Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Linn County are slowing down but public health is watching for a possible surge

Soldiers with the 294th Medical Company Area Support are at the Test Iowa site in Cedar Rapids on May 7, 2020. — National Guard

The number of newly reported confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Linn County has decreased over the past few weeks, but officials are preparing for a possible second wave of the virus.

As of 9 a.m. on Thursday, Linn County Public Health was reporting 972 confirmed cases. The data also shows that the total number of cases reported each week has been decreasing (for the most part) since the week of April 19. From April 19 to April 25, a total of 184 cases were confirmed that week, which is the highest number reported per week so far. The following week, 148 cases were confirmed.

During a press conference on May 4, LCPH Clinical Services Supervisor Heather Meador spoke about increased community spread in the county. She noted that two to three weeks earlier there were religious holidays, nicer weather and a decrease in social distancing.

“This is important because this is about the same time period that it takes to be able to spread the virus to others after being exposed. Therefore, we are saddened but not surprised to see an increase in community spread of COVID-19,” Meador said during the press conference.

Despite the number of cases slowing down, LCPH Director Pramod Dwivedi said the county should be prepared for additional cases in light of the state reopening and most of Iowa’s COVID-19 restrictions expiring. Public health and government officials have previously discussed what a second wave of the virus might look like in the county.

“We don’t know what the situation is going to be like here in our community, in Linn County,” Dwivedi said during a Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday. “This is a very common thing. The community spread is there. The virus is there. If we are not utilizing the precautions, we are going to expose ourselves, and that’s why it’s very important to use all those precautions: face mask, social distancing, washing hands [are] really critical.”

LCPH is recommending a phased reopening approach consisting of three phases. The county is currently in phase one. As of June 4, the county is 76 percent of the way ready to move to phase two.

LCPH’s guidance is determined by 10 disease and resource metrics, which are categorized under epidemiology, health care and public health. All metrics must be met before moving to the next phase of the reopening process. The metrics and whether or not they have been met can be found online.

During the two board meetings this week, Supervisor Stacey Walker asked if the county has adequate contact tracing capabilities.

Dwivedi said LCPH is prepared if a “surge” in cases were to happen. The department has 14 people working on contact tracing, which has allowed public health employees to return to their normal operations.

“If a surge happened, we should be able to employ those colleagues who are getting back to normal operations, but I think we are okay at the moment,” Dwiviedi said. “We shouldn’t have any issues with regard to the surge.”

At Wednesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Dwiveidi said a total of 3,262 tests have been conducted through Test Iowa so far. The county’s Test Iowa site is open to anyone but LCPH only does contact tracing for Linn County residents

Dwiviedi said 924 tests have been conducted through Test Iowa for residents. Of those, 883 tests were negative, 24 were positive and 17 were inconclusive.

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