WATERLOO — Waterloo Fire Rescue confirmed Tuesday one of its members has tested positive for COVID-19.
“I am very concerned about our member that has contracted the virus, and we continue to monitor all personnel,” said Chief Pat Treloar. “I want to assure our residents that we are continually adjusting operations to ensure that Waterloo Fire Rescue is fully prepared to provide all expected emergency services to the community.”
The news came as Iowa posted its highest one-day total of new cases — 102 — and the state passed the 1,000-case threshold, Gov. Kim Reynolds said during her Tuesday news conference.
A total of 1,048 cases and 26 deaths have been confirmed in Iowa since coronavirus was first identified in the state March 8. Three counties reported their first cases Tuesday, with 78 of 99 counties now affected. Black Hawk County added three cases for a total of 15.
One new death — an elderly man in Benton County — was announced Tuesday.
The Courier received an obituary notice for Lee E. Bossom, 83, of Blairstown in Benton County, the former mayor of Quasqueton. Family members said he died of coronavirus at a Cedar Rapids hospital Sunday.
The state also identified the Tama County care facility where two residents have died as Premiere Estates in Toledo. Premiere Estates provides rehabilitation and skilled nursing, according to Trillium Healthcare Consulting, which owns the facility.
A representative confirmed the outbreak Tuesday and said it affected both staff and residents. The facility has around 60 to 70 patients, but officials would not confirm the number of cases or when the first case was identified.
It is one of three long-term care facilities in Iowa battling outbreaks, said Iowa Department of Public Health deputy director Sarah Reisetter. The others are Heritage Specialty Care in Cedar Rapids and McCreedy Home in Washington.
Reisetter said 11% of coronavirus cases are long-term care staff and residents at those three facilities, and nearly half — 46% — of the deaths. Tama County had recorded 42 cases as of Tuesday, the most in Northeast Iowa.
Reisetter also said about 23% of all positive cases in Iowa were among health care workers.
In Waterloo, firefighters urged residents to follow all precautionary guidelines after one of their own was diagnosed with the virus.
“Waterloo Fire Rescue has always appreciated and relied on the support of our community,” Treloar said. “You can continue to show that support by staying home and going out only if absolutely necessary.”
Members of Waterloo Fire Rescue have been practicing social distancing, self-screening, frequent hand washing and routine cleaning — in some cases beyond Centers for Disease Control and public health guidance — since the middle of March.
Fire and ambulance personnel also are following specific protocols on the use of personal protective equipment while responding to calls.
Officials don’t believe the department member contracted the virus while dealing with the public on the job. The member is on leave and won’t return to work until all state guidelines have been followed, Treloar said.
The fire department asks residents use the 911 system for true emergencies only. For less urgent needs, a primary health care provider should be the first contact. This allows responders to focus on those truly experiencing an emergency situation and assure that personal protective equipment is available.
“It is imperative that the public understand that the men and women that function as ‘essential personnel’ in public safety and health care will continue to perform their duties every day despite the increased risk and effects of this pandemic and will absolutely respond when they call,” Treloar said.
The governor continued to defend her use of a matrix developed by the health department to guide the state’s response to the outbreak that critics have called arbitrary and unscientific.
Reynolds said each of six health care regions is being looked at individually in terms of outbreaks, hospitalizations, case counts and number of available beds and ventilators.
None has hit the threshold for more restrictions from state officials as of Tuesday.
“Despite our increasing cases, our patient volume in these regions is manageable,” she said. “This is encouraging, but we are in a very fluid situation.”
She said that data was continuing to drive her decision to not issue a shelter-in-place order, but a few regions — Northeast Iowa among them — were just a point away from reaching that threshold according to the state’s metrics.
The Northeast Iowa region that includes Waterloo and Cedar Rapids has 50 patients hospitalized, including 27 in intensive care and 17 on ventilators. Linn County has seen the most cases in the state at 186. The Iowa City region had 20 patients hospitalized and three on ventilators. Johnson County has seen the second-most cases in the state at 134.
“I believe in the data, I believe in the strategy, I think it’s the right way to move forward,” Reynolds said. “Be rest assured, if we feel that needs to be done, we will move forward.”
Courier reporters Amie Rivers and Jeff Reinitz and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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