First case of COVID-19 confirmed in Dickinson County

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Governor issues another round of business closures

A case of coronavirus is now in Dickinson County, according to Lakes Regional Healthcare officials.

Dr. Zachary Boras, chairman of the Dickinson County Board of Health said a 61- to 80-year-old man had the COVID-19 diagnosis confirmed Thursday. The man is stable, currently in treatment and remains in isolation.

"This really doesn't change much," Boras said in recorded comments Thursday night. "We've been preparing for this for weeks. It's unfortunate. We had hoped this would stay out of our community, but it is officially here."

Local health care officials echoed the national and international campaign to limit the pandemic. Recommendations include: Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds each time; covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or elbow/upper arm; staying home when ill; and practicing social distancing, staying at least 6 feet away from others whenever possible.

"While this is Dickinson County's first case, it may not be the last, and that's why we encourage all residents to continue to make prevention a priority," said Brandon Rohrig, director of population and public health at Lakes Regional Healthcare.

Boras asked residents to stay home as much as possible ― with exceptions for essential functions at work or to get food and supplies.

"Don't shake hands, don't have parties, don't drink together, don't go to bars ― they're not open anyway," he said. "Still try to support your local businesses."

Emergency order expands

As local officials at Lakes Regional Healthcare were preparing to announce the Dickinson County diagnosis, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Thursday extended her emergency COVID-19 response order an additional week, until April 7, and added to the list of businesses that must close.

Her new order suspended elective and nonessential dental, orthodontic and medical procedures that can be delayed. That part of the order is effective at 5 p.m. Friday.

"These actions will help us preserve the personal protective equipment as well as our health care workforce," she said during a news conference.

She also ordered health insurance companies to reimburse health care providers for telehealth services at the same rate as an in-person visit.

Additional retail stores must close until April 7, including stores selling books, clothing and shoes, jewelry, luggage, cosmetics, perfume and beauty supplies, furniture and home furnishings. The full text of the order is on the governor’s website. Big-box retailers like Target, Walmart and Fleet Farm do not have to close, however.

"These additional steps and along with those we've already taken are equivalent to the goals of many of the shelter-in-place orders," she said. "I understand that these decisions will continue to impact the lives and livelihoods of Iowans. But the more we do now to mitigate the spread of the virus, the sooner we will get through this, so that life and business can get back to normal."

Local changes planned as state cases increase

The Dickinson County diagnosis wasn't yet included in totals released earlier in the day by the Iowa Department of Public Health. Those totals suggest the state had 179 cases, including the 34 new cases announced Thursday.

"If you are feeling ill ― if you're slightly ill ― stay home," Boras said. "If you're having shortness of breath, if you're having fever, if you're coughing, call our clinic at the COVID-19 hotline of 336-6696."

The hotline will be staffed by a triage nurse and open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"You will be seeing some changes around the hospital and hearing about them," Boras added. "We are doing everything we can to protect our patients and our community and our staff so that no one else gets ill. There will be other cases locally. I'm sure there already are some we just have not found them yet. Thankfully we have not had any severely ill patients here, but we may. So, there may be some changes in the coming days of our visitor policies, which have already been restricted and they may be restricted more."

Dickinson County's public health officials Thursday night reminded area residents that about 80% of people infected with COVID-19 will experience only a mild to moderate illness. Most mildly ill people do not need to go to their health care provider or be tested to confirm they have COVID-19. Those who are sick must stay home and isolate themselves from others in their house until: They've had no fever for at least 72 hours (that is three full days of no fever without the use of medicine that reduces fevers); other symptoms have improved (for example, when a cough or shortness of breath have improved); and at least seven days have passed since symptoms first appeared.

"We are as prepared as we can be here," Boras said. "We are changing our protocols daily. We are taking the best evidence from our partners in Sioux Falls as well as around the country and the globe to really provide the best care that we can to patients who come to us with COVID-19."

The health board chairman also said Lakes Regional Healthcare will announce changes to its clinic structure within the next week.

"We've already instituted a respiratory clinic, which keeps the folks who are sick and may have COVID-19 away from those who are well," Boras said.

He encouraged area residents to remain strong, reach out to support systems and "help folks who do need help."

"This is the time where we need to come together as a community, make the sacrifices that have been asked of us both as health care providers and as a community in general," he said. "We know that lots of folks are hurting. We know this is a time where money is tight and where isolation is getting to a lot of folks," he said.

Reynolds noted the "unprecedented" number of unemployment claims ― more than 40,900 announced for the week of March 15 by U.S. Department of Labor.

"The numbers we’re seeing now are unprecedented but not unexpected," she said, which is why the state has put measures in place to assist people and businesses that are affected. More aid is expected from the economic stimulus bill moving through Congress, she added.

Her order does not change the recommendation that schools stay closed until April 13.

"We're continuing to monitor and assess the situation daily and continue to work with superintendents across the state," she said.

Reynolds also said, based on a review of statutes by her office and that of the attorney general, that local governments do not have the authority to issue their own shelter-in-place orders to try to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Some Iowa communities in Johnson, Linn and Dubuque counties have considered local stay-home orders. Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Public Health have continued to resist calls for a statewide shelter-in-place order, saying the state's infection data does not warrant it.

She said her office is working with communities to look at data, talk about whether existing orders are being effectively communicated and explain why they don't think a stay-home order is necessary.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: