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

As the number of Hardin County COVID-19 cases rose to 54 on Tuesday, local public health officials issued a press release reminding the public that the disease is still here, and still infecting people - especially young people.

“In the last week, a majority of the new positive cases in Hardin County have been under the age of 25,” Hardin County Public Health Coordinator Rocky Reents wrote in the release. “While we recognize asking well community members to stay home is isolating, the need to protect others is greater, especially the most vulnerable people in our communities, those who are 65 and older, are immunocompromised, have underlying medical conditions or live in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

"Please know while we may feel 'over' the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), unfortunately, it is not done with us."

Since last Monday, June 15, Hardin County has recorded 10 new COVID-19 cases. Of those 10, one person is age 0-17, eight are age 18-40, and one is 41-60 years old. But Hardin County Public Health Nurse Rachel Loyd said there are many more cases.

“It’s everywhere,” she said of COVID-19. “We show 54, but you know there’s so many more cases. It’s the people who have no idea they have it.”

That’s why, Reents and Loyd said, people are asked to limit their contact with others, wash their hands regularly and wear a face covering.

“Nothing has changed in the way this virus is transmitted,” Reents’ press release states. “It is mostly spread by respiratory droplets released when people talk, cough, or sneeze.

“We know staying physically six feet away from others, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or elbow, washing hands, not touching your face and wearing a face covering, when done together, will lessen your risk for contracting COVID-19,” Reents wrote. “We urge all businesses to institute these public health measures with staff and patrons and be flexible with allowing staff time off for illnesses.”

Reents said Tuesday’s press release was prompted by requests from the public to issue a reminder, and by Story County Public Health, which distributed a similar press release on Tuesday in light of its 533 positive cases.

Two weeks ago, Hansen Family Hospital Chief Nursing Officer Lori Krenos warned that “People are letting their guard down and they shouldn’t.” She urged the public to wear face masks when they’re out and about.

COVID-19 testing of Hardin County residents has ramped up considerably in recent days. Before last weekend, the high number of COVID-19 tests in a single day was 53 (on June 8 and 9). On Saturday, 118 Hardin County residents were tested. Another 88 were tested on Sunday, and 95 on Monday. Testing numbers were down significantly on Tuesday, when only 16 local residents were tested. Loyd said she thought the increase in testing may be attributable to employers who are doing blanket testing of employees following a positive test.

In all, 1,443 Hardin County residents have been tested for COVID-19. That’s one of 12 people, or about 8.5 percent of the county’s population.

According to data published on the state’s coronavirus website by the Iowa Department of Public Health, 20 Hardin County residents have recovered from COVID-19, and one remained hospitalized on Monday. Hardin County has not recorded any COVID-19 deaths, but 690 Iowans have lost their lives to the disease.

On Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, testified to Congress that he’s seen a “disturbing surge” of COVID-19 cases in some parts of the country, saying “The virus is not going to disappear.” Fauci told lawmakers that he was “cautiously optimistic” there would be a coronavirus vaccine ready at the end of this year or in early 2021. But even that, said Reents in Hardin County, isn’t going to be a cure-all.

“This is not necessarily something that’s going to be done,” she said of COVID-19. “It’s something we’ll live with like the flu.”

People with COVID-19 have reported a wide range of symptoms including fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea. 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.

Iowans are also asked to complete a health assessment on the state's TestIowa website. The assessment will ask you to enter information about your health and workplace, and will then give you the option of scheduling a COVID-19 test at a drive-through TestIowa site.

Find more county, regional and state data on the state's coronavirus website.

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