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Coronavirus cases in Hamilton County near 400

Public health director updates supervisors on pandemic; urges those tested for COVID 19 to isolate until results are known

— Daily Freeman-Journal photo by Anne Blankenship Hamilton County Supervisor Rick Young receives his flu vaccine from Shelby Kroona of Hamilton County Public Health. Officials are encouraging area residents to get a flu shot this fall in hopes of stemming a flu outbreak during the pandemic.

Hamilton County is nearing the 400-positive case mark for COVID-19 and has seen about 60 new cases in the past couple of weeks.

Shelby Kroona, Hamilton County Public Health administrator, gave the Board of Supervisors an update on the pandemic Tuesday morning during the board’s regular session.

As of Tuesday morning, there are 391 positive cases in Hamilton County, with 340 people who have recovered and been released from isolation.

“One issue that we’re starting to see is households that are sick, but only one person has been tested,” Kroona said. “So our numbers are actually higher than what has been reported.”

She said another concern for her department is the fact that people are not isolating as they wait for test results to come in.

“Once you have a test, you need to isolate until those results are known. Recently, we’ve had a number of people report to us that they’ve gone to event such as birthday parties or family reunions in the time after their test before they knew their test results,” she said. “And they turned out positive.

Actions like that make contact tracing very difficult, as officials then have to track down everyone who attended those gatherings.

Kroona said not long ago, Gov. Kim Reynolds changed one of the guidelines around mask wearing. If each party is wearing a mask while together, they can be within the six feet for more than 15 minutes. If one of them tests positive, the other is not considered exposed, according to Kroona.

“This was done in an attempt to keep children back in school. We were finding as we were isolating children and teachers from school that because most schools have mandated mask usage, a lot of children were being excluded unnecessarily,” she said.

As her department conducts contact tracing, the parties are asked if they were wearing masks.

“If one person is wearing a mask — it doesn’t matter if they were the positive person or the nonpositive person — they would still be considered exposed if they fall with the guidelines of greater than 15 minutes within six feet of each other,” she said.

“So mask wearing becomes more and more important as fewer people test or isolate after a test pending results,” she said.

The county continues to plan for the time that a COVID-19 vaccine will become available. She said there would be multiple points of distribution throughout the county.

“The hope is that the vaccine will arrive in waves, beginning in January. The first will be health care workers, followed by public safety officers and then it will go to critical infrastructure. Probably by March or April, it will be done to the general public,” according to Kroona.

Kroona said her department continues to see college students that have tested positive.

Kroona also encouraged Hamilton County residents to get seasonal flu shots.

“One of the worst case scenarios for our county would be to have an influx of COVID and influenza at the same time,” she said.

At the end of the meeting, Kroona administered flu vaccine to members of the board of supervisors.

She said the CDC had purchased a large amount of flu vaccine for the unemployed and uninsured. Hamilton County received 500 doses of the vaccine.

“We’re looking for opportunities and ways to access individuals who maybe unemployed and uninsured to vaccinate them against influenza.”

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