Linn County officials warn public of COVID case surge as holidays and colder weather approach
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) -Officials are warning that Linn County is facing a potential “covid-crisis” and are warning the public that the recent spike in COVID-19 cases could overwhelm local healthcare systems and get worse as the holidays and colder weather approach.
“This week, over 700 new cases of COVID-19 were reported among Linn County residents,” said Heather Meador, Linn County Public Health Supervisor, at a press conference at the Cedar Rapids Downtown Public Library on Friday. “On Thursday alone, over 200 cases were reported, the most cases reported on a single day to date."
Meador also added that Linn County has now surpassed Black Hawk County and Johnson County in total number of COVID cases.
Officials from Mercy Medical Center and St. Luke’s Hospitals warned this surge in cases could stress local medical infrastructures and significantly impair the ability and availability of medical staff to treat patients for COVID and other illnesses.
“We’ve taken care of a little over 300 people at Mercy Hospitals. That’s people that were admitted since [the pandemic] started in March. In the last four days, we’ve had 32 admissions related to COVID. So that means that 1-in-10 of all of the admissions that have happened in the last eight months have happened in the last four days,” said Dr. Tony Myers, Vice President of Medical Affairs at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids, at the press conference. “The level that we’ve seen in the last four days, if it continues to rise, is an unsustainable level...we can’t continue that rate of rise, or else we will not be able to sustain it and take care of everybody.”
Officials expressed concern that a combination of social gatherings among friends and family, asymptomatic children and younger adults, and individuals not following suggested health guidelines are accelerating the spread.
Meador also pointed out difficulties contract tracers in Linn County have encountered.
“Our contact tracing team are struggling to keep up with the large amount of new cases that continue to stream in,” Meador said. “We have contact tracers working seven days a week, for 12 to 14 hours per day. These dedicated individuals are being screamed at with vulgar language, including strong profanity. People hang up on them, refuse to answer questions on close contacts and lie to them. We are not able to help protect the community without [the public’s] cooperation."
Officials stressed the continued use of masks, social distancing, quarantining when sick, washing hands, avoiding crowds and getting flu shots to help slow the spread and keep healthy.
“I get some feedback from physicians that say ‘well, there’s no placebo-controlled study that says a mask works,'” said Dr. Dustin Arnold, Chief Medical Officer at St. Luke’s Hospital. “And my response always is ‘well, there’s no placebo-controlled study that wearing a parachute while jumping out of an airplane is of value, but I would prefer to wear the parachute.”
They also asked the public to consider scaling back larger gatherings as the holidays approach and suggested celebrating with others virtually and limited in-person gathering to immediate households.
“Like you, I have Covid-fatigue,” said Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart. “We’re all tired of wearing a mask. We’re all tired of not being together. But now is not the time to stop our efforts...As we head indoors for the winter and for the holidays, we will bring that virus in with us. So it’s really more important than ever that we follow all the guidelines that have been outlined."
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