CORONAVIRUS

Eight COVID-19 cases confirmed in Iowa

Five more positive results announced Monday, governor activates emergency plan

Officials confirmed eight positive cases of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, in Iowa as of Monday evening.

Four of the Iowans who have tested positive for the respiratory virus that has infected thousands worldwide were on the same Egyptian cruise ship tied to three other cases reported by state officials earlier this week. All seven are from Johnson County.

The eighth confirmed case was reported in Pottawattamie County, in western Iowa.

In response, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a Proclamation of Disaster Emergency Monday evening, activating the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management’s Iowa Emergency Response Plan.

“The proclamation authorizes state agencies to use resources including personnel, equipment and facilities to perform activities necessary to prevent, contain and mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 virus,” according to a news release.

All five of these new cases are related to travel and all affected individuals are in isolation at home, according to state public health officials. All four of the Johnson County cases are between the ages of 61 to 80.

Pottawattamie County confirmed to The Gazette Monday that its resident recently had traveled to California.

Matt Wyant, Pottawattamie County’s director of planning and development, said the adult female, between the ages of 41 and 60, went to the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Neb., for her symptoms on Saturday.

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Public health officials began their investigation on Saturday to determine whether the woman could have infected others, Wyant said. However, he couldn’t say whether there had been indications of other cases in the area.

According to an Omaha World-Herald report, the individual was an employee at a Panera Bread in Council Bluffs. That location was closed over the weekend and on Monday for a deep cleaning, the news report stated.

Eleven tests for COVID-19 in Iowa still are pending, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

To date, 32 Iowans have tested negative for the virus.

On Sunday, officials said Iowa has 500 COVID-19 testing kits at the State Hygienic Lab, Iowa’s public health laboratory based in Coralville.

Johnson County cases

State public health officials have not released any details on the new presumptive positive cases in Johnson County.

The three individuals, who were the first cases of COVID-19 announced in Iowa, had returned to the state on March 3, officials said in the Sunday news conference.

They are described as one adult between the ages of 41 and 60 years old and two older adults between 61 and 80 years. Officials said two had underlying health conditions and the other did not.

Sometime after their return, all three individuals sought medical care after feeling ill and were sent home with mild symptoms, state officials said. None required hospitalization.

But beyond that, no more details have emerged on these individuals or any potential interactions they may have had with others.

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Sam Jarvis, Johnson County Public Health community health manager, said his agency is handling daily monitoring for these individuals.

In addition, the county public health department and the Iowa Department of Public Health are conducting an investigation into these cases to assess public risk for spread.

“Currently we’re not seeing community transmission, and that notification would come from IDPH,” Jarvis said.

“We are continuing to meet daily to discuss updates, and have teams working closely with the IDPH and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention,” said Molly Rossiter, University of Iowa Health Care spokeswoman.

“Most community hospitals are equipped and able to handle a case if necessary, but for the majority of instances the patients would be ordered to self-isolate at home,” Rossiter said in an email.

Those first three cases in Johnson County have not been affiliated with the UIHC in any way related to their presentation or diagnosis, she added.

State can’t confirm airport travel

The Iowa Department of Public Health couldn’t say if the passengers had traveled through Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids on their return trip home, a spokeswoman for the airport said in a news release Monday.

The airport, however, “can confirm that, to date, no local airline staff have been notified by any public health agency regarding additional follow-up related to the three individuals,” spokeswoman Pam Hinman said.

Airport officials recently purchased two electrostatic sprayers, which is “effective against many microorganisms we deal with on a daily basis,” Hinman said.

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Hinman also noted the airport has increased “the frequency and intensity” of efforts to disinfect restrooms, public areas and other high-touch items such as handrails and elevator buttons.

Airlines have their own established protocols for cleaning aircraft after each flight.

Gazette reporters Rod Boshart and Vanessa Miller contributed to this report.

Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

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