Guest Columnist

Advice from Linn County public health leaders: Stay home

Pramod Dwivedi, Health Director of Linn County Public Health, in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, May. 22, 2018. (Stephen Mally/
Pramod Dwivedi, Health Director of Linn County Public Health, in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, May. 22, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

On March 21, Linn County recorded its first COVID-19 case and each day since we are adding more cases. As both testing and exposure increases so does the number of cases. Today, Linn County has the highest number of COVID-19 cases among any county in Iowa.

The increasing number of cases place tremendous strain on our hospitals, staff and resources. To get ahead of the curve, Linn County partners led by Linn County Public Health, UnityPoint Health — Cedar Rapids, and Mercy Medical Center, are tirelessly working together with municipalities, schools, social service agencies, and many other community partners to implement strategies to stop the spread of this virus.

As we would in any public health emergency, we are working in partnership with our Emergency Management Agency whereby we are constantly in contact with schools, hospitals, social welfare agencies, municipalities, fire and law enforcement.

We are actively working to provide for the safety, health, and welfare of the public and employees providing essential services during the pandemic. We strive to provide timely and accurate, science-based information from the Iowa Department of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other trusted sources to the public, businesses, and government partners.

Our community is working to stay ahead of emerging issues such as community wide mental health and well-being coordination, feeding our vulnerable populations, and business recovery.

Preliminary data suggest that 80% would recover from the infection but there are those who are vulnerable to novel coronavirus. Older adults over 60 years, and folks with underlying health conditions are prone to serious illness and even death.

While Iowa does not yet have the number of cases and deaths like many coastal states, the challenge for our community is to remain diligent and work together to slow the spread of COVID-19. Rather than become complacent, we need to learn from these communities.

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The Linn County Public Health is investigating all local cases and we have been doing this since day one. Once someone is confirmed as infected with COVID-19, contacts are identified by asking about the person’s activities and the activities and roles of the people around them since onset of illness. It could be family members, work colleagues, friends, or health care providers. These contacts are contacted, and in some cases, quarantine or isolation is required for high risk contacts, either at home, or in hospital. Additionally, we follow-up with all contacts to monitor for symptoms and test for signs of infection.

At this time, there is no cure. There is no treatment. And there is no vaccine to stop the disease. Practicing social distancing and personal hygiene are the only measures to stop the scourge of this disease.

Therefore, we appeal all to stay home.

Protect yourself. Avoid travels, wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, use hand sanitizer, avoid touching your face, and meet in as small of groups as possible if at all.

Protect others. Stay home when sick, cover coughs and sneezes, washing hands afterward. Isolate those infected. Wear a face mask if sick and clean and disinfect frequently touched surface. Check on the folks confined to their homes and ensure they are getting food and medicine.

Nevertheless, some must work to protect our health and safety: public health professionals, physicians, nurses, law enforcement, firefighters, ambulance drivers, truck drivers, grocery store workers, and public works professionals, among others. And we thank these heroes for their heroic work.

Pramod Dwivedi is Linn County director of public health. Drs. Dustin Arnold, MD and Tony Myers, MD are local physicians. health@linncounty.org

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