New COVID-19 cases in Allamakee County this past week cause closure of local business and camp

Village Creek Bible Camp, Expresso report case exposures; Public Health reminds people to follow mitigation measures

As summer activity has increased, it was expected that the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 would also increase. Recent news stories through basically every media source confirm that expectation to a great degree across most of the nation, but that trend has now trickled down to a more local level as well this past week.

Eight new confirmed positive COVID-19 cases have been reported in Allamakee County within the past week’s time by the Allamakee County Public Health Department. Even more attention-grabbing is the fact that some of those cases have resulted in the temporary closure of a pair of local entities after case exposure was announced by each of them this past week.

Village Creek Bible Camp in rural Lansing and Expresso Convenience Store in Lansing each experienced confirmed case exposure within this past week or so and, as a result, temporarily closed their normal business operations until further notice. Both made recent announcements regarding their closure that are shared a bit later in this same article.

This week’s eight new cases reported from Tuesday, June 30 through Monday, July 6 are the highest weekly total for Allamakee County since the first full week in May when 14 cases were reported. Since that May 5-11 timeframe two months ago, the county has not reported any more than four cases in any one week. The latest case confirmations have now pushed Allamakee County’s total to 131 confirmed cases, according to Allamakee County Public Health.

Lisa Moose and Sheryl Darling-Mooney of Allamakee County Public Health say that testing at all levels has also increased, which also factors into the recent case count increase. “We’re testing more here locally because people are again having medical procedures done and others - some local and some not permanent residents of the area - are utilizing the rapid testing that we have available,” Darling-Mooney explained of the testing.

The Allamakee County Public Health pair say that with the increase in local cases, everyone should remember to utilize the basic mitigation measures put in place early on when the COVID-19 pandemic first arrived. Those basic measures are highlighted below in the colored box on this same page.

“Hand washing and social distancing are so important to preventing the spread of this virus,” Moose reiterated. “Those measures have been in place since early on, but it really comes down to social responsibility and following through on those measures.”

Both Moose and Darling-Mooney further explained that with the increase in local cases, greater attention needs to be paid to an individual’s interactions. They said many questions have been asked about the protocol to follow regarding contact with confirmed positive cases.

Moose says that the general guideline definition of close contact with a confirmed case is being within six feet of that individual for at least 15 minutes, unless more direct physical contact has been made. “If you’ve had that kind of contact with a known positive case, you should be quarantined for 14 days and can be tested after 48 hours of that contact,” she said. “However, we are suggesting that you wait a bit longer than those first 48 hours to get tested - at least three days on up to a week (while still being quarantined), as we’ve been finding that testing too early following such contact can sometimes result in a negative early test, but just days later that same individual may test positive.”

Darling-Mooney also relayed a question Public Health had been asked regarding being in contact with someone who had been in contact with a confirmed positive case - “being in contact with a contact,” as she explained it. “If you’ve been in contact with someone who was known to also be in contact with a positive case, there is really no action to take initially - unless, of course, you start to experience symptoms or the one you’ve been in contact with later tests positive, within a reasonable timeframe. Then you would need to quarantine yourself and get tested.”

Both Public Health officials say that those who have been in close contact (within six feet for at least 15 minutes) with a confirmed case should quarantine themselves for the 14-day incubation period this virus has been determined to have. Those who do test positive for the virus should isolate themselves from others for at least that same 14-day timeframe.

Both Village Creek Bible Camp and Expresso Convenience Store made decisions and announcements this past week to close their respective facilities following the discovery of exposure at those locations to the COVID-19 virus. Expresso made its closure announcement Friday, July 3 and Village Creek Bible Camp had made its final decision earlier last week after some initial concerns and continued testing.

Pat and Donna Bresnahan of Waukon, long-time owners of Expresso Convenience Store in Lansing, said in their initial announcement on the business’ Facebook page that the exposure at the Expresso location took place June 28, June 30 and July 1 from an individual who had first tested negative but then tested positive later this past week. They also explained that they don’t have concrete evidence as to where that individual may have contracted the virus themselves but they felt that the temporary closing of the store location was the responsible action to take once the exposure was discovered.

“It was obviously not an easy decision to have to make, but when we found out we had an exposure, for the safety of our employees, our customers and the community we felt the right thing to do was to close,” they shared. “As business owners in the Lansing community and residents of Waukon for many years, we felt that was the responsible measure to take for the sake of the community.”

The Bresnahans say that they don’t know an exact timeframe that Expresso will be closed, as many factors will weigh into that decision to re-open. They say they will make their re-opening announcement via the business location signage and on social media and other avenues, but also note that whenever that decision is made it will be made in the best interest of public health.

Village Creek Bible Camp Directors Tom and Camie Treptau released the following statement in regard to the camp’s exposure discovery and ensuing decisions that needed to be made:

“You may have heard rumors that we had the difficult decision to cancel a Family Camp due to two known cases of COVID in our staff last week. Here was what led to that decision.

During Senior High camp (June 21-27) we discovered we had a positive COVID case at camp, after a phone call from a mom letting us know that her daughter had been exposed unknowingly the week prior to camp. A whirlwind of decisions followed rapidly as campers left, and we quarantined a couple of staff.

Unbeknownst to us - we probably had a couple of additional campers that also were sharing with us, also from prior exposure. Two days later, we tested two staff who were tested as negative, and we thought we were in the clear.

On Monday (June 29) we were suspicious and we tested two more staff that came back with positive tests. We informed the family campers and sent them home. The majority of our staff were also sent home to begin 14 days of quarantine with strict instructions of how to stay safe and keep others safe. (Some stayed to quarantine here at camp, as they had family members who were immunocompromised, thus making it unsafe to return.)

We so enjoyed five of the best weeks of camp starting in late May, and would love to have more later this summer - but we, the staff, and our board of directors remain cautiously optimistic. While we implemented radical changes to address the potential virus prior to camp opening, the ever-changing nature requires extreme diligence on our part.

During this time we are evaluating protocols and what we could be doing differently. We had a COVID specialist from Indiana at Family Camp (June 28-July 4). His being onsite and giving us insight was invaluable. He complimented some areas, and gave some great feedback for others.

For now, we are closed for a few weeks - long enough to quarantine our staff, and are wrestling with what is next. We are being careful to only send the healthy staff to town, so if you see any of us be assured we are taking all the precautions into consideration. This is a crazy season for everyone, but we are learning a lot, and trusting that we can continue to be a blessing to our community.

We have dealt with lots of sickness at camp over the 24 years that we have been here, and this has such a subtle onset. Mild beginnings in teens are almost not recognizable. As we hear stories from around the country, there truly is no ‘normal’ manifestation of the virus and it remains globally easy to miss in the early days.

Thank you for caring enough to read and hear our story. We want to reassure our supportive, but concerned community.  We have followed the State guidelines, working with Allamakee Emergency Management since April as well as other experts. Together we continue to do everything we can to keep our community safe.”

Many Thanks,

Tom and Camie Treptau
Directors at Village Creek Bible Camp

Health information and privacy guidelines prevent either establishment from being able to share additional details in regard to their respective exposure experiences. All involved urge community members to monitor their health closely and to follow the mitigation measures that have been put in place regarding the virus (again, highlighted at left on this same page in a shaded box).

Both Moose and Darling-Mooney say that with local cases knowingly on the rise again, the next 14 days will go a long way toward showing how socially responsible people have been as larger summer activities take place. With the Fourth of July holiday weekend this past weekend being followed by the Allamakee County Fair this week, the Public Health pair say that a lot will be revealed on how those mitigation measures have been followed at the larger gatherings that are always a part of the traditional summer season.

“These next two weeks will tell a lot,” they said. “We hope that everyone will do their part to prevent the further spread of this virus. Hand hygiene and social distancing will go a long way to help prevent that.”

For more information or to have additional questions answered, contact Allamakee County Public Health at 563-568-5660.

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