This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

A report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force is recommending that Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds close bars in most counties – including Hardin – and mandate face masks to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the state. The recommendations come as Iowa tops the country in the number of new cases of COVID-19, the disease that’s caused by the novel coronavirus.

The report, one of a series that are issued by the task force to each state, notes that Iowa is in the “red zone” as a state. That means it has reported more than 100 new cases per 100,000 population in the last week. In the seven days before the report was issued on Aug. 30, Iowa reported 232 new cases per 100,000 population; the national average was 88 per 100,000.

“Rural and urban counties in Iowa continue to have increases in cases and test positivity,” the report reads. “Common sense preventive measures must be implemented to stop further spread.”

Recommendations include a statewide mask mandate; the closure of bars in 61 counties; the reduction of restaurant dining capacity; and testing of all returning students in university towns. At a press conference last Thursday, Reynolds announced that she was closing all bars, taverns, breweries and nightclubs in six counties (Black Hawk, Dallas, Johnson, Linn, Polk and Story). She also said she is "strongly encouraging all Iowans age 2 and older to wear a mask or other face covering when in public settings." Reynolds stopped short of mandating face coverings, and she has said that state law prohibits cities and counties from issuing their own mask mandates.

The White House report classifies Hardin County as being in the “yellow zone”. A yellow zone is a county or state that, in the week before the report was issued, recorded new cases between 10 and 100 per 100,000 population, and a test positivity result between 5 and 10 percent. According to the state’s coronavirus website, in the seven days before the report was issued on Aug. 30 (Aug. 23-29), Hardin County reported 14 new COVID-19 cases and a positivity rate of 7.6 percent.

Recommendations for people in counties in the yellow zone include: wearing a mask at all times outside the home and maintaining physical distance; limiting social gatherings to 25 people or fewer; limiting gym occupancy to 25 percent; and using takeout, outdoor dining or indoor dining when strict social distancing can be maintained.

County reports 16 new cases

Greenbelt Home Care/Hardin County Public Health released its weekly COVID-19 report on Monday this week. It showed the county recorded 16 new COVID-19 cases between Aug. 25 and 31. Of those, one person was 0-17 years old; eight are 18-40; one is 41-60, and six are 61-80.

The new cases increase the total cumulative Hardin County case count to 230 since March. Of those, 166 are classified as having recovered and one person has died. That leaves 64 Hardin County residents still infected with the disease. As of Saturday, the state was reporting that one Hardin County resident was hospitalized for COVID-19.

The state continues to make adjustments to the data on its coronavirus website. Two weeks after acknowledging that a glitch in its disease reporting software had been erroneously backdating test results, the state's coronavirus website was still making changes to testing numbers as recently as last weekend, removing 20 tests on dates between May 18 and Aug. 3.

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