County COVID-19 cases surge after 9-day streak of positive tests

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Update: The Iowa Department of Public Health reported a total of 11 new COVID-19 cases in Dickinson County on June 9, bringing the county's total cases to 72, with 24 recoveries.

Dickinson County COVID-19 continued to climb over the past week. The total now stands at 64 cases as of Tuesday night.

A total of 20 cases were reported between Sunday and Monday — 11 on Sunday alone — which nearly doubled the county's previous single day high of six cases. Dr. Zach Borus, a Lakes Regional Healthcare's COVID-19 response team member, said the count only includes individuals who list their home in Dickinson County.

"There are certainly more who work in the county who have tested positive, have visited the county and then gone back to their homes or (who) might actually be staying here for some time but have still given their address as out of the area," Borus said in a Monday morning video message to the community. "So it is here."

Borus went on to say he expects the local statistics to grow and, while he feels the hospital is prepared, he asked that the public, "treat this like the public health risk that it is." He encouraged the community to stay 6 feet apart from others whenever possible and wear cloth masks when it is not possible.

"Okoboji is a wonderful place," he said. "We come here to have fun. People come from all over the place, and we had one of the highest hot spots in the last week in terms of per capita infections in the country. We are a small community and, in terms of the rate of rise, it is dramatically going up."

Borus said none of the recent cases have required hospitalization. The Iowa Department of Public Health has listed 23 Dickinson County residents as having recovered from the novel coronavirus, leaving 41 known, active cases. A total of 593 county residents have been tested — about one out of every 29 people. No deaths related to the virus have been reported in Dickinson County, but deaths have occurred as close as O'Brien County and Buena Vista County.

"Although we cannot specifically link a case to a location, we do know that several of the positive cases that we’ve had have frequented several local businesses and, as a result, there is likely broader community spread," Lakes Regional Healthcare President and CEO Jason Harrington said.

Brandon Rohrig, director of Dickinson County population and public health, said many of the county's recent cases have been among the 20-40 year old population. He previously said the virus' average incubation period is around one or two days and, while he said some upticks in the past few weeks could have potentially been related to Memorial Day festivities or other community spread, he also noted a number of factors may be adding to the most recent increases.

"Within the last three weeks, we have had more access to testing than the prior two months combined," Rohrig said. "Testing criteria is very broad now and is available to nearly anyone. People are more willing to come in and get tested as they don't necessarily feel it is a death sentence, and people are becoming more active again."

Harrington said, while testing under the state's Test Iowa program has expanded, test kit shortages continue to limit the testing ability of LRH and similar healthcare organizations.

"Due to the shortage, patients have to meet a certain criteria in order to be tested," Harrington said. "Generally speaking, they would either have to be symptomatic or have a known exposure to someone who is COVID positive. They would have had to have been within 6 feet of the person for 15 minutes or longer."

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds recently broadened Test Iowa criteria to allow anyone seeking a Test Iowa test to qualify for one. However, Harrington pointed out patients seeking a test from the state program must go to a designated Test Iowa site. Currently, the Test Iowa location nearest to Dickinson County is two counties south, in Storm Lake.

"There’s been a great deal of misinformation about this, and it creates frustration for people," Harrington said. "We would love to test everyone who wants to be tested, but there is not sufficient capacity or availability of tests for that."

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