Linn County health officials "prepared" for second wave of COVID-19

Published: May. 21, 2020 at 3:09 PM CDT
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The Jitney restaurant in Monticello could have opened weeks ago, but Owner Katie Farrow is still keeping it closed.

"Why would we be opening now when we haven't got to the peak yet?" said Farrow.

Safety isn't the only reason she is closed at least until late Summer. Farrow is also worried about a second wave and having to shut down again.

"We can't afford as a business to spend thousands of dollars to do that and get all of our inventory back that we got rid of to close down, and then be shut down again," she added.

Farrow's fears are not unfounded. A University of Iowa research team warned the Governor reopening would make a second surge more likely. Heather Meador with Linn County Public Health agrees.

"We are not at the end of this yet," said Meador.

The nation's top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said that the second wave will depend on preparations now.

"There's no doubt in my mind that when you pull back mitigation you are going to start seeing cases crop up here and there and if you are not able to handle it you are going to see another peak," in an interview last month with CNN.

Dr. Tony Myers with Mercy Medical Center says he believes things are getting better. Right now, there are just four COVID-19 patients in intensive care there, compared to 12 a few weeks ago. But, he warns that we can't let down our guard yet.

"I'd like to say that the virus is just going to fade away and die off in the Summer and that's just not true. It's going to be there. It's going to make people critically ill," said Myers.

How bad a second wave will remain to be seen.

"Anything we say right now would be a guess," said Meador.

"As long as we're smart and we don't fill up a stadium of people next to each other and we're sick, then I don't think we're going to have a significant problem with the surge," said Myers."I don't think there will be [a] peak worse than when it first came."

Meyers says that's partially because of the lessons learned now.

"We are better off on supplies. We have lots more knowledge now of how we shift resources and space and staff within the hospital to increase our ICU capacity rapidly. We're better off with medications. We're better off with testing, so all of those together put us in a much stronger position now than compared to before," he added.

"One thing we've done with response is we've increased our internal capacity to do contact tracing because of the numbers we were seeing with COVID, so we will continue our internal functions. We will continue to work with our partners and continue to look at guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," Meador said.

One complicating factor this fall is the flu season. Last year, the CDC estimated at least 39 million cases of the flu in the US and at least 24,000 deaths.

"Flu season is always a hard time," said Meador. "Make sure when the flu vaccine does become available to get your flu shot because remember when you become sick with flu or another illness your immune system is not as strong and robust to fight another virus such as Covid-19."

Until a vaccine is developed, Meador says no one is in the clear.

"We have done a good job that's why we are at the point we are at now but if we don't want things to change we need to keep doing this," she said.

That will be the message again - regardless of when a second wave comes.

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