COVID-19 In “Uncontrolled Community Spread” Within Mahaska County

Mahaska County CERT will be coordinating the delivery and pickup of PPE for the Southeast Part of Iowa.

Oskaloosa, Iowa – The spread of COVID-19 has escalated in recent months, and with that came a speech from Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, who about-faced on the use of masks in public.

Reynolds stated in her address to Iowans, “the pandemic in Iowa is worse than it has ever been. Over the last two weeks, there have been more than 52,000 new cases of the virus in Iowa.”

“For some Iowans who have experienced the virus firsthand. That may not seem like something to worry about because, for many, COVID-19 has been relatively mild, some having no symptoms at all. And I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful that our children and Healthy Iowans have largely been unaffected. But I’m afraid that these mild cases have created a mindset where Iowans have become complacent, where we’ve lost that sight of what it was, why it was so important to flatten the curve.”

“About 5% of Iowans with COVID-19 require hospitalization. And because of the increase we’ve seen over the last two weeks, our health care system is being pushed to the brink. The number of Iowans in the hospital with COVID-19 has doubled to the point where one out of every four hospital patients has the virus. So as cases continue to climb, hospitalizations will also grow at a similar pace,” Reynolds said, addressing the doubling of hospitalized patients in the past month.

Reynolds stated she understood the mitigation measures being required wouldn’t be easy or popular in her address.

Those measures were shared with the public in her proclamation that will continue through December 10th, 2020.

The proclamation requires that when people are in an indoor public space and unable to social distance for 15 minutes or longer, masks must be worn. The same requirements apply to visitors and employees inside State buildings. Additional mask requirements are imposed for certain specific establishments and gatherings.

The proclamation also limits indoor social, community, business, and leisure gatherings or events to not more than 15 people.

Outdoor gatherings are limited to 30. This includes wedding and funeral receptions, family gatherings, and conventions. But it does not restrict gatherings that occur in the workplace as part of normal daily business or government operations.

Except for high school, collegiate, and professional sports, all organized youth and adult sports activities of any size are suspended. This includes basketball, wrestling, gymnastics, swimming, dance, and group fitness classes at gyms. While high school sports and extracurricular activities are not prohibited, spectators at games or events are limited to 2 per student and must wear a mask.

Restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, arcades, pool halls, bingo halls, and indoor playgrounds are required to close at 10 p.m. and cannot host private gatherings of more than 15 people. Masks must be worn by staff who have direct contact with customers, and customers must wear masks when they are not seated at their table to eat or drink. The proclamation also requires masks inside casinos.

The proclamation also requires hospitals to ensure that inpatient elective procedures are reduced by 50%.

“Now is the time to come together for the greater good to look out for each other. Not because you’re told to, but because it’s the right thing to do. That’s who we are as Iowans, and I know without a doubt that we will get through this together,” Reynolds said in closing her speech.

Mahaska Public Health Shares Newest Information

Mahaska County Public Health’s Patty Malloy said that Mahaska County is currently at 1116 cases of COVID-19.

In November, there have been 336 cases so far, while in October, there was a total of 344 cases. In September, Mahaska County had 223 cases.

“We are definitely looking at possibly doubling our numbers, [or] close to for the month of November,” said Malloy.

“I think for our upcoming holiday season, we want to think smarter and just be careful in the groups you have coming together from other households,” said Malloy. “Where we see the spread is in those close family contacts.”

Thinking differently about Thanksgiving or having a virtual Thanksgiving gathering may help those in high-risk categories keep their gatherings to a small group.

“I mean, if anything, you’re getting together and mixing households, wear a mask.”

Malloy also suggests keeping different households at separate tables during the meal times since masks aren’t worn during that time; if you can’t social distance the recommended six foot.

In the community, Malloy doesn’t see any one particular entity as the reason for the spread, but says that household exposures are what they see most often.

Gatherings around Halloween and weddings had groups of people interacting. Participants weren’t aware they were sick, and they infected others.

“We want to keep in contact with people and not feel like we’re so isolated, but do it safely. Whether it’s a phone call, or wearing a mask, or keeping a visit short,” are ways Malloy suggests helping keep contact with others while protecting yourself. “In that high-risk area, I think we just really need to be cautious.”

On the discussion regarding the effectiveness of masks, Malloy continues to speak about the help masks provide in curtailing the spread of COVID-19. “Why the masks work is if you’re sick, if you come down with COVID, you’ve been contagious 48 hours before you have symptoms. So, if you’re not masking, you could be spreading the COVID before you know you have it. So wearing a mask keeps your sickness in the mask where it’s not being projected in the air.”

“Then, if you’re somebody that doesn’t want to get it and you wear your mask properly, it would prevent if you were around somebody not masked,” added Malloy. “Masks aren’t perfect, but there is no 100% perfection in things, so we just do the best we can.”

Oskaloosa Community Schools Adjusting to COVID-19

Oskaloosa School Superintendent Paula Wright addressed the community with a video stating the district continues to navigate the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are currently transitioning to the hybrid model for Oskaloosa Middle School and Oskaloosa High School for November 19th, and continuing through Friday, December 4th.”

Wright went on to say the school will continue to monitor the positivity rates in Mahaska County while working with Mahaska County Public Health.

“Right now, Mahaska County is in a substantially uncontrolled community spread positivity rate of above 20%.”

“We are seeing the majority of our positive cases at the middle school and high school at this time,” said Wright. “I’m asking for your help to help slow the spread so that we can continue to avoid any further changes to the learning model here in Oskaloosa.”

Wright added that “one of the highest contributors is community spread, through groups, times of being unmasked, people spending more time inside.”

“Participation in learning is required on both online and face-to-face days,” explained Wright. “Students are required to produce evidence of learning every day. Learning will be graded for students when face-to-face and online.”

During the time that hybrid learning is going on, all building rentals have been cancelled, along with all middle-school activities.

“Please wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Stay at least six feet away from others at all times. Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others. The mask helps protect others if you are sick and don’t know it. Everyone should wear a mask in a public setting, especially when social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. Continue to maintain social distancing even when wearing a mask. Be alert for symptoms; watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19, and stay home if you are sick.”

“Thank you for your partnership and helping students and staff stay healthy so that we may return to face-to-face learning in our school district,” said Wright in closing.

Emergency Management and Mahaska County CERT Helping Southeast Iowa

Mahaska County Emergency Management Building is being turned into a warehouse to help distribute lifesaving Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for those receiving state aid.

“Right now, the State’s been using the DOT. With winter coming, it’s going to be hard for them to get those weekly deliveries,” explained Robinson.

Mahaska Count CERT will then either deliver the PPE or make arrangements for other entities to pick up their PPE.

As of right now, Mahaska County CERT has been a significant contributor to the community already, having given nearly 4000 hours of volunteer time in aid to the community. Their volunteer hours also help keep first responders free to handle their primary duties.

When it comes to Mahaska County Emergency Management, they continue to push the CDC guidelines to follow. “I mean, the CDC is the expert in the United States for this type of pandemic. And the CDC says we should be washing hands, we should be socially distancing, and we should be wearing masks,” said Robinson.
“I’m not going to tell people to stop what you’re doing. I still go grocery shopping. Life for me hasn’t stopped. I don’t expect anybody’s life to stop, but take the precautions.”

Reinfection And A Vaccine

Reinfection of COVID-19 is happening, says Malloy.

After the initial 90-day period after being infected, your immunity starts to drop off.

If reinfected, those infected may experience a more intense case the second time because the body may yet have a weakened immune system from the last infection.

On a vaccine, Malloy explained that she participates in a weekly call with the Immunization Bureau, and no dates have been given yet for a vaccine to be in the Mahaska County healthcare worker’s hands.

You can keep up with all the latest information and numbers at the State of Iowa’s COVID-19 website –

Posted by on Nov 18 2020. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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