Linn County begins to plan for what happens when neighboring counties reopen in May

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Supervisor Stacey Walker referenced a map of the 22 counties not part of Gov. Kim Reynolds proclamation that loosens social distancing guidelines in Iowa’s 77 other counties. — video still from Linn County Public Health press conference on April 27

Linn County isn’t one of the 77 counties where Gov. Reynolds is relaxing the state’s COVID-19 restrictions, but four counties it shares borders with are, so Linn officials are starting to consider what impact the changes the governor announced on Monday will have in their county.

Starting on May 1, closed retail businesses and restaurants in 77 counties — including Buchanan, Delaware, Jones and Cedar — will be allowed to open, as long as they limit customers and facilitate social distancing.

At a Linn County Public Health press conference on Monday afternoon, Supervisor Stacey Walker pointed out Linn County is a “major hub for our region,” where residents of other counties work and travel to for health care or other necessities.

“This new approach to reopening our economy at such great speed can only work if we remain vigilant, and apparently remain within the borders of our own counties as much as possible,” Walker said.

“The desire for a full return to normal is palpable … But if we’re not careful in how we do this, we could easily end up back to where we are now. Right now, the needs of our economy are seemingly at odds with the demands of our public health system. Our challenge is figuring out how we reconcile this conflict but it should go without saying — our economy only works when there is a healthy workforce to power it.”

COVID-19 Press Conference, April 27th, 2020 3:30PM

Now streamed live on Facebook, YouTube…/UCV9JaHlZ0phu… and local news sites.

Posted by Linn County Public Health on Monday, April 27, 2020

Cedar Rapids hospitals planning to resume elective procedures

Mercy Medical Center, UnityPoint Health, Physicians Clinic of Iowa and Linn County anesthesiologists are in the planning process for resuming elective procedures, but there is not a definitive timeline to share at this time. Gov. Reynolds announced last Friday that health care providers can begin resuming elective surgeries and procedures through a “phased-in approach.”

“We know this information is of great interest and importance to those wanting to move forward with their health care,” Dr. Tony Myers of Mercy Medical Center said at Monday’s press conference. “A lot of people have been putting things off for weeks, some of them that really need to be done. We’re certainly working in that direction.”

Myers said several criteria are being looked at, including the capacity to continue to care for critically ill patients, supply of personal protective equipment, pharmaceutical supplies, available blood supply and the establishment of presurgical processes and procedures.

Other important considerations are a stabilized trend of COVID-19 cases in the community and the availability of testing.

Myers said there have been a “slight increase” in hospital admissions during the last four days.

“It makes me concerned that that could increase and worse,” Myers said.

Linn County’s Fillmore Center, 520 11th St NW, April 20, 2020. — Izabela Zaluska/Little Village

Overflow shelter will be open through May

Linn County’s overflow shelter for people experiencing homelessness will remain open through May after the Linn County Board of Supervisors extended the lease for a second time.

“We also have entered into a partnership with Willis Dady [and] the city of Cedar Rapids to purchase hotel rooms for individuals who are experiencing homelessness who may need to be quarantined,” Walker said at Monday’s press conference.

The overflow shelter opened last November at the county-owned Fillmore Center, 520 11th St NW. The shelter’s services are provided by Willis Dady Homeless Services. The overflow shelter has been open 24/7 since mid-March in response to COVID-19.

Another nursing home outbreak

Linn County has reported an outbreak of COVID-19 at St. Luke’s Living Center West in Cedar Rapids over the weekend. So far, 43 residents and staff have tested positive for the virus. There are now four long-term care facilities in Linn County where outbreaks have been reported.

As of Monday afternoon, Linn County has 625 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 35 deaths. A total of 324 residents have recovered. (The Iowa Department of Public Health was reporting 613 cases and 34 deaths among Linn County residents on Monday, but the IDPH’s reporting has a one-day time-lag.)

Linn County has confirmed outbreaks at Cedar Rapids nursing homes — Heritage Specialty Care and ManorCare Health Services — and Linn Manor Care Center in Marion. Together, the four nursing homes have 188 residents and staff who have tested positive and 29 residents who have died.

“We continue to track all long-term care facilities within Linn County for signs of illness,” Linn County Public Health’s Heather Meador said at a LCPH press conference on Monday. “If long-term care facilities meet the state’s definition for an outbreak, they will be listed on the state’s website, and we will provide updates.”

Meador also shared that Four Oaks, a family and children services organization, is experiencing cases of COVID-19. Several staff members have tested positive for the virus.

LCPH is working closely with the facility and providing them with guidance, testing and personal protective equipment, Meador said.

“We do not have permission from Four Oaks to release any additional information, so if you are a parent and you have a child that’s at Four Oaks and you’re concerned, we would strongly encourage you to reach out [to Four Oaks],” Meador said.

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