Allamakee County experiences most impactful week of COVID-19 results thus far with highest totals of 17 new cases and two more deaths

County is part of RMCC 6 now under stricter regulations after new April 16 proclamation

This past week brought the highest numbers of both confirmed cases and deaths experienced by Allamakee County thus far during the COVID-19 pandemic. A total of 17 new confirmed positive cases were reported this past week by the Iowa Department of Public Health, nearly doubling the county’s total case count in just one week, but the more unfortunate number is the two deaths reported this past week.

The two deaths were both reported in the middle of last week and involved Allamakee County residents in the 61-80 years of age range. According to an obituary on the Jandt-Frederickson Funeral Home website (www.jandtfredrickson.com), Debra Rae Larson, age 64, of Postville died in a La Crosse, WI hospital Tuesday, April 14 from complications of COVID-19.

The other Allamakee County death reported last week due to COVID-19 complications was further confirmed as being Carol Bahr of rural Waukon, according to numerous postings to her children’s social media accounts. Services have yet to be finalized for Carol (see Page 3A) as her husband, Gary, continues to recover in a La Crosse, WI hospital from similar complications, according to some of those same social media posts.

ALLAMAKEE COUNTY CASES
Information released Monday, April 20 by the Allamakee County Department of Public Health reported that of the county’s now 40 confirmed cases, 19 - nearly half - are listed as “Recovered/Off Isolation”, which is four more than what had been reported at that same status a week earlier. Despite the overall case count rising, the number remains at five of Allamakee County cases that required hospitalization, with two cases currently hospitalized.

As of Friday, April 17, Allamakee County Public Health reports sending 73 tests to the State Hygienic Lab, with 51 of those tests being negative and three test results still pending for Allamakee County Public Health as of Monday, April 20. Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) reports that as of Monday, April 20 157 people in Allamakee County have been tested.

It is noted by Allamakee County Public Health that the number of tests conducted on Allamakee County residents at other labs such as Gundersen, Mayo, University of Iowa, etc. are unable to be tracked by county health officials. However, any of those tests conducted elsewhere that return positive results for COVID-19 are reported to the Iowa Department of Public Health, who then notifies Allamakee County Public Health to initiate follow-up protocol and to include those positive test results within the county’s reporting statistics.

The 17 new Allamakee County confirmed cases this past week included one reported Tuesday, April 14 that was confirmed in an older adult between 61-80 years of age. Two more cases were reported Thursday, April 16, one in a middle age adult 41-60 years of age and the other in an older adult age 61-80. After just one case was reported Friday, April 17 in an adult age 18-40, an eye-opening number of seven cases was reported Saturday, April 18, three of those in adults ages 18-40 and the other four being in middle age adults in the 41-60 age range. Two additional cases were added Sunday, April 19, both in adults ages 18-40 before four more cases were reported Monday morning, April 20, evenly split between adults ages 18-40 and the middle age adult range of 41-60 years of age.

A vast majority of this past week’s cases, 15 of the 17, were nearly evenly split between those two “working age” ranges of 18-40 years and 41-60 years. Those two age groups feature the most cases currently reported in Allamakee County, with the 18-40 age range having 15 cases and the 41-60 age range having 16 confirmed cases.

UNDER TIGHTER RESTRICTIONS
During this COVID-19 pandemic the State of Iowa has devised a system of six Regional Medical Coordination Centers (RMCC) throughout the state to help better assess and control the disease outbreak, based on medical facility availability to serve a region’s population. The Region 6 that Allamakee County belongs to also includes 12 other eastern and northeast Iowa counties of Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Clayton, Delaware, Dubuque, Fayette, Grundy, Howard, Jones, Linn and Winneshiek.

With the establishment of these six RMCCs also came the implementation of a scoring system to further aid the risk assessment within a region. That scoring system is based on a highest possible score of 12 using such variables as the percentage of cases in Iowans over the age of 65; how many cases require hospitalization; the infection rate per 100,000 over the past 14 days and the number of long-term care facility outbreaks within each region.

Based on those criteria, the Region 6 that Allamakee County belongs to reached a score of 10 late last week, putting further mitigation measures into place for all 13 counties of Region 6. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds issued a proclamation Thursday, April 16 implementing those tighter restrictions for all residents of Region 6 - including Allamakee County residents - to help slow the spread of COVID-19 within those counties and within the state.

“Our region of the state has reached the threshold for which extra measures are needed,” said Allamakee County Public Health Director Lisa Moose. “This threshold includes regional measures of the rate of COVID-19 illness and hospitalization, long-term care outbreaks and the percentage of the population age 65 and older.”

The proclamation will remain in effect until April 30 and includes the following additional measures:
• Weddings, funerals, and other spiritual and religious gatherings may be held ONLY if there are 10 or fewer people AND all people stay at least six feet away from each other;
• All other social, community, recreational, leisure and sporting gatherings of any size with people outside of the same household are prohibited;
• Any person leaving their home must stay at least six feet away from anyone who does not live in their household whenever possible;
• Employers must evaluate if employees can work from home, and take steps to enable work from home for those who can;
• All businesses who remain open must take reasonable measures to protect employees and the public, including employee screening, social distancing and increased cleaning.

These restrictions apply to anyone in the affected counties, whether they live there, work there (and live in another county), or are visiting. To read the governor’s proclamations, visit http://coronavirus.iowa.gov/. The Allamakee County Health Department continues to work closely with IDPH, and other state and local partners to respond to this pandemic.

ENFORCING TIGHTER RESTRICTIONS
With those increased restrictions being implemented April 16, enforcement of those restrictions also heightens. Allamakee County Sheriff Clark Mellick says that his department and law enforcement throughout the area has had to adapt with each further declaration or proclamation, all in a coordinated effort to minimize the impact of the current COVID-10 impact.

“The Sheriff’s Office has seen quite a change in our operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Sheriff Mellick explained. “We have developed many protocols for operations and one of these is how the Governors Emergency Proclamation Orders are enforced. Should the Sheriff’s Office have to provide enforcement, we will do so by first determining if there is a violation of the proclamation and if this is creating a potential danger to the public.”

Sheriff Mellick further advised how these additional levels of enforcement will be approached by his department, noting, “It is our intent to work with the public to first educate on the importance of following these guidelines to reduce the spread of the virus. If an individual refuses to follow these guidelines, they may be subject to a simple misdemeanor charge which could result in a fine or jail time. We have received very few complaints regarding violations of the proclamation, which indicates that people seem to be doing what they should at this time to reduce the spread of the virus and protect our vulnerable population in our communities.”

He further advised Allamakee County residents of the need to continue to follow the mitigation measures put in place. As cases continue to expand and fuel even more potential for spread of the infection, the implementation of the further restrictions put in place April 16 has been deemed necessary and should be followed as such.

“As the weather turns nice, more people will be enjoying the outdoors,” Sheriff Mellick shared. “We ask the public to be responsible and practice the social distancing guidelines and also remind the public that all social gatherings are now prohibited other than members of the same household who reside together. We would like to thank everyone who is doing their part to stay safe and reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus.”
 

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