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3 COVID-19 patients on ventilators at UnityPoint; county warns cases are 'increasing'

3 COVID-19 patients on ventilators at UnityPoint; county warns cases are 'increasing'

From the Coronavirus update Northeast Iowa series

WATERLOO — UnityPoint-Health Allen Hospital is caring for three patients with COVID-19, all in the intensive care unit and all on “mechanical ventilation,” the hospital’s chief medical officer said Thursday.

Dr. Russell Adams made the announcement during Black Hawk County’s regular Thursday coronavirus briefing at the Emergency Management Agency.

He noted the hospital has implemented what he called an “intubation team” of anesthesiologists to help those patients and any future ones.

“The studies show that, (for) our patients that have respiratory illness where they are not responding to our maximum treatment that need intubation, we need to have our best practitioners intubating,” Adams said.

MercyOne chief medical officer Dr. Matthew Sojka declined to say how many COVID-19 patients his hospital was caring for, in the ICU or otherwise. He cited HIPAA as the reason for declining to give the information, though the privacy law is meant only to prevent personally identifiable information from being released.

There have been increasing numbers of county residents testing positive for coronavirus — the county stands at 21 — meaning the curve has “not flattened,” said health director Nafissa Cisse Egbuonye.

“Simply put, the number of cases in Black Hawk County is increasing,” she said. “This is the start of a surge we have been preparing for.”

Officials stressed residents need to continue social distancing, staying home and only leaving the house for essential trips such as getting groceries or medicine.

“I know that we don’t have that at the moment in a proclamation, but Gov. Reynolds has been communicating for people to stay at home,” Egbuonye said. “It’s very real. People are dying, people have been impacted by this.”

The county is preparing for this weekend to bring a particularly high number of COVID-19 cases. That coincides with Easter weekend, a time families normally gather together, said Sheriff Tony Thompson. He discouraged gathering for normal Easter activities.

“Right now, unfortunately, this is not a smart time to do those kinds of things,” he said.

But virtual visits are encouraged, particularly for those with family in long-term care facilities who have already been without visitors for nearly a month.

“We know that this takes a toll on our elderly,” said Sherry Turner, an administrator at Friendship Village.

At Care Initiatives, which oversees four long-term care facilities in the county and a hospice program, director of marketing Jason Bridie said virtual visits are encouraged, as are “window visits” — family members coming to residents’ windows for a face-to-face hello.

“It kind of tugs at your heart that that’s what we’re dealing with,” Bridie said. “But even the alternative visits lift the spirits of our residents.”

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