Linn County Public Health Director Pramod Dwivedi got directly to the point at the beginning of the department’s Saturday morning press conference.
“Linn County Public Health was notified of the first laboratory-diagnosed case of COVID-19,” he said.
Dwivedi specified “laboratory-diagnosed,” because LCPH has assumed the disease is likely present in the county in undiagnosed cases, since community spread of COVID-19 was confirmed in Iowa on March 14.
The individual who tested positive is a woman between the ages of 41 and 60. She was not in need of hospitalization, and is currently recovering at home.
LCPH’s Heather Meador said the department has worked with the woman to determine whom she may have had contact with since contracting the disease, and has contacted those individuals.
“This case was aware that she had potential exposure to COVID-19, and prior to any symptoms beginning, had already put into place actions to prevent the spread to other individuals,” Meador said.
Meador said it was important for everyone to behave in the same responsible manner.
“Many more Iowans will become ill in the coming days,” she said. “It is imperative that all Iowans practice the guidance that we have been given to protect yourself and to protect our community.”
That guidance includes what Dwivedi and Meador called the “Three C’s” — covering your cough, cleaning your hands and confining yourself at home — as well as practicing social distancing.
“Approximately 80 percent of Iowans will be infected with COVID-19, but will only experience mild to moderate illness,” Meador said. (A written statement summarizing the press conference published by LCPH makes it clear that Meador was referring to the number of infected people who will experience severe symptoms, not the overall number of Iowans who will become infected.)
Shortly after the press conference, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported there are other new cases besides the one that was the subject of the press conference, including another two in Linn and five more in Johnson County.
• Allamakee County, 1 middle age adult (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)
• Black Hawk County, 1 middle age adult (41-60 years), 1 elderly (81 years or older)
• Dubuque County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
• Fayette County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
• Henry County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
• Johnson County, 3 adults (18-40 years), 1 middle age adult (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)
• Linn County, 2 adults (18-40 years), 1 middle age adult (41-60 years)
• Muscatine County, 1 middle age adult (41-60 years)
• Polk County, 2 middle age adults (41-60 years), 2 older adults (61-80 years)
• Pottawattamie County, 1 middle age adult (41-60 years)
• Story County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
• Washington County, 1 middle age adult (41-60 years)
The new cases bring the total in the state to 68. Johnson County now has 27 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
At the LCPH press conference, Meador said, “Those with mild illness do not need to go to a healthcare provider, or to be tested to confirm that they have COVID-19. We want all Iowans, regardless of how mild an illness may be, to do the same things that we asking of those who are moderately to severely ill.”
She then detailed what LCPH is recommending.
We’re asking all Iowans who are ill [to] stay home and isolate yourselves from others. Stay home and isolate yourself until you have been free of fever at least 72 hours — that is a full three days without the aid of medications.
Additionally, you need to have your symptoms improving over three days.
And finally, do not leave until you’ve had at least seven days passed from the onset of your symptoms.
All three of those should be completed before you return to work or to other activities.
If you think you need medical attention, call your healthcare provider first, before going to the clinic or hospital, Meador said. That will allow your provider to take steps to stop possible transmission of the disease.
Self-isolation is also recommended for anyone who believes they may have been exposed to COVID-19 but is still feeling well.
“We want you to stay home and isolate yourself from other people for at least 14 days from your last exposure,” Meador said.
“You do not go to school, you do not go to work, you do not go to other places,” she continued. “You do not use public transportation, such as buses, taxis or ride-shares. You postpone any travel plans that you have. You wash your hands often, and you practice good hygiene. You postpone all non-essential medical appointments, until you have completed your 14 days of self-isolation.”
People in self-isolation who don’t have any symptoms should monitor themselves for a fever by taking their temperature twice each day, Meador said. A temperature greater than 100.4 degrees constitutes a fever.
The self-isolated should also watch for coughs and any difficulty breathing.
“Family members or other persons who reside in your home may remain in the home with you [during the 14-day period], but stay in a specific room away from you, and, if possible, use a separate bathroom,” Meador said.
Others who live in the same home as a self-isolated person do not need to also self-isolate, if the potentially infected person never becomes ill. If the person does become ill, then everyone in the home needs to self-isolate.
Both Dwivedi and Meador stressed that everyone in the community can help limit the spread of COVID-19, by following the recommendations of public health officials.
“We must work collectively and collaboratively to stop the spread of the disease,” Dwivedi said.