do have to go out to the grocery store or pharmacy,” she added.

Kroona said Van Diest Medical Center is providing informational sessions on mental health on Tuesdays on the hospital website, www.vandiestmc.org. These sessions are free and open to the public.

Retrieving accurate COVID-10 testing data for the county is difficult, she said, since many people from this area are being tested in other counties. She said people are being tested in Story, Wright and Webster counties.

“We will eventually get those test results and do the follow-up with the contact tracing if the tests are positive, but there could be a lag where somebody is told they are positive and the health department may not get the information until the next day,” she said.

Across the state, there have been 11,670 negative test and 1,048 positive tests, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health website on Tuesday.

Kroona said her agency continues to meet weekly with other health care organizations in the county. She added that her department houses a small stockpile of personal protective equipment that it will be distributed to nursing homes and assisted living facilities, police, fire and EMS officials and other essential workers.

Carla Johnson, infection control nurse at VDMC, said that the hospital is trying to conserve masks and this week reached out via their Facebook page and website to seamstresses in the county asking them to make cloth masks.

“Most all of our employees in the hospital will be wearing those, as well as employees who are not taking care of infectious patients, whether in the hospital, the emergency department or the clinic,” she said.

Amy McDonough, chief nursing officer, said the plan will likely begin Wednesday.

“It’s going to be a definite change in people’s workflow if everyone has to wear a mask for the majority of the day,” she said. “It’s all about trying to decrease that asymptomatic spread, because as we know it becomes more community spread we may be exposed even if you are trying to socially distance as much as possible.”

“We’re doing everything we can to keep our patients safe and our employees safe,” McDonough said.

Hamilton County Conservation Executive Director Brian Lammers told the supervisors the trails are still open at the county parks. But at this time, campgrounds, including the cabins in the parks are closed, following the governor’s Monday declaration.

“You can take your walk or bike ride,” he said. “But we’re going to be monitoring groups as well. We won’t allow anyone to have 10 or more people. We want people to keep their distance for others.”

Lammers also said that if people see one or two campers in the campgrounds, those people are likely the campground hosts who will be doing volunteer work in the park.

“They’re not recreational campers,” he said. The campgrounds are closed through April 30 and he said the policy would be reassessed on May 1.

The good news is, the county lakes are open for fishing, according to Lammers.

“But again keep your six-foot distance,” he said. He added that Brushy Creek State Park is also open for fishing.

Lammers said Briggs Woods Golf Course is also open for golfers, but with some restrictions. Golfers must pay for fees online, he added.

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