Social media shows all sides of local pandemic response


The emotion of the COVID-19 pandemic certainly is playing out on social media.

The Lee County Board of Health put out a position statement two weeks ago that holding large scale events is ill-advised.

Since that time the social media feeding frenzy has begun as well as calls to yours truly to take a stand… on both sides.

The only thing I’m taking a stand on is mentioning the Tri-State Rodeo and the Rodeo parade by name in the statement may have been a mistake, considering one of the only remaining outdoor rock festivals is coming in just one week. There’s certainly an issue of fair play in order there.

However, the position statement has people taking sides for sure.

Can these events go on without risk, most specifically, to those who choose not to attend this year because of not wanting to be exposed to a virus that has killed 857 people already in Iowa, 154,000 nationwide and 670,000 around the world?

Who knows. We just held a summer sports season where 96% of high school baseball teams and 97% of softball teams completed the season without issues that we heard about.

But telling people to stay home if they fear the virus is a bit of a disservice to others who don’t go. Saying, or more to the point, writing, “If you don’t want to go – don’t go”, doesn’t do the 60-year-old any good when the two run into each other at the grocery store.

Even the odds there are in favor of not-being exposed. But since when do we play the odds with a pandemic. No one would argue that the more we contain the exposures, the faster this thing goes away.

One thing I don’t like is the statement that increased testing results in increased positive numbers. No. Testing has no affect on positive results. People are positive because they became infected. Period. A test doesn’t directly cause a person to be infected therefore increased testing is only “finding” more people who were actually infected.

Lee County is seeing a rise in infections now that it hasn’t seen since data started being collected the first week of March. As of today the rolling 14-day total, which is the incubation period of the coronavirus, is now at 25, the highest it’s been. Granted, that number is low compared to other states high points, but very few other counties are on the rise at that pace. The previous Lee County 14-day high was 17 on June 13 and 14.

Our line is going almost straight up, but it’s fair to point out that we still rank 60th among Iowa 99 counties in total positive cases. However, a random sampling of 30 counties across the state shows Lee County’s rate on a higher trajectory that most counties in the state. You can check that yourself at

It would be extremely difficult to point to any one reason for the increased numbers locally.

Hospitalizations and ICU rates have almost doubled since July first. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said today the state knows where the increases are coming from and it’s bars, restaurants, home gatherings and weekends at the lake.

““It’s social gatherings in homes, restaurants, bars and at lakes,” she said. “That’s why we’ve ramped up enforcement on bars and restaurants with a first offense being $1,000 fine, the second being a 7-day suspension and the third being revocation. We know where the increased positivity is coming from. I’ve said in my proclamations that if you’re in a group of 10 – social distance. People aren’t doing it.”

We do need to get back to living our lives, but we must do it with a nod to this crazy thing. Put on a mask and keep your distance. If you don’t want the governor shutting things down again, it has to make sense to try to curb the damnable COVID-19 on our own.

That’s a move much easier to swallow than the government slamming the doors again. But if we don’t get it under control, especially with two of the largest events in the state this year coming both within the next six weeks, we could be in for some trouble.

Yeah, it’ll cramp the party a bit. We know that. But if we do it right this time, maybe next year we can get back to doing what we do best here in the late summer in Lee County.

A little bit ‘a country and little bit ‘a Rock and Roll.

In case you’ve been under a rock, the Iowa High School Athletic Association has cut the football season to seven weeks with five games mandatory and thrown all teams into the post-season. That’s gonna make for a crazy football season, but it’s a far cry better than moving it to the spring, like Illinois did.

…but that’s Beside the Point.

Chuck Vandenberg is editor and co-founder of Pen City Current and can be reached at

2 thoughts on “Social media shows all sides of local pandemic response

  1. Just think if there was testing available how many positives there would have been in january and February when almost everyone around here was the sickest theyve ever been….
    Fear mongering and playing into a politically correct group think will not make anything go away.
    Its everywhere wether we wear masks or not.its on everything we touch.its sense in running and hiding.
    Most of us are out of money and our kids arent learning.

  2. The door never was slammed in Iowa because Reynolds, Ernst, and Grassley have their heads shoved too far up Twitler’s bum to actually look to the states that created a downward curve in their infection rates by being proactive.

    Just think how much more in front of this we would have been with shelter in place and actually LISTENING to the science and medical communities who stated REPEATEDLY that rural areas will be the third and fourth waves of infection-meaning it would hit us later, giving us more time to prepare (yeah right, like this town prepares for anything more than covering their butts and losing money hand over fist because they’re so far in the hole)

    And then you have the fact that far too many people in SE Iowa have proven time and again that they care about only what directly affects them and their money. The rest of the population be damned. This is apparent by the number of people NOT wearing masks in public places.

    When the death counts start rising, I hope the people who felt the need to have and attend these events, then go to Casey’s, DG, Fareway, Walgreens, Hy-Vee, and the schools, feel the big sting of guilt and partial responsibility. The rest of the guilt and responsibility is on the shoulders of the Mayor, City Council, and Rodeo Committee.

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