JOHNSTON — With COVID-19 spreading through Iowa at record levels, state public health officials are focusing their work to identify the virus’ spread through household gatherings.
Gov. Kim Reynolds and Dr. Caitlin Pedati, the state epidemiologist, said Thursday that as the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Iowa have exploded over the past month, their case investigations and contact tracing — efforts to determine how the virus is spreading from person to person throughout the state — has become focused on whether Iowans are taking appropriate precautions around each other.
Iowa’s COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all at record highs for the pandemic, far outpacing the previous surge this summer.
“As numbers have increased, we’ve increasingly focused on high-risk situations, which includes households. We know that households are a place where all kinds of illnesses can spread quickly,” Pedati said Thursday during a news conference at Iowa PBS studios. “When we live together, there are more chances for a virus that moves from one person to the other to move between us. So we want to help do what we can to protect other people who may have been exposed and are at higher risk for becoming sick.”
Pedati restated public health’s guidance to help slow the virus’ spread — persistent hand-washing, wearing face masks in public when around others, and staying at least six feet away from others when in public.
And at the eight-month mark of a global pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 2,100 Iowans and more than 250,000 Americans, Pedati was compelled to remind Iowans about the most basic public health guidance.
“We want to just make sure that people understand it’s still important to keep yourself away from others if you have COVID, and to keep yourself away from others if you’ve had a COVID exposure. Because that really does help limit that spread,” Pedati said.
Pedati and Reynolds both said they understand some people may be feeling exhausted by having to deal with COVID-19 over the past eight months, and both urged Iowans to remain vigilant in their efforts to help slow the virus’ spread.
To that end, Reynolds unveiled a TV advertisement that is part of a public information campaign launched by the governor’s office encouraging Iowans to take proper mitigation steps. The TV ads feature former governor and U.S. agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack, legendary college wrestling coach Dan Gable, Test Iowa nurse Katie Witt, University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics CEO Suresh Gunasekaran, and Carson King, an Iowa man who became an internet celebrity and eventually raised $3 million for the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital.
Similar ads will also appear on radio and in newspapers across the state. The governor’s office worked with the Iowa Broadcasters Association and Iowa Newspaper association on the campaign.
“Though you may have grown tired of hearing it, it’s even more important now to blanket every corner of the state with this message so that we can help stop the spread of the virus,” Reynolds said.
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