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COVID-19 rates close City Hall, require face covering use at high school

COVID-19 rates close City Hall, require face covering use at high school
Iowa counties COVID-19 test positivity rates as of Monday, Jan. 17.
By Bob Steenson,

COVID 19 infection rates have crept back up in Floyd County, and some public organizations are reacting by enacting mitigation measures.

Charles City announced last week that it would be “locking down City Hall for at least the next couple of weeks, possibly longer,” because of the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and a couple of city employees testing positive.

“Residents can utilize the drop box in the entry of city hall, the drop box outside in between city hall and the Press building and the online portal to pay their utility bills. If you have any questions, please call city hall at 257-6300. Thank you for your understanding and please stay safe!” the message concluded.

City government public meetings will be conducted online over ZOOM while City Hall is closed.

The Charles City Community School District announced on its website that it has put in place a COVID-19 mitigation plan requiring face coverings for high school staff and students beginning today, (Tuesday) when classes resume after the Martin Luther Day holiday, until Sunday, Jan. 23.

“This week, Charles City High School reached a 7% absence rate for three consecutive days. To help keep schools open and protect the health of our school community, we are initiating the health mitigation plan approved in September 2021,” the posted announcement last week said.

“This is a temporary period during which face coverings will be required at Charles City High School. As per our commitment to families, we will use face coverings as a targeted tool only where and when it is necessary,” it said.

The announcement also included online links to the district’s “Certification of Exemption from Facial Covering Requirement” and to the Religious Observation Declination Form.”

The certification of exemption allows a parent or guardian to apply for an exemption for a student to the requirement to wear a face covering either “because, in the opinion of an Iowa licensed physician (MD or DO), nurse practitioner, or physician assistant, such requirements are medically contraindicated as Facial Coverings would be injurious to the health and well-being of the person,” or “because such requirements conflict with a genuine and sincere religious belief held by the person, which is in fact religious and not based merely on philosophical, scientific, moral, personal, or medical opposition to facial coverings.”

The form must be signed and notarized “under penalty of perjury and pursuant to the laws of the State of Iowa that the preceding is true and correct.”

The Religious Observation Declination Form asks the parent or guardian to explain the religious reason that is the basis for exemption, how wearing a mask interferes with that belief, if the child wore a face mask previously why that did not conflict with the religious belief at that time, and if the child has worn face coverings for COVID-19 mitigation purposes on other occasions or in other places.

The school district notice said the current face covering requirement will be reviewed closer to the end of this week, and face coverings will be available in the Charles City High School office.

The school district’s “Illness Dashboard” online updated Monday showed 7.76% absentee rate at the high school for the latest three-day period when classes were in session. Other rates for that period were 5.29% at Washington Elementary, 6.09% at Lincoln Elementary, 5.2% at the middle school and 2.13% at the Innovative Campus. The rates are rolling three-day absentee rates.

Absentees are not all due to COVID-19, the website says, advising, “Please do not speculate as to the the cause of the illness at each campus.”

The positive COVID-19 test rate for Floyd County was 16 percent as of Monday, according to the Iowa state COVID-19 data site, That means of the approximately 800 tests taken by people in Floyd County last week, 16 percent of them  – 127 – were positive.

Some area county positivity rates were even higher, although some were lower. The rates of positive COVID-19 tests last week for surrounding counties were:

  • Bremer County – 18%, 209 new cases.
  • Butler County – 12%, 94 new cases
  • Cerro Gordo County – 21%, 431 new cases.
  • Chickasaw County – 18%, 118 new cases.
  • Floyd County – 16%, 127 new cases.
  • Franklin County – 22%, 99 new cases.
  • Howard County – 13%, 60 new cases.
  • Mitchell County – 23%, 108 new cases.
  • Worth County – 21%, 98 new cases.

Fifty-eight people have died in Floyd County because of COVID-19 or where COVID-19 was a contributing factor since the pandemic began at the beginning of 2020, the state site says.

Statewide, the 14-day rolling average positivity rate was 21.2% as of Monday. The 7-day rolling average positivity rate was 23.8%.

According to the state figures, 70.6% of Iowans are fully vaccinated, and 75% have had at least one dose of the vaccine.

“Those not fully vaccinated account for 77.1% of COVID-19 patients in ICU, and 68.4% of patients hospitalized because of COVID-19,” the site says.

Floyd County Public Health will is continuing to offer COVID-19 clinics on Wednesdays through January and February. Persons can walk in anytime between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. to receive a primary series or booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines will be available.

Persons receiving their second or boost dose are asked to bring their COVID-19 immunization cards with them.

The Floyd County Public Health office is at 1003 Gilbert St. Charles City.

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