BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Despite a 14-day average that is fluctuating between 7 and 8 percent, COVID-19 cases counts in Lee County are again on the rise.
According to the Lee County Health Department, the county has seen 165 new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in the past 14 days, with 87 of those in the past seven days.
According to Monday’s report from Friday at 3:30 p.m. to Monday at 3:30 p.m. LCHD received reports of 29 more positive tests in the three-day period. Iowa Department of Public Health’s coronavirus.iowa.gov site shows 11 new positives over a three-day period from Friday through Sunday, however the two agencies continue to report the same to-date total of positive cases at 869. The different in the two numbers of 18 is not included in the 165 new cases of the past two weeks.
LCHD Administrator Michele Ross said the message to county residents is to mask up.
“Our message is to MASK UP Lee County and continue to practice social distancing and frequent hand hygiene practices and avoid high risk situations such as crowds of people, especially when inside and people are not social distancing or wearing face coverings,” Ross said.
“Everyone should work together to protect our most vulnerable populations as well as our family, friends, co-workers, and those we come in contact with in public settings.”
Ross reminded that Gov. Kim Reynolds health proclamation was extended and still includes requirements for social distancing in public places.
Ross said the increase can be attributed to several factors including: mini outbreaks where people are in confined spaces, household spread, social gatherings where social distance requirements are not being followed, asymptomatic people or those with very mild symptoms who continue to go to work, school, or out in public, and by those who refuse to stay home and isolate when it has been recommended to do so.
She said it’s also important that residents do not let their guard down as we enter the cold and flu season.
“From the very beginning of this pandemic crisis and especially now as we have active community spread with cases increasing, we must all do the right thing and mask up when in public settings outside our own households,” Ross said.
“We need to continue maintaining a six foot social distance or more and avoid crowded areas or gatherings of people outside our own households where COVID-19 as well as other viruses such as influenza can spread easily and unknowingly.”
Ross said with testing capability at a high level including mass testing at larger institutions and facilities in the county, the 14-day positivity rating is being held in check despite the increased number of positive cases.
The county saw its third highest daily positive results on Oct. 6 with 28 and Lee County now has an overall positive rate of 11.3% among all test results received by the IDPH.
Lee County saw it’s highest rates prior between August 22 and Sept. 8 prompting county officials to investigate the possibility of a countywide mask mandate. That effort was defeated by the Lee County Board of Supervisors at the end of September.
Fort Madison Community School District is also going away from it’s hybrid model of learning on Nov. 2 and going back to 100% in-person learning, with optional online coursework available through the end of the school year for parents who choose to have their students at home during the pandemic.
Ross said LCHD continues to maintain contact with the schools and other businesses and facilities that requested follow-up guidance, or for guidance suggested by IDPH.
“We do provide education and mask guidance with the schools upon their request, especially when the recent change in quarantine guidance was released by IDPH,” Ross said.
“The importance of all parties wearing masks while attending school or school activities has been encouraged.
The overall state percent of positive test results are 12.2%. Des Moines County has a 14-day positivity rate of 13.9% and two school districts in that county have forfeited post season athletics due to outbreaks. West Burlington volleyball and Burlington football have both withdrew from the post season due to COVID-19.