COVID-19 Positivity Rate Remains Above 10 Percent Regionally

posted on Monday, October 12, 2020 in COVID-19

The positivity rate of COVID-19 cases in rural Iowa has climbed in recent weeks, with Clay County’s current 14-day positivity rate over 10 percent.

“With a higher rate of positivity for COVID-19 in Clay County, it’s more important than ever to understand the importance of the mitigation steps we must take to protect one another,” said Dr. David Keith, medical director for the Clay County Board of Health. “Our community can continue their school and work routines safely if we appropriately wear masks, are cautious about social distancing and routinely perform hand and surface hygiene.”

Keith further explained, “Of the tests the hospital and our office are performing, we are finding a positivity rate over 10 percent.  A higher positivity rate indicates that the virus is more prevalent locally than it was previously, which means someone’s risk of becoming infected without knowing it is also greater than it has been previously.  We need to understand that we, as a community, have the power to slow and stop the spread of COVID-19.  It is a preventable disease.”

Spencer Hospital has routinely been caring for patients infected with COVID-19, typically with just one to two inpatients at a time. Recently, the number of inpatients with COVID-19 has been higher, in the three to four patient range; however, combined with a patient census that includes non-COVID infected patients, the hospital has been busy.

“Like other hospitals in the northwest Iowa over the past two weeks, we have approached maximum inpatient capacity due to increased service demand and healthcare worker availability,” said Spencer Hospital president Bill Bumgarner.  “This is not related to just an increase in COVID patients.  A significant factor has been employees needing to be home to care for children who have been required to quarantine due to exposures to COVID-positive individuals.”

Bumgarner noted that the hospital’s healthcare team has responded to the challenge.

“There are many hospital employees working extremely hard to meet the needs of our patients by extending their worked hours and picking up extra shifts,” he said.  “We don’t talk about that much publically because caring for those in need is what we do. Yet, I’m very proud of the Spencer Hospital team for meeting the challenges presented by COVID-19 again and again over the past seven months.”  

Spencer Hospital first admitted a patient infected with COVID-19 on April 15. Between that date and Aug. 31, the hospital treated a total of 10 inpatients with COVID-19 infections. From Sept. 1 through Oct. 12, Spencer Hospital has admitted and treated 12 patients infected with COVID-19. The increase in patients needing care correlates closely with the higher positivity rate locally.

DeeAnn Vaage, infectious disease specialist at Spencer Hospital, explained there are several specific treatment methods that have  been effective for patients being cared for at the hospital with a COVID-19 infection.

“All patients who qualify and consent to treatment receive Remdesivir, which is an anti-viral medication; Dexamethasone, a steroid to help reduce inflammation; and convalescent plasma – plasma which contains antibodies as it has been donated by people previously infected by COVID-19 ,” Vaage explained.

“Recently, we’ve seen patients who have increased respiratory difficulty,” Vaage added. “For those patients, we treat with high-flow oxygen in our intensive care unit. The combination of proning – lying patients on their stomach with their faces down – in combination with high-flow nasal cannula, has been shown to be especially helpful in patients who have low blood oxygen levels due to a serious coronavirus infection. This therapy is helping patients recover without being placed on a ventilator. ”

Anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms – cough, fever, loss of taste or smell senses, or difficulty breathing – should contact their family practitioner, who can order a COVID-19 test for patients with symptoms. Spencer Hospital also tests patients’ who have a physician’s order, either because the patient is symptomatic or if the patient is scheduled for an aerosol-generating procedure. Anyone having difficulty breathing should seek care in the emergency department.

If someone does not have COVID-19 symptoms, but wishes to be tested, then the individual should go to a Test Iowa site. Test Iowa is a free COVID-19 testing service provided through the state of Iowa. Test sites vary. Currently, a Test Iowa site is located in Storm Lake and a Test Iowa clinic is available in Spirit Lake.

  1. coronavirus