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COVID-19: Another 667 cases in Iowa as public health experts call for statewide mask mandate

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Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

During the 24-hour period that ended at 10 a.m. on Saturday, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported another 667 confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing to the total number of Iowans who have tested positive for the virus to 41,627.

The new cases were confirmed as IDPH reported the results of 6,005 tests, giving the state a positivity rate of 11.1 percent for that 24-hour time period. The positivity rate is the percentage of people tested who were confirmed as having COVID-19.

The department also reported another six deaths on Saturday. The state’s death toll from the virus now stands at 826.

According to IDPH, 25 residents of Johnson County and 46 residents of Linn County tested positive for COVID-19 between 10 a.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. on Saturday. The positivity rate for Johnson County was 11.7 percent, and Linn County had a positivity rate of 12.1 percent.

Since COVID-19 was first detected in the state on March 8, a total of 1,726 Johnson County residents and 1,772 Linn County residents have tested positive for the virus. Ten residents of Johnson County have died from COVID-19, as have 87 residents of Linn County.

As of Saturday at 10 a.m., IDPH considers 29,462 of the Iowans who have tested positive for COVID-19 to be recovered. The department considers anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 to be recovered after 28 days, unless it is informed otherwise.

Another Linn County jail inmate tests positive

The Linn County Sheriff’s Office announced on Friday night that a second inmate in the Linn County jail has tested positive for COVID-19. Like the first inmate who tested on positive on Wednesday, this person is being held in the jail at the request of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Both inmates are asymptomatic, according to the sheriff’s office. Both have been placed in medical isolation.

“All other inmates housed with the two positive-testing inmates have tested negative for the virus,” the office said on Twitter Friday night.

Former state epidemiologist says Iowa should require face coverings

Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, who served as Iowa’s state epidemiologist for 24 years before retiring in 2018, said the state should require people to wear face coverings in public, when indoors or when they can’t maintain six feet of distance from others outdoors.

“I just don’t think we’re going to get this virus under control unless everybody wears a mask indoors in public places,” Quinlisk told the Des Moines Register. “We have an obligation to keep each other safe.”

The doctor would exempt small children from the requirement, because she doesn’t feel it would be practical to make them wear face coverings.

Quinlisk compared wearing face coverings to other safety measures required by the government, such as wearing seat belts.

The doctor “has previously refrained from publicly second-guessing the actions of state officials, including the governor and her successor as state epidemiologist, Dr. Caitlin Pedati,” the Register noted.

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Quinlisk decided to speak out after the Iowa Public Health Association (IPHA) issued a statement on Thursday calling on Gov. Kim Reynolds to order a statewide face covering mandate.

“Short of a statewide mandate, cities and counties must be allowed local control to follow the evidence and put in place mitigation strategies to protect their residents,” the nonprofit and nonpartisan association of public health professionals said in its statement.

IPHA also called on the governor to allow school districts to have “the flexibility to conduct the school year as best suits their communities.”

“We must trust their ability to deliver exceptional educational content, whether in person or online, while meeting the health and safety needs of all involved — kids, teachers, nurses, custodians, and beyond.”

In response to Dr. Quinlisk’s comments, a spokesperson for the governor told the Register, “Gov. Reynolds encourages Iowans who are interacting with others where social distancing is impossible to wear masks. But she does not believe a governmental mask mandate is appropriate.”


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