Small steps encouraging, but precautions will need to remain

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photo from dmschools.org

The theme of the Friday, April 24, Marion County COVID-19 update was one of optimism blended with caution. While some restrictions have been lifted by the Governor, the individual responsibility of taking precautions in public remains.

“Those things, we just need to integrate in our lives,” Public Health Director Kim Dorn said. She was referring to the steps that the government has long advised to slow the spread, such as washing your hands, social distancing, covering your cough, etc. Even if Iowa begins to return to “normal” next week, there a present danger to those most vulnerable will remain.

“Those most at-risk, are still going to be most at-risk,” Dorn said. This includes residents and workers of long-term care facilities. There are currently 13 outbreaks of COVID-19 in care facilities. Marion County’s care facilities do not yet have one. However, Marion County has seen six people test positive for COVID-19, four of whom have recovered. The other two patients are “still able to spread” the virus, according to Dorn.

Dorn and Board of Supervisors’ Chair Mark Raymie met with the Pella and Knoxville Ministerial Alliances this week. According to Dorn, the two discussed with pastors plans to stop a new spread when the Governor allows churches to reopen.

“We are encouraging people to use the President’s plan to open America, on the White House website,” Dorn told the Tribune. “I offered to help them plan the social distancing and touch-point planning. Businesses and churches need to start planning now, so they are ready when the time comes.” She went on to say that it is important for them to open when allowed, as safely as possible while trying to prevent another event in the fall.

“The way to prevent outbreaks, or a ‘bloom’, is for everyone to continue with the behaviors we have been talking about,” Dorn said. “Those behaviors will have to continue long-term. This particular virus is more difficult because there is such a wide variance in how it treats people. For example, the people in (long-term care facilities) are the most at-risk of dying from it. The workers at LTC are often the age group who have few, and often no, symptoms. That is a dangerous combination, so we have to have strong case and contact tracking.”

Kevin Kincaid, CEO of Knoxville Hospital and Clinics, said he felt excited at the news of some restrictions being lifted, but stressed that “the Governor’s press conference statement about surgery was one step forward in our desire to be Back to Normal.”

“We want to get back to normal,” Kincaid said. “Today is not normal yet.” There will still be criteria that must be met before an elective procedure can safely take place. Like Dorn, Kincaid encouraged everyone to use good judgment and exercise personal responsibility to protect themselves and others.

“We’re moving together in a responsible way,” Kincaid said.

Kincaid, and Pella Regional Health Center CEO Bob Kroese, both said virtual visits are increasing in popularity at their respective facilities, which is a good thing due to restrictive physical access to both. More information for KHC can be found here and PRHC here.

Appointments are still available for patients who want to see their providers in-person. Both facilities are kept clean and safe, thanks to the precautions taken to help prevent the spread.

“We really encourage people to have masks when they come,” Kroese said. Masks are not required, but he believes they will be part of life for the foreseeable future.

Another press conference is planned for Monday, April 27, at 1 p.m. For the latest on the virus, visit coronavirus.iowa.gov. As always, the Tribune will keep you posted on the latest developments.