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Black Hawk County churches encouraged to maintain social distance
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Black Hawk County churches encouraged to maintain social distance

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Dr. Nafissa Cisse-Egbuonye

Cisse-Egbuonye

WATERLOO — Black Hawk County health officials are encouraging churches to avoid mass gatherings despite Gov. Kim Reynolds allowing religious services to resume.

“That’s something very difficult for us locally,” said Nafissa Cisse Egbuonye, county health director. “Religious services are one of the places that people do go and congregate. If you look at populations within the religious services you have a huge number of the elderly population there.”

Egbuonye said the county emergency operations center dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic locally has received calls from local church leaders after Reynolds announced Monday that religious services could resume around the state starting Friday.

“People do need to stay and home,” Egbuonye told the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. “If religious services can continue to do the Zoom (online meetings) and conferences using technology, that’s the best approach at this point.”

Church services were among the activities halted in March to prevent spread of the coronavirus.

Reynolds announced Monday she was lifting the ban on religious services in all 99 Iowa counties. Some 77 counties would also be allowed to reopen restaurants and stores at a 50 percent capacity.

Black Hawk, which leads the state with 1,346 COVID-19 cases and has seen 11 deaths, was among 22 counties where the restrictions on businesses would remain in effect.

Egbuonye also told the supervisors the Iowa Department of Public Health will be taking over the majority of the COVID-19 case investigations in Black Hawk “just due to the volume that we have received over the last several weeks.”

“We’ve been averaging just about 86 cases a day, so we just did not have the capacity,” Egbuonye said. “We will be engaged with them thoroughly to know what’s going on with the case investigations in Black Hawk County.”

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