WATERLOO — Black Hawk County health officials said the county was reporting 622 coronavirus infections as of Thursday, over 200 more cases than the state was reporting Thursday for the county, with the vast majority of them linked to a recently-closed meatpacking plant.
Health director Dr. Nafissa Cisse Egbuonye also reported seven deaths countywide from COVID-19. That’s an increase of three deaths and 111 cases from the county’s numbers Wednesday.
“We really are feeling the impact of COVID-19 in Black Hawk County,” Egbuonye said at Thursday’s briefing. “These numbers are not going down — they’re increasing — and so this is very serious.”
Egbuonye said the health department was working on the logistics for testing all Tyson employees, slated Friday and Saturday.
“We do know over 90% of our cases are linked to Tyson” Fresh Meats in Waterloo, she said without an exact number of infections or deaths.
A TestIowa drive-thru testing site also is slated to open in Waterloo next week, according to Black Hawk County Emergency Management coordinator Lorie Glover.
‘Flimsy’ test kits
With hospitals ramping up testing thanks to an influx of test kits to the county, one staffer at Peoples Clinic sounded the alarm about the tests being “flimsy,” which could lead to false negatives.
The staffer, who was not authorized to speak to the media, told The Courier this week the Italian-made coronavirus nasal swabs — 1,500 of which were sent to Black Hawk County to help with the surge — weren’t the normal “stiff” rod stuck up a patient’s nose but were “like a bobblehead” on a “skinny metal wire.”
“You’re supposed to have it four inches way back in the nasal” passage, the staffer said. “If it bends, you can’t do that. ... If you do the test wrong, you can get bad results.”
Asked about that Thursday, Egbuonye said she “hadn’t heard about that at all.”
Coronavirus guidelines meant to keep people from catching the deadly virus could be unintentionally causing a “child abuse pandemic,” when children are stuck in the home with their abuser, warned Amanda Goodman, executive director of the Family and Children’s Council.
“For many kids, school is the safe place — and that has been ripped away from them,” Goodman said. “Now, it is a pressure-cooker situation.”
She said parents who feel stressed or overwhelmed were urged to “pick and choose your battles,” take time to recharge their own batteries and learn to “let things slide.”
For others, “we all need to be the nosy neighbor,” Goodman said, including making sure children in the neighborhood were coming out to play and acting normally.
“Child abuse prevention in Black Hawk County is a critical need,” she added. “We need to bring back the village now more than ever.”
Schools lament losing year
Waterloo and Hudson school superintendents lamented losing the rest of the academic year due to coronavirus restrictions, but said they were working to make the best of a bad situation for their students, particularly graduating seniors.
“I feel terrible that I can’t fix this for them,” Hudson superintendent Tony Voss said, growing emotional. “But they are a strong and resilient group of young adults. ... The strength and grace (with) which they are handling this adversity proves to me that our future as a society is very bright.”
Voss said the district will hold a virtual, prerecorded ceremony for its class of 2020 on May 17, their original graduation date.
Both districts were offering what the state calls “voluntary continuous learning” virtually and, in some cases, via paper packets for younger children, for the remainder of the school year.
Students are not graded under a voluntary system, but districts have noted the required option was not feasible. Nonetheless, Lindaman said the district was treating it as required.
“While we are not providing grades at this time, participation is very much expected,” Waterloo superintendent Jane Lindaman said. “Teaching is expected, and learning is expected.”
Lindaman said around 30% of Waterloo students don’t have access to either the internet or a computer, and parents needing either could call their child’s school to get help connecting to internet service. The district was also providing Chromebooks, and both Waterloo and Hudson were continuing to provide meals during the week.
“We also know this is a very difficult time for many,” Lindaman said. “Please just do the best you can, doing as much as you can, and continue to communicate with your child’s teacher.”
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