BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – Despite very low positivity rates and vaccinations increasing daily, county health officials are encouraging people to watch what “hasn’t changed”.
Lee County Health Department Administrator Michele Ross said county residents should still be following Centers for Disease Control guidance even with the county seeing several days in the past two weeks with zero new cases.
Since the state began tracking testing Lee County has had 3,770 positive tests. However, according to the state’s reporting website, which has undergone several changes throughout the year in how positivity rates are calculated, Lee County has had just four positive cases in the past seven days and has a 7-day positivity rating of 1%.
Ross said she believes the committed efforts and hard work of individuals who have, over time, continued with effective public health measures and interventions has paid off in reducing the number of cases in the county.
“We do have many that are now vaccinated, too. All of these tools working together can certainly attribute to a decline in local and state cases,” Ross said.
But she also said the fight isn’t over and there is still is evidence of the virus being present in the county.
“We should still be following CDC guidelines and doing what we can to protect ourselves and others as stated in CDC guidelines for what hasn’t changed,” she said.
New updated information from the CDC breaks mitigation down into what has changed as vaccinations increase, and what hasn’t changed.
According to the CDC:
If you’ve been fully vaccinated:
• You can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.
• You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
• If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.
• However, if you live in a group setting (like a correctional or detention facility or group home) and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still stay away from others for 14 days and get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms.
What Hasn’t Changed
For now, if you’ve been fully vaccinated:
• You should still take steps to protect yourself and others in many situations, like wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. Take these precautions whenever you are:
• In public
• Gathering with unvaccinated people from more than one other household
• Visiting with an unvaccinated person who is at increased risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 or who lives with a person at increased risk
• You should still avoid medium or large-sized gatherings.
•You should still delay domestic and international travel. If you do travel, you’ll still need to follow CDC requirements and recommendations.
•You should still watch out for symptoms of COVID-19, especially if you’ve been around someone who is sick. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested and stay home and away from others.
•You will still need to follow guidance at your workplace.
Iowa surpassed more than 1 million vaccinations being administered last week. While Iowa trailed at the outset of vaccination administration, Ross said the state seems to have corrected delays thanks to the hard work of vaccinators.
“It has been amazing how many community volunteers, health care organizations, local public health agencies, and pharmacies have pulled together to vaccinate Iowans,” she said.
But she said she’s very happy to see Lee County at less than 2% on the 14-day positivity scale.
“That is incredible given that we were at one time over 20% for several days and weeks and we had substantial uncontrolled community spread,” Ross said.
She said the continued perseverance of people doing what they can to limit the spread of the virus over time has been the biggest game change.
“We had many businesses and organizations including our schools who worked very hard at trying to keep their employees, consumers, and students protected by following recommended mitigation strategies,” she said.
“Thankfully many are continuing these mitigation strategies as we know virus activity and the potential for spread is still live here.”
But she said she holds a lot of hope that things are going in the right direction. She said people just need stick to guidance to stay ahead and win the fight.
Out of all tests given in the state today, Iowans have tested positive just over 11% of the time. The state has seen 5,461 deaths related to COVID-19, with Lee County losing 54 residents.