Linn County leaders, health officials: People not doing enough to stop virus’ spread

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Apart from a couple on a walk and a few children running through the playground, Noelridge Park in northeast Cedar Rapids was just about empty Monday evening.

Stacey Walker, left, a Linn County Supervisor, speaks at a press conference held by county officials about COVID-19 on Monday, March 23, 2020 (Rebecca Varliek/KCRG)

Just a few hours before, Linn County leaders urged people to stay home unless they needed to leave.

“The actions you take today and in the near future will directly impact the ability of our healthcare system to care for those that are ill,” Heather Meador, of Linn County Public Health, said.

As of Monday, Linn County had six confirmed coronavirus cases. Dr. Tony Myers of Mercy Medical Center said that number could dramatically increase over the next three weeks, even if people follow guidance to remain in their homes and practice social distancing.

“20% of those that are in the hospital will require critical care, intensive care. A smaller number will require ventilation, and as we run through the numbers, you can see that over the next three weeks, that will rapidly put the hospitals in a position of stress,” Myers said.

Myers and Meador said right now, people are not practicing social distancing — such as keeping six feet of space between themselves and others and avoiding gatherings with 10 or more people — as much as they should.

Myers called for people to think of new ways to accomplish their needs while still staying at home.

“We need to start looking at social networking on how we can have one person go to the store and get groceries for the entire neighborhood or friends and family,” Myers said.

On Monday, Gov. Kim Reynolds reaffirmed that she is not considering a statewide shelter-in-place order at this time, even after telling people to stay inside.

“We want to make sure that we’re making these decisions based on data and based on metrics so we can be consistent in what we’re telling Iowans to make sure that we’re not shutting down a state where we don’t need to,” Reynolds said.

However, Reynolds said local governments do have the authority to put such an order in place in their own cities and counties.

Jeff Pomeranz, Cedar Rapids City Manager, said Monday that action would “make a lot of sense” in Cedar Rapids, though he added that more study and discussions should happen to find out if it’s needed.

Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker said he would be in favor of a local shelter-in-place order.

“But really, from a county perspective, we know that our order will only be effective if different municipalities participate,” Walker said.