Two more Hardin County residents have tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The new cases were announced by the Iowa Department of Public Health on Thursday morning. It is the largest single-day increase in county cases.
Last week officials at Greenbelt Home Care/Hardin County Public Health said they had handed COVID-19 case investigation duties over to the state. Greenbelt Public Health Coordinator Rocky Reents said they made the decision because investigating and tracking the health of the people who've tested positive - a job that's fallen mostly to Public Health Nurse Rachel Loyd - was becoming more work than the small agency could handle.
"We're not a larger health department and we don't have one individual doing this all the time," Reents said last Friday. "Rachel and a couple of other employees have been trained on it, but we're also seeing patients all day long. A lot of the larger health departments have an individual who can do this full-time."
Because of the change, Greenbelt Home Care doesn't have access to as much information about each patient, and it doesn't know of new cases until the Iowa Department of Public Health updates its numbers each morning.
On Thursday morning, the state numbers included two more for Hardin County, bringing the total to 11. The first case (Eldora business owner and pastor Justin Weber) was announced on March 26. As of Thursday, Weber and two other Hardin County COVID-19 patients were hospitalized. Five Hardin County COVID-19 patients are now classified as "recovered," and three are still being monitored by public health officials. A total of 295 Hardin County residents have been tested for COVID-19. That's about 1.7 percent of the county's 16,868 residents.
Statewide, 11,059 Iowans have tested positive for COVID-19, and 231 have died.
The Iowa Department of Public Health's coronavirus website includes county level data about the number of people tested, the number of positive tests, deaths and recovered COVID-19 cases. It also includes a breakdown of the age of the patients who've tested positive, as well as their sex, race and ethnicity.
Many Iowa businesses have been given permission to reopen with some restrictions. But public health officials continue to urge Iowans to take measures to protect themselves and others from the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
"We continue to remind residents to take preventive measures to slow the spread of this virus," Public Health Nurse Rachel Loyd said last week. "It's important for everyone to stay home as much as possible and to practice social distancing - this simply means to stay away from groups of people, and to keep a 6-foot distance from other individuals."
Symptoms of COVID-19 include cough, fever (100.4 or greater) and shortness of breath. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you're instructed to call your health care provider before going into the office. They will walk you through a series of questions and may ask you to report to a testing site. Hansen Family Hospital in Iowa Falls is able to test for COVID-19, but patients should not show up at the hospital. Call the HFH COVID-19 phone number at 641-648-7113 first. Hansen Family Hospital is not a Test Iowa site (part of a statewide rollout of testing that's connected to an online assessment tool at TestIowa.com). The public should not show up at the site and expect to be tested for COVID-19.
Find more information about COVID-19 in Iowa on the state's coronavirus website, or on the Greenbelt Home Care/Hardin County Public Health Facebook page.