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County sees three deaths, rising cases

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The Polk County Health Center has confirmed three new deaths related to COVID-19 for the county. 

According to a Thursday, Sept. 10, news release, the deaths occurred through the course of the past week. All three individuals were over the age of 65 with underlying health conditions. 

“The most difficult part of the COVID-19 pandemic is losing people to the virus,” Michelle Morris, Polk County Health Center administrator, said in the release. “To all of you who have lost loved ones, we are deeply sorry.” 

The news of the additional deaths comes at a time when the county’s positive caseload continues to climb. 

According to Carol Bookhout with the health center, as of Thursday night, the county had added 70 new cases over the week since 5:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4.

As of Friday morning, Sept. 11, the county’s total cases reported had reached 460.  

Bookhout said many of this week’s cases resulted from direct contact to a known positive case.

“Approximately 24% of our cases this past week were in quarantine when they became symptomatic and received a positive test result,” Bookhout said. 

She said this statistic is encouraging as the center looks at the impact of testing and quarantine measures.  

Since the beginning of the virus activity in Polk County, the health center has noticed a 21-day case cycle, Bookhout said.  

“In this cycle, the first seven days includes high risk exposures, followed by a week of increased case count and wraps up with a week of outcomes, including hospitalizations and possible deaths,” she said. 

Health center staff hopes for a decline in numbers in the next two weeks based on this cycle, Bookhout said. However, she said epidemiologists also anticipate another rise in positive cases as a result of activity during Labor Day weekend.  

Continued precautions

Morris said the county’s recent deaths show “that the work ahead requires that we continue to ensure access to testing, early treatment and care, and economic support among those communities at higher risk of devastating outcomes associated with COVID-19 is essential.”

Bookhout said county residents can continue to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

She said physical distancing and wearing masks is important, even for younger generations. 

“If community members are spending time with others who are not a part of the household, please practice physical distancing and wear a mask whenever possible,” she said.

One way to accomplish this goal, she said, is for people to shrink their circle of friends.  

“Be selective about who you spend time with outside your home,” Bookhout said. “Social interaction is important to mental and physical health, but we must find ways to interact safely during this pandemic.”

Bookhout said another “simple, strong prevention strategy” is for people to stay home when they feel sick and until they are fever free and symptom free for 72 hours. 

“This includes those with mild symptoms, such as sore throat or body aches,” she said. “We ask community members to monitor their health daily by simply being aware of how they feel day to day.”  

If someone notices two or more symptoms of COVID-19 for a couple of days, they need to reach out to their primary care providers or the health center, Bookhout said. 

Those who are elderly or who have underlying health conditions may be at higher risk of serious illness and should contact their doctors as soon as they are sick, the release said.  

She said keeping hands clean and away from faces will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses during fall and winter months.

“The flu vaccine is especially important this year,” Bookhout said. “With the circulation of COVID-19, reducing the overall burden of respiratory illnesses is important to protect vulnerable populations at risk for severe illness, the healthcare system and other critical infrastructure.”

The release said people who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or is presumed to be infected must remain in quarantine for 14 days from their last contact with that person. 

Bookhout said the health center is ready to support those in isolation or quarantine and appreciates the cooperation of residents and community partners as the county attempts to slow the spread of the virus. 

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