LRH confirms first COVID-19 death in Dickinson County
Monday, June 15, 2020
Statistics and other health-related information for this story was updated June 17.
Local health officials are extending condolences and urging caution after Dickinson County confirmed its first death related to COVID-19 on Monday. The patient was a male over the age of 80, according to information from Dickinson County Public Health.
The news came on a day when the county's total cases topped 150 on Monday.
"We wish to extend our condolences to this individual’s family," Lakes Regional Family Medicine physician and Dickinson County Public Health Medical Director Zach Borus said. "Lakes Regional Healthcare, Dickinson County Public Health and all of our key partners throughout the county and state continue to work to limit the spread and impact of this virus in our communities."
State officials said 51 Dickinson County residents had recovered from the novel coronavirus Tuesday evening. Another 108 cases are considered active, for a total of 159 cases as of Tuesday evening. An individual is considered recovered once they meet two criteria, according to Sarah Reisetter, deputy director at the Iowa Department of Public Health. A span of seven days must have passed since the onset of symptoms, and the individual must have been symptom-free for three consecutive days.
The Iowa Department of Public Health statistics show 135 of the county's current cases were reported over the last 16 days. The county has seen as many as 20 cases reported in a single day. Monday was the second day Dickinson County hit that threshold — the first was June 11. Officials with Lakes Regional Healthcare said currently no positive cases are in need of ventilators or any of the hospital's four critical care units, but two Dickinson County residents have been hospitalized in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Zachary Borus, a physician with Lakes Regional Healthcare, confirmed in a June 17 video message that the elderly man who died due to the virus had also been hospitalized in Sioux Falls.
Across the county line to the south, Clay County rose from 15 total cases in late May to 83 cases as of Tuesday. Buena Vista County's 1,600 total cases continue to rank in the state's top five, and it leads the state in per capita infections at about eight in every 100 people — twice that of number two Crawford County. Dickinson County now has the 17th highest infection rate per capita statewide — approaching one in every 100 people.
Bill Bumgarner, president of Spencer Hospital, released a statement Friday regarding the region's increase in confirmed cases.
"COVID-19 infections have increased significantly in our region since the Memorial Day holiday," Bumgarner said. "There have been too many social and recreational gatherings and too few masks. Does the Iowa Great Lakes Region have the resolve to do what's needed to reduce the rate of COVID-19 infections? Only if we change. Let's care for one another and our communities. Wear a mask in public. Social distance. Encourage your family and friends to join you. We can do this. We must."
Dickinson County Public Health continues to urge the public to follow recommended precautions in stemming the spread of the virus, such as washing hands often, avoiding close contact with others and wearing a face mask or shield when unable to remain at a distance. The public should also be covering coughs and sneezes, according to public health officials, and disinfecting surfaces regularly in addition to monitoring themselves for symptoms — fever, cough and shortness of breath.
Statewide, 669 Iowans have died due to COVID-19, while 15,092 have recovered.
COVID-19 antibody testing available
BY SETH BOYES - STAFF WRITER
Lakes Regional Healthcare recently announced it is offering testing for COVID-19 antibodies. LRH physician Zachary Borus said a positive antibody test simply means an individual was host to the novel coronavirus at some point between the onset of the current pandemic and one to two weeks ago — the time it takes for a body to develop the antibodies. Active cases of COVID-19 trigger contact tracing through Dickinson County Public Health, but Borus said no contact tracing is done based on the antibody test results.
"Antibody testing at this point really is not clinically that useful in general, except for outbreak/epidemiological tracking," Borus said. "Clinicians are not making medical decisions based on it, as we don’t know if they confer immunity, or how long any immunity the antibodies do provide will last."
Borus went on to say, because health professionals are still unsure how much immunity antibodies provide against reinfection, it's "absolutely essential that everyone, including those who do have antibodies, continue to take recommended precautions."
LRH physician Craig Cunningham said in a video message to the public that patients will need a doctor's order to be tested for antibodies at LRH. He said some doctors will want to see the patient before ordering the test, but others may not. In addition, he said the tests are also available at Avera Quick Labs in Estherville at an estimated cost of $80. Testing at the Estherville site does not require a doctor's order, Cunningham said.
"I think a very good use of these antibody tests is for people who have previously been sick and thought they had an exposure based on any number of factors but never had a PCR test — which is the test in the nose — either come back positive or they weren't able to get one, especially early on in the pandemic when we had very limited testing," Cunningham said.