Linn County has seen an increase in community spread of COVID-19, Heather Meador, Linn County Public Health’s supervisor of Clinical Services, said during a press conference on Monday.
More than half of the newly reported cases of the virus over the weekend were connected to community spread, according to Meador.
“This is a clear indication that we still have work to do to slow the spread of the virus,” she said.
Meador noted that two to three weeks ago there were religious holidays and the weather began to get nicer, resulting in a decrease in “appropriate 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,” she explained. “Therefore, we are saddened but not surprised to see an increase in community spread of COVID-19.”
Meador also said the virus probably hasn’t reached its peak in the county yet.
“Despite projection models attempting to forecast when the peak will occur, I cannot tell you with any confidence when that peak will happen. We don’t know. We won’t know until it’s happened and we are on the other side of that trend line.”
As of Monday afternoon, Linn County Public Health is reporting 744 confirmed cases of COVID-19, as well as 52 deaths from the virus.
The number of cases LCPH is reporting is lower than the number the Iowa Department of Public Health reported for the county on Monday, even though IDPH’s reporting has a one-day time lag. IDPH lists Linn County as having 757 confirmed cases and 47 deaths. Meador said the two departments are working together to figure out where the discrepancy is coming from.
Local officials are also working to determine what a second wave of the virus might look like in the county.
On May 1, restrictions were relaxed in 77 of Iowa’s counties. Researchers from the University of Iowa’s College of Public Health warned in a report that easing restrictions at this time might result in a new wave of infections.
“We have found evidence of a slowdown in infection and mortality rates due to social distancing policies, but not that a peak has been reached,” the report’s conclusion stated. The UI researchers warned, “prevention measures should remain in place. Without such measures being continued, a second wave of infections is likely.”
During Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Stacey Walker spoke about what a second wave might mean for Linn County.
“It’s obvious that the governor is trying to move as quickly as possible to reopen the economy and in seeing a return to normal, as I think we all are,” Walker said. “My gut tells me as soon as we get the semblance of a green light, we’re going to see a lot of folks outside, and we’re going to see a lot of folks in bars and restaurants. We’re going to see probably an inordinate amount of individuals gathering together because folks are just excited and anxious, and so we talked about how it might precipitate that second wave even more quickly than what it was originally predicted.”
“It could be more than a second wave. It could be a third wave also,” LCPH Director Pramod Dwivedi added.
If a second wave happens, Walker said he will be tracking two metrics closely: hospitalization rates and the mortality rate.
“If those numbers start spiking during our second wave, I will be an advocate for us taking severe and decisive action to try to course correct,” Walker said.
Another long-term care facility outbreak
Linn County now has five outbreaks at long-term care facilities. IDPH defines an outbreak as three or more residents of a long-term care facility testing positive for COVID-19.
Cottage Grove Place, a retirement community in Cedar Rapids, is experiencing an outbreak in its nursing center. Little Village reported last week on the facility’s first cases before an outbreak was declared.
As of Monday, five staff and residents have tested positive for the virus, and one resident has died, Meador said. Meador also provided an update on the four other long-term care facilities.
Heritage Specialty Care in Cedar Rapids: 113 residents/staff tested positive, 24 residents have died, 85 residents/staff recovered
St. Luke’s Living Center West in Cedar Rapids: 52 residents/staff tested positive, 6 residents have died, 6 residents/staff recovered
ManorCare Health Services in Cedar Rapids: 37 residents/staff tested positive, 3 residents have died, 2 residents/staff recovered
Linn Manor Care Center in Marion: 22 residents/staff tested positive, 6 residents have died, 16 residents/staff recovered
LCPH is in communication with all long-term care facilities in the county. Meador said the facilities fill out a survey daily about personal protective equipment, staffing, if residents and staff are ill and how many residents and staff members have been diagnosed with the virus.
“As soon as we start to see any indication, regardless of what the state’s definition of an outbreak is, we start contacting that facility immediately and start to work with them and address the issues that they’re seeing,” Meador said.
Even though LCPH tries to intervene as quickly as they can, “it’s almost too late,” Meador said.
Because the virus is easily transmitted when an infected person is still asymptomatic, by the time symptoms do occur, it may already be spreading through a facility. This is part of the reason why long-term care facilities see their cases increase so quickly, Meador said.
But Meador did say “several facilities are moving towards recovery.” During a press conference last week, she defined recovery as “no new cases for two incubation periods.” An incubation period is 14 days, so after 28 days of no new cases, a facility would be considered recovered.
Cedar Rapids employees test positive for COVID-19
The City of Cedar Rapids announced an employee working in the Water Administration Building has tested positive for COVID-19. The employee last worked in the building on Thursday, April 30, according to Monday’s news release.
Employees with potential exposure have been asked to isolate at home and monitor themselves for symptoms. The employee who tested positive did not have regular contact with the public, according to the city.
The city believes exposure is limited based on previously implemented procedures, including individual vehicle use and modified shifts. The city also assured residents that the water supply has not been threatened by the positive case.
A Cedar Rapids Police Department employee has also tested positive for COVID-19. The employee came to work on Monday, April 27 and began experiencing mild symptoms during their shift, and was immediately sent home, according to the department.