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‘Spreading the virus like wildfire’

COVID-19 cases top 1,000 in Hamilton County, with more than 500 just this month

A local public health official on Tuesday urged Hamilton County residents to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation to not travel or gather in groups outside of their household for the coming Thanksgiving holiday.

“I know that this will be hard and it’s controversial, but we are asking people to have a safe Thanksgiving so we can be with our families in July,” said visibly frustrated and emotional Shelby Kroona.

“We are asking people to stay home if they are sick. We cannot stress this enough. If you test and do not know your results, you need to stay home away from that Thanksgiving meal,” she said. “If you have had a direct exposure, you need to stay home.”

Kroona, the Hamilton County Public Health administrator, reported that positive COVID-19 cases in Hamilton County had topped 1,000 as of Tuesday morning. She gave a report during the Hamilton County Supervisors meeting at the courthouse.

“As of this morning, we have 1,025 people who have had COVID-19 between the middle of March and today,” she said. “Currently, we have 491 active, open cases.”

She said officials have lengthened the recovery period to 28 days, so cases stay open longer.

“We find that people get better and then have relapses,” she explained.

The county also has 58 open cases that are ready for investigation and contact tracing.

“We have 7 recorded deaths in this county and three that are unrecorded at this point, for a total of 10 deaths,” she said. “There are also outbreaks at two of the three nursing homes in Hamilton County.”

More than three positive cases in a nursing home constitute an outbreak. Kroona said the two nursing homes were “significantly impacted” at this time.

“These nursing homes have done such an excellent job of keeping the virus out of the facilities for many, many months. We always knew it was just a matter of time,” she said.

According to the coronavirus.iowa.gov, ages 0-17 accounted for 9 percent of the illnesses; 18-29 year-olds accounted for 21 percent; 30-39 year-olds account for 17 percent; those ages 40 to 49 were 16 percent; 50 to 59 were 13 percent; 60-69 were 11 percent; and those aged 70 to 79 and the 80 and older age group each had 7 percent of the illnesses.

“What the statistics tell us is those in the young adult to middle age groups are contracting the viruses at a higher rate,” she said. “It’s the age group that attends mass gatherings, goes out and frequents bars and restaurants.

“This is the group of spreaders we need to get our message to, because they will bring it home and spread it to people who may have vulnerable health conditions,” according to Kroona.

She also reported that there were three infants in Hamilton County with COVID-19.

State statistics show that the days required to double the positive cases in the county is 22 days.

“That means we are spreading the virus like wildfire. In 22 days, our cases will likely be over 2,000,” according to Kroona. The 14-day positivity rate is currently 28.1 percent.

The administrator also broke down the number of cases by city. In Webster City, there have been 703 cases, while the Williams/Blairsburg area have had 44 positive cases. The Jewell/Ellsworth/Randall area has 118 cases and the Kamrar/Stanhope/Stratford area has 98 cases.

“We have some rural areas that border Hamilton County where people still have Hamilton County addresses,” she said. “Rural areas near Duncombe, Radcliffe, Story City and Alden have 34 cases.”

“COVID-19 is everywhere in Hamilton County. I get that question a lot. People think it’s only in Webster City, but it’s everywhere,” she said.

Contact tracing continues to be difficult for public health staff. They continue to receive incorrect phone numbers and other information. She encouraged everyone who tests to make sure they give correct information to the officials.

“It only delays the process. It delays us contacting people who maybe potentially infectious,” she said.

She also encouraged those who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 to get tested.

“It is so important for people to get tested. They are infectious 2 days before they symptoms and it’s very important to know who you were with during those days if we want to slow the spread of the virus,” said Kroona.

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