Yesterday, Governor Reynolds announced that quarantine restrictions for COVID-19 in the state are being changed so that if both people in an exposure situation were wearing masks properly throughout the exposure, quarantine is not required. This change gives schools that are being very careful with masking some additional flexibility to keep more kids in school since the risk of transmission can be lowered substantially with masking and keeping as much distance as is possible. Wright County Public Health will be following this guidance.
It would be easy to think that this change is because of decreased concern about COVID-19, but it really should be viewed as an acknowledgement that with excellent attention to precautions, we can lower the risk of transmission enough that many of the most important activities can continue. We can all agree that school for children is tremendously important for the kids and for working parents.
Unfortunately, we simply are not seeing diligent attention to precautions within our communities and the state in general. A majority of the population in our area is not consistently using masks and there are still gatherings that are happening without much attention to preventing spread of COVID-19. We also are not doing enough testing to have confidence that we are identifying anywhere near all of the people who have COVID-19.
The number of hospitalizations in Iowa from COVID-19 has increased dramatically over the last week. As of today, 390 people across the state are hospitalized with COVID-19. This is up from 305 just one week ago. This is nearly as high as the peak of hospitalizations back in May and will be enormous problem as we move into the fall. Even in a normal winter, all of the large hospitals that can care for the most complicated patients get full for several months. Adding another 390 patients on top of that, 97 of whom are in the ICU, is going to make it very difficult to ensure that those who do get severely ill (from COVID or anything else) get the care that they need.
If we don’t get this turned around, there’s a good chance that most of us will personally know someone who ended up severely ill from COVID over the next few months. We know what it takes to prevent COVID from spreading – limiting close contacts to those that are most important and wearing masks properly anytime we can’t keep our distance from others.
So far, Wright County has been fortunate. We’ve had 600 known cases of COVID and only one death. There is no other county in the state with 2 or less deaths that has had more than 310 cases. If we want our good fortune to continue, we need to recognize that we’re all in this together and every step we take towards prevention protects our entire community.