69-case day pushes Dickinson County past 1,100 COVID count

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

This article was updated Nov. 17 to include comments from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds during her Nov. 16 televised address. It was updated Nov. 19 to be more clear the figures are in reference total recorded cases.

Health officials in the Iowa Great Lakes are seeing a record number of COVID-19 tests at the Test Iowa site in Spirit Lake — and the number of positive cases recorded since March have pushed Dickinson County past the 1,100 mark.

Dickinson County has seen a total of 1,121 positive cases of COVID-19, according to statistics posted Tuesday night on the coronavirus.iowa.gov website. The count includes a 69-case total recorded Monday, Nov. 9. Local health officials said in a Nov. 13 update there are about 198 still active in Dickinson County. Lakes Regional Healthcare Chief Medical Officer Jeremy Bolluyt said the Test Iowa Clinic in Spirit Lake set a single-day record that day by providing 328 tests.

Local health officials say 11 Dickinson County residents have died as a result of COVID-19.

"The biggest factors affecting the increase in COVID numbers are people not social distancing or wearing masks," Bolluyt said. "Now we're also often indoors when we're around others, which means the virus can circulate within a small amount of space and more easily infect us. We've been social distancing and wearing masks for over six months now, and we're all tired of it. But that doesn't mean we should stop doing it. Our health is impacted when we are in close proximity to others that are sick, plain and simple."

Gov. Kim Reynolds on Monday told Iowa the pandemic is "worse than it has ever been."

"For some Iowans who have experienced the virus firsthand, that may not seem like something to worry about — because for many, COVID-19 has been relatively mild — some having no symptoms at all," she said. "I'm grateful for that. I'm grateful that our children and healthy Iowans have largely been unaffected. But, I'm afraid these mild cases have created a mindset where Iowans have become complacent. We've lost sight of why it was so important to flatten the curve."

NEW MITIGATION MEASURES

Reynolds announced a series of directives in her Monday night address to the state:

• "When you're in an indoor public space and unable to social distance for 15 minutes or longer, masks are required to be worn," she said. "The same requirements apply to visitors and employees inside state buildings. I strongly encourage other businesses to follow this lead."

• "Indoor social, community, business and leisure gatherings or events will be limited to 15 people. Outdoor gatherings will be limited to 30. This includes wedding and funeral receptions, family gatherings and conventions. This does not restrict gatherings that occur in the workplace as part of the normal daily business or government operations."

• "With the exception of high school, collegiate and professional sports, all organized youth and adult sports activities of any size are suspended. This includes basketball, wrestling, gymnastics, swimming and dance. While high school sports and extracurricular activities are not prohibited, spectators at games or events are limited to two people per student and are required to wear a mask."

• "Restaurants and bars are required to close at 10 p.m. and cannot host private gatherings of more than 15 people. Masks must be worn by staff who have direct contact with customers, and customers must wear masks when not seated at the table."

• "Inpatient elective procedures will be reduced by 50 percent," Reynolds said. "All measures will be reassessed in a week, and additional measures can be added based on what we are seeing with hospital capacity."

The mitigation measures will remain in place until at least Dec. 10.

CASE COUNTS, AVAILABLE BEDS

On average, Bolluyt said Lakes Regional Healthcare has been using up to 20 of its 28 total inpatient beds in the medical-surgical and critical care departments. The staff analyzes its volume on a daily basis and makes adjustments as necessary. The chief medical officer also said he trusts Dickinson County's school districts to continuously assess COVID-19 numbers and make changes as needed.

"The general consensus by the CDC and Iowa Department of Public Health is that the COVID virus spreads more easily indoors versus outdoors," Bolluyt said. "People naturally spend more time indoors when it's colder outside, so it's likely COVID will spread more as we enter the winter months. Indoors, the ventilation is not as good and virus particles aren't quickly diluted by fresh air. It's also easier to spread COVID via contact with infected surfaces when indoors, such as with serving utensils, chairs, door handles and remote controls."

Bolluyt said the number of tests administered will increase the number of positives reported to state officials.

"We've noticed that of the tests being done, positivity rates are increasing as well," he said. "… If we didn’t test as much, the number of positives would decrease, but also wouldn't be as accurate. Fortunately, most people don't get sick enough to require hospitalization. To date, about 5 percent of those positive with COVID have been hospitalized here at Lakes Regional Healthcare."

Reynolds said new daily hospitalizations were approaching the 100-mark in Iowa as of late October.

"Now, just a few weeks later, they have topped 200 per day," she said. "That is not sustainable. If our healthcare system exceeds capacity, it's not just COVID-19 we'll be fighting. Every Iowan who needs medical care will be put at risk."

She continued: "If an ambulance is transporting a COVID-19 patient, it may not be available to respond to an accident on a rural county road. If hospital beds are full, a loved one who suffers a heart attack or stroke may have to be transported miles away to receive life-saving treatment."

The governor told Iowans her concerns go beyond redirected emergency transports.

"Routine procedures that catch cancer at early stages will likely be postponed, turning what would be a treatable disease into a terminal diagnosis," she said. "That's what we're facing if we don't do something: Will there be enough first responders to help? Will trauma teams be available? Will you get the care that you need? Not if we don't act."

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

The governor told Iowans to consider rescheduling high risk events, including holiday gatherings.

"No one wants to do this," she said on Monday. "I don't want to do this, especially as we're coming into a holiday season that is normally filled with joy. I cherish Thanksgiving with my family. This year, we're postponing that. My children and grandchildren will not gather in my home as we do every year — and as I'd hoped we would do this year. But, it is to keep them safe, and it is to keep you safe. I'm asking you tonight to work with me — to think of your family, your friends and all of your fellow Iowans. Think of the healthcare heroes who have been taking care of us since the beginning of this pandemic. I know it's been a long eight months but there is light at the end of the tunnel."

Holiday recommendations from Dickinson County health officials include:

• Limit the number of people invited, especially based on the amount of space available at the gathering location and if it allows for enough space between people.

• Ensure anyone who is feeling the slightest bit ill, is awaiting test results or has been exposed to someone with COVID in the last 14 days stays home.

• Open windows to improve air flow.

• Wear masks while together.

• Do not use shared serving utensils.

• Determine a seating plan to keep six feet between households.

• Have plenty of paper towels, soap and hand sanitizer available.

• Avoid larger crowds, including mass transit, when traveling to and from holiday get-togethers.

"This isn't about mandates, this isn't about government," Reynolds said. "There isn't enough law enforcement in the country to make sure every Iowan is wearing a mask when they should. There aren't enough sheriffs in Iowa's 99 counties to shut down every non-compliant bar. If Iowans don't buy into this, we lose. Businesses will close once again. More schools will be forced to go online and our healthcare system will fail. The cost of human life will be high. Now is the time to come together for the greater good — to look out for each other not because you're told to, but because it's the right thing to do."

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