A spike in Hardin County COVID-19 cases that began a month ago and showed signs of easing last week has resumed. The week of Oct. 26 to Nov. 2, Hardin County recorded 83 new cases, the largest one-week gain since the disease was first detected here in March.
One week ago, on Oct. 26, Hardin County had recorded a total of 475 COVID-19 cases since testing began in March. On Monday morning, Nov. 2, the cumulative case count stood at 558. According to the Iowa coronavirus website, which reports data from the Iowa Department of Public Health, of those 558 cases, 321 Hardin County residents have recovered and seven have died, leaving 230 county residents currently infected with the disease.
Hardin County was one of 56 Iowa counties the White House Coronavirus Task Force designated as being in the "red zone" in its Oct. 25 report. The red zone is reserved for states and counties that are seeing more than 101 new cases per 100,000 population in a single week. During the week of the report, Hardin County had recorded 47 new cases, or 278 new cases per 100,000 population. Between Oct. 26 and Nov. 2 the county's 83 new cases equated to 492 per 100,000 population.
The task force's report urged Iowans to take steps to prevent spread of the disease.
"Mitigation efforts must be increased to control community spread to include mask wearing, physical distancing, hand hygiene, and avoiding crowds in public and specifically, social gatherings in private,” the report reads.
Contributing to the increase in cases are outbreaks at two Hardin County nursing homes. Hubbard Care Center's outbreak, which was first reported on the state's coronavirus website on Oct. 12, continues, but has not grown in almost a week. According to the website, 58 people at the facility have tested positive and three have recovered. It is unclear how many of the infected people are residents and how many are staff. Administrator Angie Kuda-Bruns has declined to comment.
Ackley's care center, Grand JiVanté, has also reported an outbreak. As of last Friday, CEO Korey DeBerg reported that two staff members and four residents had tested positive. The facility is seeking temporary employees - especially nurses - to fill in for those who can't work due to quarantine or positive tests. The outbreak is still not being reported on the state's coronavirus website, but local public health officials said they're working with the state to get the outbreak listed online.
Hardin County's schools saw their numbers climb over the last week, too. All of the public school districts release weekly reports on new cases every Friday. Last week, every one of them reported new COVID-19 cases: Iowa Falls-Alden had two; South Hardin had five; and AGWSR had three.
South Hardin schools haven't reported a positive case since Oct. 2. In a letter announcing the latest numbers, Superintendent Dr. Adam Zellmer urged staff, students and families to take precautions to prevent virus spread.
"We need to remain vigilant with our mitigation strategies and ask our families to partner with us to do everything they can to minimize the risk of exposure," Zellmer wrote. "As we have said from the beginning, as a school district we only see our students and are able to control exposure one quarter or roughly 40 hours of each week, the remaining three quarters of the week we don’t have the ability to monitor and ensure mitigation strategies are being followed."
This week's report from Ellsworth Community College shows that another 15 students tested positive for COVID-19 during the week of Oct. 26. It is the fourth week of double-digit new case counts, increasing the total number of student cases to 74 since students returned to campus in August.
ZIP Code map updated
An updated map of Hardin County COVID-19 infections by ZIP code was released by Greenbelt Home Care/Hardin County Public Health on Friday. The updated map shows a total of 502 cases, while public health officials were reporting a total of 509 Hardin County cases at the time the map was updated. The total number of cases on the map has never matched the number of total cases at the time of its release, and state officials have not explained the discrepancy.
The Oct. 30 map, compared with the Oct. 23 map, shows Iowa Falls and Ackley recorded the most new cases over the course of the week. Iowa Falls added 19 cases, increasing from 140 total cases to 159. Ackley saw 14 new cases during the week, growing its total cumulative infection count from 72 to 86.
The towns of Ackley, Eldora and Hubbard have a greater share of the county's total cases than they do population. Ackley's ZIP code, which is home to about 14 percent of Hardin County's population, has 17 percent of its COVID cases. The Eldora area ZIP code is home to about 17 percent of the county's residents, but has 18.5 percent of its COVID cases. And Hubbard's ZIP code, home to 7 percent of the residents in Hardin County, has seen 13 percent of its COVID cases.
Find more COVID-19 data, updated in real time, on the state's coronavirus website.