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Rate of new COVID-19 cases in Floyd County continues to decline

Rate of new COVID-19 cases in Floyd County continues to decline
The Floyd County COVID-19 “positivity rate” has fallen to the lowest rate since the middle of October. Press graphic by Bob Steenson
By Bob Steenson,

Floyd County appears to have missed a Thanksgiving holiday spike in COVID-19 cases, as the rate of new cases has fallen steadily since November.

The 14-day positivity rate — the rolling average of the percentage of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the previous 14 days — dropped below 10% on Saturday, the first time it has been in single digits since the end of October.

It was 9.8% Saturday, 9.3% Sunday and 9.2% on Monday.

The number of Floyd County deaths attributed to COVID-19 continued to climb, however, reaching 31 over the weekend as eight new deaths connected with the disease were added in the last week, according to figures from the Iowa COVID-19 data website,

Under the state’s new way of classifying COVID-19-related deaths which began two weeks ago, in 23 of those deaths COVID-19 was listed as the underlying cause, and in eight it was listed as a contributing factor.

Meanwhile, county health officials continue to plan for the imminent arrival of the first COVID-19 vaccine.

Rod Nordeng, administrator at the Floyd County Medical Center, said it was his understanding that health care staff at the medical center was going to be first in line, but he still didn’t have a definite date when the first doses would arrive.

“We’re kind of thinking somewhere the 27th or the 29th” of December, he said, adding that he thinks the facility will be getting the Moderna vaccine, the latest one to be approved and which has less strict transportation and storage requirements than the Pfizer vaccine that was first approved.

“We are the top of the list, is my understanding,” Nordeng said. “But even within that, for example, there’s Tier 1 and Tier 2.”

Tier one would be people with direct patient care contact, he said, while Tier 2 would be others such as administrators.

“I’m a Tier 2,” Nordeng said.

“This morning we went through and identified the Tier 1 group and then the Tier 2 group for the vaccine,” he said Monday afternoon.

Nordeng said the medical center had been approved for 200 doses. He wasn’t sure that meant enough doses for 200 people, since each person requires two injections for the vaccine to be effective and that would require 400 doses, or whether that meant 200 doses total, or enough for 100 people.

“I assume it’s 200 overall doses, 200 for the first, 200 for the second,” Nordeng said.

“We’ll just have to see ultimately what our allocation is. We have an understanding how much we might be getting, but as we’ve seen with other things you don’t know until it gets to the dock door,” he said.

Floyd County Supervisor Linda Tjaden has taken on some of the responsibilities of the county Emergency Management Agency director while the county looks for a replacement for Lezlie Weber, who is on long-term active duty with the Army National Guard.

Tjaden said at the supervisors workshop meeting Monday morning that she continues to work with Floyd County Public Health Administrator Gail Arjens on preparations for distributing the vaccine.

“We’ve got a meeting scheduled this week with first responders and the medical staff,” she said.

“I’m starting to get a lot of information on fact sheets for the vaccine and the different authorization forms once it goes out to the people — what they have to fill out and what information we need to collect,” Tjaden said.

Many national and state health officials and others had feared a jump in the rate of new COVID-19 cases in the weeks following Thanksgiving, as many people traveled to visit relatives on the holiday despite warnings against that activity.

In many areas of the country those spikes occurred and hospitalizations threaten to overwhelm health care facilities, according to reporting by The Associated Press.

The incubation period for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, is still being studied, but appears to be between 2 and 14 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

We are now more than three weeks out from the Thanksgiving weekend, so any spike caused by exposure at that time should have occurred.

In Floyd County, much of November was a high point for new infections, as the 14-day positivity average was higher than 30% from Nov. 10 through Dec. 6. It peaked at 34% on Dec. 3.

Since then there has been a steady slide, in the 20th percentile from Dec. 9 to Dec. 14, in the teens from Dec. 15 to Dec. 18 and down to 9.6% on Saturday, Dec. 19.

On Monday, the 14-day positivity rate was 9.2%, with 1,234 total cases having been confirmed in Floyd County since the pandemic began in March.