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‘Community spread’


*Editor's note: This report reflects Polk County case numbers as of press time Tuesday, July 14.

After a continued increase in positive COVID-19 cases, the Polk County Health Center has said five recent cases resulted from community spread of the new coronavirus. 

According to numbers released by the health center on Tuesday, July 14, the county had 41 total confirmed positive cases, up from 31 cases on Thursday, July 9.

While the center reported 15 people had been released from quarantine, 26 active cases remained. 

Over 130 residents were in quarantine as of Tuesday morning. 

The center said 1,580 people had been tested for COVID-19 by Citizens Memorial Hospital with 1,439 negative results. Results were pending for 141 tests.

In the county’s most recent 10 cases, announced Friday, Monday and Tuesday, there was one instance of public exposure, the health center said. 

On Thursday, July 9, a person who was infectious but not symptomatic and not masked visited Curly-Que Barbeque from 12:30 to 2 p.m.

At least three of the new cases resulted from direct contact with another positive case.

As previously reported, the county’s positive cases doubled last week, jumping from 16 to 31 by Thursday. The center announced 10 new cases in one day on Wednesday, July 8. 

What is community spread? 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.”

The CDC says “each health department determines community spread differently based on local conditions.” 

In an email Friday evening, Polk County Health Center Administrator Michelle Morris said things change quickly with COVID-19.   

“Past cases we have been able to link to travel or another positive case,” she said. “However, some of the cases we have received this week, there was no indication of travel nor did they know of any contact they had with someone who was positive.”  

She said those people had only been to places within Bolivar or neighboring communities before becoming sick. 

“They did not know how or when they became infected,” she said. “Those investigations have let us know that there is community spread.”

According to the CDC, people can practice “community mitigation activities,” which can slow the spread of infectious diseases. 

“Community mitigation is especially important before a vaccine or drug becomes widely available,” the CDC’s website says.

“Each community is unique,” the CDC says. “Because some actions can be very disruptive to daily life, mitigation activities will be different depending on how much disease has spread within the community, what the community population is like and the ability to take these actions at the local level.”  

Communities should consider local spread of the virus, the characteristics of people within the community and available public health resources and health care systems when looking at mitigation, the CDC says.

On an individual level, the CDC says people can wash hands often, avoid close contact with sick people, practice social distancing, cover sneezes and coughs, clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and wear face coverings around others. 

In its Monday report, the health center reminded community members to wear face coverings correctly. 

“Wash your hands before putting on your face covering,” the center said.

Masks should fit over noses and mouths and be secured under the chin, the center said. 

“Try to fit it snugly against the sides of your face,” the center said. “Make sure you can breathe easily.”  

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