HJ - Test Iowa Car Line

A lengthy line of cars wait to have drive-up COVID-19 tests completed Wednesday, July 22, at the Test Iowa site located at Clarinda Regional Health Center. Page County has seen a dramatic rise in positive tests results in July. (Herald-Journal photo by Jennifer Johnson)

Following a dramatic spike in positive COVID-19 tests, Page County Public Health is encouraging local residents to continue practicing necessary safety precautions.

“We are still recommending people practice social distancing by staying at least 6 feet apart, and wear a mask. I feel like it’s not asking that much. It is disheartening to go out in public and see so many people with so much disregard for others around them,” Page County Public Health Administrator Jessica Erdman said.

Although Page County Public Health was alerted of the possibility of the coronavirus impacting the United States in February, the pandemic gained national attention is mid-March as schools, businesses and many activities were suspended or closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. From March through July 12, Page County had reported 22 positive tests for COVID-19, with 20 of those people having recovered.

However, over the next two weeks, the number of positive tests in the county more than doubled to 57 as of July 28. This included a span of six days from July 17 to July 22 where 16 positive tests were confirmed. Another 13 cases were reported Sunday, July 26. Of the 57 confirmed cases in Page County, 32 people have recovered and there have been no deaths as a result of the virus.

“Initially, our residents did a great job of really following the guidelines to protect themselves and the public. The schools did a tremendous job making sure the kids were protected and both of the hospitals in the county have been doing an amazing job taking care of the situation,” Erdman said. “Local businesses also took a strong stance early on. They reached out to us and followed the recommendations. They did everything they should have been doing and are still doing a good job.”

However, after the lockdown imposed in Iowa passed, Erdman said a false sense of security seemed to emerge. As people were outside more enjoying the summer weather, the importance of the safety guidelines appeared to dwindle.

“We started seeing more of the general public not wanting to wear masks and there were more public events taking place. We know those are the things that are continuing the spread of COVID-19,” Erdman said.

In addition, Erdman said people have become less cooperative with Page County Public Health as the department conducts disease investigations. Erdman said this has included people who have tested positive being unwilling to provide a list of the people they have come in close contact with.

Erdman said close contact exposure occurs when a person is 6 feet or less from person who has tested positive for the virus for 15 minutes or longer. Once identified, Page County Public Health notifies the person who has been in close contact that they have been exposed and informs them they need to quarantine themselves, which would include in-home isolation, for 14 days.

“During our disease investigations the positive case person should let us know who they have come in close contact with. If they are unwilling to do that, it makes it difficult for us to do our job and reach out to those people. If we aren’t able to get a hold of those people to let them know they were exposed, they are still out in the general public exposing other people,” Erdman said. “So we urge people to answer the phone when we call, answer the questions we ask honestly and be willing to share the information we need to protect all involved.”

People with symptoms of COVID-19, including people who have tested positive, must isolate themselves for at least 10 days after the symptoms first appeared. Those individuals must also have no fever for 24 hours and show improvement with the rest of their symptoms.

Individuals with severe or advanced immunosuppression need to isolate until they have two negative test results in a row at least 24 hours apart, or for 20 days from symptom onset or date of test.

Those interested in learning more about the COVID-19 test results in Page County can visit coronavirus.iowa.gov. The state website provides Test Iowa sites and schedules, as well as statistical information on the number of people tested and the number of positive cases both for the state and individual counties.

As of Wednesday, July 22, Erdman said 9.3% of the people tested in Iowa were found positive for the virus. In Page County, 2.6% of those tested were positive.

“We are hearing the testing is driving the positives up. If we were not testing those positive cases would still be there, but since we are doing more testing we have a better view of the positives in the county,” Erdman said.

If people have questions about COVID-19, the recommended safety guidelines or isolation practices, they may call the Page County Public Health office at 712-850-1212. They may also call the Iowa COVID hotline at 211.

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