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Vaccine incentives coming to Black Hawk County, Health leaders critical of State on masks

Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 12:38 PM CDT
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WATERLOO, Iowa (KCRG) - Black Hawk County may become the first public health entity in Iowa to offer incentives to encourage more people to get vaccinated.

The Black Hawk County Board of Health unanimously approved spending $10,000 from a private fund to offer incentives for people to get the COVID-19 vaccination.

“We have hit kind of a wall with the vaccination rates in our county,” Black Hawk County Public Health Director Dr. Nafissa Cisse Egbuonye told the board, “and we’re trying to be as creative as possible.”

Dr. Cisse Egbuonye said she was inspired by incentives offered in other states that have shown to have a boost in vaccination rates. Ohio, for example, gave away $1 million in a lottery format and Minnesota is offering free fishing licenses and fair tickets. CVS is offering a sweepstakes, too, with cash and trip prizes.

The Black Hawk County Health Department has not identified what those incentives will look like yet or the timeline of when it will start.

As of Thursday, 41.8% of Black Hawk County residents were fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. That’s behind the state of Iowa rate of 42.9% but ahead of the national rate of 39.7. Black Hawk County has been holding several vaccine clinics with various partners attempting to reach various populations and make it accessible for everyone to get the vaccine.

The Board of Health also was critical, at times, of the State of Iowa’s quick response to end mask mandates in the wake of new CDC guidance released earlier this month.

“It seemed like the state took the large inch that the CDC gave to relaxing mask mandates to completely do away with masking to a large degree, especially in unvaccinated people,” one board member said.

Dr. Cisse Egbuonye also criticized an ongoing lack of communication from the state on this and other health matters, saying they ended up contradicting themselves with guidance to local school districts.

“That’s one of the things that created some of the chaos at the local level,” Dr. Cisse Egbuonye told the board, “We were told we had local flexibility, we made recommendations based on that and 24-hours later that wasn’t the case, so that’s very frustrating.”

The Iowa Department of Public Health issued guidance just hours after the CDC released relaxed rules on masks for fully vaccinated individuals saying school districts should make masks optional. The CDC has since stated school districts should keep mask mandates for the remainder of the school year. Many districts had opted to continue mask mandates, following CDC and local health department guidance. However, the Iowa Legislature and Governor Kim Reynolds enacted a law overnight a week ago banning any government mask mandates, including at schools, effective immediately.

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