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Linn County officials, preparing for a ‘patient surge,’ urge residents to stay home, wear a cloth mask if out

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Dr. Tony Myers of Mercy Medical Center was wearing a cloth mask during a Linn County Public Health press conference on Monday, April 6. He encouraged people who have to leave their homes for essential trips to also wear a mask. — video still

At the start of Linn County Public Health’s Monday press conference, Supervisor Stacey Walker shared how the county’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 have changed in only a week’s time.

“When I last spoke to you, just under a week ago, there were 71 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Linn County,” Walker said. “Now, we have learned that there are 176 confirmed cases here in Linn County, which represents a 148 percent increase in just one week’s time.”

“These numbers will continue to grow,” Walker continued. “As I’ve mentioned before, we’re only able to know the confirmed number of cases of those individuals we test. It’s sort of like finding only what you shine a light on, and since testing is limited, we should all assume that many more individuals are carrying the virus. And by now, we all should know that you can carry the virus and be asymptomatic. This is all the more reason we need to take social distancing and sheltering in place when we can very seriously.”

Linn County leads the state in the number of positive cases and the number of reported COVID-19 deaths. Eight of the state’s 25 deaths have been Linn County residents.

There are 946 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Iowa, with 176 of those being in Linn County, as of Monday, April 6. According to LCPH’s Heather Meador, there have been 881 negative tests for the virus in Linn County and 37 individuals have recovered.

Meador shared that more than 70 of Linn County’s cases are attributed to an outbreak at Heritage Specialty Care, a long-term care facility in Cedar Rapids. Both residents and staff members have tested positive for the virus.

“This situation underscores that COVID-19 poses the most risk to those with serious illness, those that have underlying health conditions and for older adults,” Meador said. “These risk factors can be more severe and lead to illness, hospitalization and death.”

“It is imperative that we protect these vulnerable populations by practicing social distancing. Again, please stay home. We are in this together. And each decision you make, each time you leave your home, can have an impact on each person you encounter. All of our lives have been disrupted by this pandemic.”

Linn County COVID-19 Press Conference, April 6, 2020

Correction to the April 6, 2020 Linn County COVID-19 Press Conference: As of April 6, 2020, UnityPoint Health – St. Lukes Hospital has not had a patient die in its facility to date.

Posted by Linn County Public Health on Monday, April 6, 2020

Dr. Tony Myers of Mercy Medical Center gave insight into what Mercy and UnityPoint Health are experiencing at their respective hospitals.

“We’ve had deaths related to COVID, at both hospitals,” Myers said. “We have multiple people at both hospitals that are on ventilators fighting for their lives right now. … We’ve all seen what’s going on TV and on social media, but this is going on right now in Cedar Rapids. It’s here.”

The majority of the patients on ventilators at the hospitals are less than 65 years old, Myers said.

The hospitals have the capacity to take care of those who are critically ill, Myers said. At last Thursday’s LCPH press conference, Dr. Dustin Arnold said that both hospitals have gone from the preparation phase to a “standby phase for the patient surge.”

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But despite hospitals increasing their capacity and having enough room to take care of patients, Myers said “the only thing that we know that will work is for people to not get it.” He urged people to stay home, as he has over the last couple of weeks.

Myers also encouraged people to wear a cloth mask if they do have to leave their house. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends individuals to wear cloth face coverings in public settings, like grocery stores, especially in areas with significant community spread.

“This mask is not to protect me,” said Myers, who was wearing a cloth mask during Monday’s press conference. “It’s to protect the other people in this room. Even talking loudly can cause spread of this virus. … Please, please put on a mask to protect all of us.”


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