Allamakee County COVID-19 cases more than double this past week; Health officials emphasize importance of mitigation measures to prevent spread

Further explanation on situation and rumors involving Postville after highest single-day case total reported

After a somewhat calming week that featured just one reported positive case of COVID-19 in Allamakee County during the final week of March, this past week that opened the month of April featured another eye-opening reality that this pandemic virus can be unpredictable and requires continuous adherence to the mitigation policies put in place.

After a week had passed since that lone positive case for Allamakee County in the final week of March was reported March 25, the latest dose of reality came Thursday, April 2 when the Iowa Department of Public Health announced eight more positive cases for the county - the county’s highest single-day report that more than doubled the previous total of seven positive cases that had been reported in the county since its first positive case had been made known March 15.

That highest single-day report coincided with an article published by The Postville Herald newspaper regarding testing that took place Monday, March 30 in the Jewish Yeshiva, the former Postville Hospital, for what was described as “a select group of residents” in Postville. Follow-up by that newspaper with the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) resulted in the following statement released by the IDPH: “The Iowa Department of Public Health routinely provides support for counties with vulnerable populations. Such support was requested and provided by IDPH in Allamakee County for those residents who met the testing criteria for COVID-19.”

FURTHER EXPLANATION AND INFORMATION
A further inquiry by The Standard with IDPH officials received a reply from IDPH COVID-19 Media Relations Policy Advisor and Legislative Liaison Amy McCoy. She explained the request for the testing in Postville “came from a health care provider who evaluated patients and felt it was indicated.”

McCoy further shared that the individuals who were tested in Postville were part of “a group of individuals with a history of out-of-state travel (epidemiologic risk factor) to an area of active COVID-19 transmission.” She explained that the tested individuals were identified using Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and IDPH criteria. “Namely, they had a history of recent travel to an area of active COVID-19 transmission and had symptoms consistent with COVID-19,” she relayed.

The Postville testing situation resulted in a firestorm of rumors and inquiries regarding reports of “busloads” of individuals traveling to Postville from New York City, either in an effort to flee the elevated COVID-19 risk in that area or simply as a means of celebrating the traditional Jewish holiday of Passover. Those rumors were addressed and dispelled by a statement released jointly by the Allamakee County Emergency Management Agency, Allamakee County Public Health and the Allamakee County Sheriff’s Office - that statement can be read in its entirety at this link elsewhere on The Standard's website.

The Postville Herald also shared the following statement from Postville Mayor Leigh Rekow in regard to the March 30 testing in Postville and additional rumors:

“The rumor mongers are batting 0% when it comes to the truth and facts. There are no bus loads, there have been no bus loads, and no bus loads are expected by the Jewish community or anyone else. So whomever is pushing that rumor, please stop. Postville is better than that.

“There are no blockades in or out of Postville. Gatherings are monitored by local police as they patrol the community. You are free as a bird to take your loved ones on a nature ride or see what the farmers are doing.

“Since, in my experience, it is popular by some to blame the Jewish community, the County Health Department arranged with the State Health Department, with guidance by Emergency Management Director Corey Snitker of Allamakee County and the National Guard liaison, to conduct voluntary testing of 40 members of the Jewish Community because of their connections to New York. This testing took place Monday, March 30. In my estimation this was a sound and logical decision. The testing took place at the former Postville Hospital, now the Jewish school. The Postville Police were automatically notified to provide assistance and traffic control. Volunteers were not required to exit their cars. Test results are the property of the state.

“As I look up and down our Main Streets, they are deserted. Our citizens are doing a great job of staying home and keeping separated. Don’t make rumors add to what we are all experiencing. Again, we can do better than that.”

In a somewhat related story, Abraham Aaron Rubashkin, founder of Agriprocessors in Postville, is reported as having passed away Thursday, April 2 in New York at the age of 92 of complications from COVID-19. According to his obituary, two of his nine surviving children are still living in Postville.

ALLAMAKEE COUNTY’S NEW CASES
The eight new Allamakee County cases reported April 2 included the county’s second child under the age of 18, two adults 18-40 years old, four middle-age adults ages 41-60 and one older adult 61-80 years of age. One additional case was reported Friday, April 3 in an adult age 18-40 and another reported Sunday, April 5 in an older adult 61-80 years of age, with one more case reported Monday, April 6 in an adult 18-40 years of age to bring the county’s total to 18 as of the printing of this week’s edition of this newspaper.

“We are not surprised by the jump in the number of positive tests,” Allamakee County Public Health Supervisors Lisa Moose and Sheryl Darling-Mooney commented in a released statement. “As testing increases, we expect positive results to increase as well. We know COVID-19 is circulating in the county and there are people who have not been tested who have the virus. On average, 80 percent of people who get COVID-19 will only have mild to moderate symptoms. This is why we urge everyone so strongly to stay home as much as possible, stay away from groups of people and maintain a six-foot distance from other individuals. We also want people who feel only mildly ill (the kind of symptoms that normally wouldn’t keep you from work or recreation) to stay home to avoid spreading the virus to others.”

Of those 18 Allamakee County cases, eight of them have been discovered in the age range of 41-60 years old, with now half of those remaining 10 being in the 18-40 age range. The remaining five cases include two between the ages of 0-17 and three in the 60-81 age group, with the county’s lone death being in that older age group and no cases thus far being reported in the age group over 81 years of age as of this printing.

The Allamakee County Public Health Department further reported Monday morning, April 6 that of the 17 reported cases through Sunday, April 5, 13 of them are considered “Recovered/Off Isolation,” with four cases out of that total requiring hospitalization and still just one death reported in Allamakee County. As of Monday’s statistics reported locally, a total of 59 tests have been sent to the State Hygienic Laboratory, with 42 negative tests being returned and three additional tests pending at the lab.

It is noted by Allamakee County Public Health that the number of tests conducted on Allamakee County residents at other labs such as Gundersen, Mayo, University of Iowa, etc. are unable to be tracked by county health officials. However, any of those tests conducted elsewhere that return positive results for COVID-19 are reported to the Iowa Department of Publich Health, who then notifies Allamakee County Public Health to initiate follow-up protocol.

“We currently have a mix of both travel and community spread,” Allamakee County Health officials noted. “We expect to see our numbers increase due to community spread. That is why it is so important to practice good social distancing, especially with the Easter holiday/ Holy Week occurring. It is prohibited to gather in groups of more than 10.”

MITIGATION MEASURES
Health officials maintain that the best way to prevent further spread of the COVID-19 virus is to stay at home whenever possible and maintain the recommended six-foot distance from individuals when needing to venture out for essential matters. Additionally, washing hands frequently with soap and water, staying home if feeling ill, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue and performing routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces are also crucial to preventing further spread.

Those who are experiencing the tell-tale symptoms of the COVID-19 infection of fever, cough and shortness of breath should call their health care provider for further assessment over the telephone. That initial call will help determine whether an individual needs to be further assessed in person or may just be able to combat the virus while remaining at home.

PUBLIC HEALTH POLICY ON INFORMATION RELEASE
During this pandemic, many questions have surfaced regarding identifying individuals or even specific locations of individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19. According to information on the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) website regarding policies involving release of public health information: “As a general rule, public health records which contain personally identifiable information of a health-related nature are confidential under Iowa law,” listing Iowa Code 22.7 as a reference.

The policy states that IDPH staff members, local boards of health and health departments, and other entities collaborate with the IDPH public information officer and other appropriate IDPH staff to determine the content, nature and scope of information to be released to the media. That policy goes on to state that when releasing demographic information regarding specific case-patients to the media, the following guidelines should generally be followed:

Age Range: The following age ranges should generally be used to report both illnesses and deaths. In press releases, the age ranges should be included in parenthesis within the text as demonstrated below - Child (0-17 years of age), Adult (18-40 years of age), Middle age (41-60 years of age), Older Adult (61-80 years of age), Elderly (81+ years of age).

Geographic information: The smallest geographical area as appropriate (i.e., needed to ensure confidentiality) should generally be released: 1) County (release name of county of residence); 2) Region - five regions will be used for the state: a. Northeast (NE) b. Southeast (SE) c. Central d. Northwest (NW) e. Southwest (SW); 3) State (as a whole).

Ethnicity and Race: The ethnicity and race of a patient will not generally be disclosed in a press release.

Additional details about the IDPH confidential information disclosure policy can be found online at https://idph.iowa.gov/.
 

Rate this article: 
Average: 3.7 (3 votes)