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County sees dramatic uptick in COVID-19 cases since the weekend

Public Health Administrator urges use of masks to stem the spread of the virus

Hamilton County Public Health Administrator Shelby Kroona issued a strong plea to county residents Tuesday morning — wear a mask when away from home.

She made the comments during her regular COVID-19 update during the Hamilton County Supervisors meeting at the courthouse after reporting a large spike in positive cases.

“We in Hamilton County are seeing the beginnings of a large spike again. We had 11 cases reported to the Health Department yesterday and that follows two weeks of only five cases each week,” she said. “On Sunday we were down to just one person in isolation.”

Kroona said Monday was “quite shocking in my world.” The results are a reflection of the past two weeks and earlier.

“So, if there were large events or things going on around the community, with people not wearing masks and not social distancing, we are seeing those people as positive cases today,” Kroona said.

She added that she expects to see the trend continue.

With the 11 new cases, there are multiple people who have been exposed and there’s some miscommunication going around about exposures.

Those who have had direct contact with someone who has tested positive, should self-isolate for 14 days even if they test negative today. Kroona said in some cases, people can test too early and in other cases, people can show symptoms later. She urged those who have had direct contact with no mask or face shield to self-isolate.

“We are seeing more and more people develop symptoms on day 10 to 14. So that negative test can give a false sense of security. A test is a snapshot in time. It means you are negative today only. It doesn’t mean you won’t be positive tomorrow, the next day or three weeks from now,” according to Kroona.

She said the key to preventing exposure is protection and following good public health guidelines – frequent hand washing, using hand sanitizer, using physical distance and wearing masks.

“Even though there is no mandatory mask requirement in Hamilton County or in Iowa at this point, and as we continue to see more and more increases, we need people to follow the governor’s guidance of doing the right thing and wearing a mask whenever you are outside of your home.

Kroona said masks can be the surgical variety, a cloth face covering or a face shield.

” We need to take this virus seriously,” she said.

As school districts prepare to return to the classroom, Kroona said wearing masks could help determine if how things play out in the fall.

“We want school to start in the fall. If we want football games, volleyball games, if we want our children to return to school, now is the time to be wearing masks. What we do today, will be evident two weeks from today.” she said.

To be effective, masks need to worn properly, according to Kroona. The neither the nose or the mouth should be exposed. Masks need to completely cover the nose and mouth to provide full protection to the face.

To safely remove the mask, grasp them by the ear loops or straps and avoid touching the front of the mask.

“The front of the mask is considered contaminated. So you should not ever touch the front of your mask without immediately washing your hands afterwards.”

She cautioned people not to slide the mask off their face and wear it around their neck.If a person is out in the community, Kroona warned that virus particles on the neck could be transferred to the face when the mask is put back in place.

Kroona said the Health Department Facebook Page will share regular updates on case numbers.

“However, I will not share breakdowns of cases by community. It’s not fair to individuals,” she said. “I want everyone in Hamilton County to be assured that there are people in every single community who have tested positive.

“Being in a smaller town does not afford you any more protection than being in Webster City. It’s not just a Webster City problem.”

Doug Bailey, chairman of the board of supervisors, said that masks seem to have taken on a political tone.

“That’s really unfortunate and very unnecessary,” he said. “In looking at this recent uptick, if that is sustained, we need to be really conscious of what we can do that might make a difference in the safety of the county residents.”

“This is a serious situation that people have just got to be respectful of their fellow residents,” Bailey said.

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