BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – A statement from the Lee County Board of Health discouraging any large scale public events while pandemic numbers in the state are rising, now has the support of the Lee County Supervisors.
At Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Lee County Board of Supervisors, a resolution was passed unanimously supporting the Board of Health’s position.
The Board of Health put out a statement through the Lee County Health Department on Thursday saying holding large scale public events in Lee County is ill-advised.
The statement specifically addressed the Tri-State Rodeo and parade. The Rodeo announced a week ago that they were cancelling all pre-rodeo activities during the four days leading up to the competitive action, but said that part of the event will go on, as will scheduled entertainment.
The board released it’s statement two days later. However the statement didn’t address Riverfest by name, which kicks off Aug. 6 on Fort Madison’s riverfront.
“Lee County Board of Health has a responsibility to address the health concerns of Lee County citizens and is taking the position that large scale events planned in 2020, such as the Tri-State Rodeo, and rodeo parade, are ill-advised,” the board wrote in a prepared statement released Thursday.
“A lot of people are coming from outside of Lee County and we don’t know where they’re coming from,” said Supervisor Chairman Ron Fedler.
“It’s not that they’re against all these events – and almost all the events in Lee County, Watermelon Festival, Sweet Corn Festival, Labor Day parade, County Fair, all didn’t happen That is those boards’ decision. This (resolution) has no authority when it comes to the rodeo. That is up to the rodeo committee. It’s just saying we support the request that they not have it.”
Tri-State Rodeo Chairman Tony Johnson has declined to comment on the position statement and the board resolution.
Lee County Health Department Administrator Michele Ross spoke to the supervisors Tuesday and thanked them for their support.
“COVID-19 is very a serous public health crisis. I think we could all say it has impacted all or our lives in one way or another,” she said.
“It’s a very contagious virus and it can lead to a very serious illness as we’ve seen in our own communities and across the United States. The risk for community spread increases when you have large groups of people gathering. Those risks are even greater when large gatherings of people occur and attendees come from outside our local area.”
Ross said she encouraged all event organizers and the public in general to review state public health and Centers for Disease Control proclamation requirements, including Iowa Code 135.144, section 3 under “Mass Gatherings”.
“There are some requirements there for insuring social distancing and other public health measures,” she said.
Fedler said the Board of Health’s position is very serious for county residents.
“It’s a very serious issue for everybody. There job is to watch our for the health needs of Lee County and the Board of Supervisors is also responsible for doing what we think is best for the citizens of Lee County,” he said. “There will be people who agree and people who disagree.”
But Fedler said the resolution is not binding upon anyone.
“This has no authority when it comes to the Rodeo. This doesn’t mean there won’t be a Rodeo, it just means we as a board, if this passes, are supporting the Lee County Health Department’s position.”
Supervisor Rich Harlow asked if supporting the Board of Health’s statement, meant he thought we shouldn’t have a rodeo.
“That’s basically what the health department has recommended,” Fedler said.
“They’re afraid that we don’t know where these people are coming from and that will make it a higher risk from someone coming in that may have the virus.”
The Rodeo is scheduled to kick off this year Sept. 9 and runs through the 12th.
Lee County has had 63 positive coronavirus tests with seven of those coming in the past seven days and five of those were over the weekend. The state currently has a 9.3% positive test rating. The state has 39,474 people who’ve tested positive out of 423,862 total tests taken. One in seven Iowans has been tested for the coronavirus.