County sees largest COVID spike to date

Friday, July 3, 2020

LE MARS — Positive cases of COVID-19 continue to climb in Plymouth County.

The previous peak of active positive cases came on May 15 when 70 individuals were confirmed positive.

While that number dropped to a low of 42 active cases by May 29, the numbers have been trending upward since the Memorial Day weekend as July 1 saw a high reaching 90 active cases within the county.

Since the outbreak began, a total of 311 Plymouth County residents have tested positive, 254 have recovered and four have died from complications of the virus as of data at 9 a.m., July 2.

“While there are many reasons for this increase, the primary causes are due to group gatherings in the community,” said Tara Geddes, community health manager at Floyd Valley Healthcare.

“Like much of the country, our largest increase in positive cases are in individuals 18-40 years of age, however we continue to see positive cases in all age groups. The continued community spread is something we should all be concerned about. While not everyone who is infected with COVID-19 will have serious complications and some may never have symptoms, we know that these individuals can continue to spread the virus to others who may. In Plymouth County we have also seen an increase in hospitalizations which was beginning to trend down over the past month,” Geddes continued.

With the Independence Day holiday this weekend, many people will be traveling to other places or having get-togethers with family and friends. Geddes said everyone needs to stay vigilant so that cases don’t spike even higher in the wake of these social gatherings.

“If traveling for the 4th of July weekend we encourage everyone to continue practicing social distancing and continue being vigilant about hand hygiene,” Geddes said. “If you are feeling ill, stay home and do not participate in group gatherings. If attending barbeques, fireworks, or other gatherings, stay six feet away from individuals who are not part of your immediate family. We know that individuals are contagious 48 hours prior to symptoms starting so you may spread the virus before you ever feel ill.”

One way to help slow the spread is by the use of facial coverings, especially in public areas. Geddes said the CDC and Iowa Department of Public Health recommend residents over the age of 2 wear masks over their mouth and nose in public areas.

“This is especially important when social distancing of six feet apart is not possible,” Geddes said. “Masks help by reducing the spread of our droplets when we cough, talk or breath. The more people that wear masks, the more protected we are from each other. There are many different types of masks and face coverings. In the general public, the CDC and IDPH recommend any type of cloth face covering.”

Geddes wanted to remind people about what isolation recommendations were. She stated that anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 should self-quarantine at home for a minimum of 10 days from the date the symptoms started. After 10 days, individuals may return to normal activities as long as they are fever free for at least 72 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications and have had improvement in symptoms. For those who have had a close contact with someone who has tested positive, with a close contact being considered within six feet for at least 15 minutes, Geddes said that those individuals should self-isolate for 14 days from the last exposure and also consider getting tested.

Floyd Valley Healthcare recently started serology testing, which is used for a different purpose than diagnostic testing.

“PCR testing is used to detect an active viral infection with COVID-19. Serology tests, also known as antibody tests, are used to identify the presence of COVID-19 antibodies which means that you had a COVID-19 infection at some point in the past,” Geddes said. “This does not detect active infection. Serology can be useful to estimate how many individuals have a past infection of COVID-19 and can also be used for individuals who had a known positive COVID PCR test and want to donate plasma for treatment of COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized. While we know that individuals with a positive serology test have had a COVID-19 infection at some point, there are still many questions related to immunity that we do not know the answer to yet.”

Geddes stated that as of July 1, 225 Plymouth County residents had taken a serology test with three percent returning positive.

As the coronavirus is still in our communities, Geddes said we still need to take precautions until a vaccine is available.

“We don’t want people to live in fear but we need to be smart about how we interact,” Geddes said. “It is important that we don’t let our guard down. COVID has not gone away. With the warm weather and summer activities it is easy to fall back into the same social practices we had prior to COVID-19. We can still participate in these types of activities, but we must do it in a different way to prevent further spread of COVID-19.”

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