LCHD turns to state as COVID surges locally

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

LEE COUNTY – With Lee County seeing an additional 35 new positive cases of COVID-19 over the weekend and Monday, health officials are reaching out to the state for help tracing the course of the virus.

The county is now at rolling 14-day total of more than 160 positive cases and is looking for help from the Iowa Department of Public Health to conduct contact tracing as the surge hits local high marks since reporting began in March.

The county now has had 263 cases when figuring in this weekend’s numbers, according to LCHD. The state website coronavirus.iowa.gov, only shows five since the 11 were reported on Friday, but local health officials say in most cases the county is notified before the numbers post to the state site.

On Monday, LCHD released a statement about the decision to reach out to the state for assistance.

The statement reads as follows:

As of August 24, 2020, Lee County Health Department (LCHD) has requested assistance from the Iowa Department of Public Health to complete local COVID-19 case investigations, and contact tracing.

“With the surge in cases we have had over the past few weeks, and with the support of the Lee County Board of Health, we made the decision to join about 37 other counties in Iowa and request assistance from IDPH for COVID-19 case investigations and contact tracing” said Michele Ross, LCHD Administrator.

“Our epidemiology team has done a tremendous job responding to cases, completing case interviews, and contact tracing over the past months often working seven days a week with little time for regular duties. Now that the state has received additional funding and hired additional contact tracers, we are choosing to use their help on a local level for now. This will also help reduce overtime costs of our staff and allow for dedicated time towards other services and programs.”

People who have COVID-19 questions can still call LCHD for guidance. A daily case update will continue to post to the LCHD Facebook page and website.

“LCHD’s role in the fight to end this COVID-19 crisis will not change” said Ross.

LCHD will continue to offer the public CDC guidance and mitigation recommendations and encourage people to continue with safety precautions. Our team will continue to work with schools, long-term care facilities, community organizations, and worksites.

“IDPH will be assisting with just one piece of this local response and that is help with case investigations and contact tracing” Ross said.

LCHD reminds Lee County residents if you receive a call from an Iowa Department of Public Health employee, please answer the call or return their message. They will complete a series of questions with you including a review of symptoms, demographics, people you have come in contact with and where, and provide CDC guidance for self-isolation and/or quarantine. Please be aware that during case investigations or contact tracing, IDPH nor LCHD will NOT request information that is not needed such as social security numbers, bank account information or information regarding your income.

It is important, as case numbers rise as well as our positivity rates, that community members continue to social distance, mask up, wash hands, and clean/disinfect common touch services. Avoid crowds or gatherings of people who are not social distancing and stay home when you are ill or have been exposed by someone with COVID-19.

If you have questions about isolation or quarantine guidance please call our office at 319-372-5225 or 1-800-458-6672. General questions regarding COVID-19 can also be answered by calling 211 if you are calling from an Iowa phone.

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