CORONAVIRUS

Linn County officials urge caution in 'reopening'

They worry about second wave of virus cases, wish people would wear masks

The Freedom Festival parade rolls along Third Street SE during the 2019 Freedom Festival celebration in Cedar Rapids. Th
The Freedom Festival parade rolls along Third Street SE during the 2019 Freedom Festival celebration in Cedar Rapids. This year’s festival has been canceled due to community-spread concerns about the coronavirus, prompting other communities to check with Linn County on whether they can schedule summer parades and events. (The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn County supervisors are trying to figure out what to tell people who want to schedule summer parades or other gatherings, given the prevalence of coronavirus cases in the county.

An unnamed private school is asking for advice on its graduation ceremony, as are cities hoping to hold summer events after the announcement that this year’s Freedom Festival is canceled, Supervisor Brent Oleson said.

Supervisor Stacey Walker said it is up to private organizations to make their own decisions, but with Linn County Public Health able to relay guidance it receives from the state or federal level.

In Linn County, and 21 other Iowa counties with the majority of Iowa’s COVID-19 cases, gatherings of more than 10 are not permitted until after May 15.

Linn County Public Health Director Pramod Dwivedi said the county will continue to see an uptick in COVID-19 cases until there is an effective treatment or vaccine.

Social distancing, he said, needs to continue.

“We’re talking about people — not only their health — but avoiding death,” Dwivedi said. “It’s going to wreak havoc if we are not careful.”

Walker said holding an event that brings thousands of people together would further community spread.

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“If this spirals out of control, I think the Board of Health would say you have to start shutting things down,” Walker said. “This is an imminent public health threat.”

Walker said the county needs to begin conversations about what a second wave of the virus might look like.

“One of my concerns is it’s obvious the governor is trying to move as quickly as possible to reopen the economy and seeking a return to normal,” Walker said. “She’s moving at a pretty good clip.”

Once people get the “green light” to reopen restaurants and bars, Walker said he believes a lot of people will begin gathering again, which could lead to “that second wave more quickly than predicted,” he said.

Walker predicted it would likely take two weeks after Linn County begins reopening to see a second wave of virus cases.

“If those numbers start spiking, I will be an advocate for us taking severe and decisive action to try to course correct,” he said. “Our goal is to make sure people aren’t dying from this, and we’re not overburdening our hospital and public health infrastructure.”

Supervisor Ben Rogers expressed disappointment with the number of people he saw over the weekend who weren’t wearing masks.

“What I observed was startling,” Rogers said. “This still is very much community spread.”

Comments: (319) 368-8664; grace.king@thegazette.com

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