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UPDATE: New Black Hawk County case not tied to travel; 73 new cases in Iowa

UPDATE: New Black Hawk County case not tied to travel; 73 new cases in Iowa

From the Coronavirus update Northeast Iowa series

DES MOINES — Iowa coronavirus cases increased by 73 on Tuesday to a total statewide of 497 as Black Hawk County reported its first case of community spread.

One additional death was reported, a Muscatine resident between 41 and 60 years old, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. Seven people in Iowa have died of the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Black Hawk County recorded its seventh case, an adult between the ages of 41 and 60.

“We cannot tie this case to a specific exposure — the individual is not sure how or where they became infected,” said Nafissa Cisse Egbuonye, director of the Black Hawk County Health Department. “And, because of not being able to identify this exposure, we are considering this to be community spread.”

Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson warned a surge in cases is likely, making social distancing more important than ever.

“Within the next two to three weeks, I think you’re going to be hard-pressed to find somebody that has not been personally impacted,” he said. “Thankfully, in Black Hawk County, we’re still sitting at seven (cases). But I think the next plateau that gets reached is when we have that first death. ... That’s what we need help with.”

Tama County also has one new case, an adult between the ages of 18 and 40, bringing its total to 11 cases.

The virus is now present in 57 of Iowa’s 99 counties. A total of 51 Iowans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, while another 23 were previously hospitalized but have been discharged, and another 203 were never hospitalized.

Case counts have been growing fastest in Linn County, where an additional 19 cases were reported Tuesday for a total of 90. On Monday, public health officials acknowledged an outbreak in a Cedar Rapids long-term care facility.

Heritage Specialty Care, a nursing home that has more than 100 residents in Cedar Rapids, confirmed Tuesday it is the facility where the virus has infected residents and employees. Gov. Kim Reynolds said the number of cases linked to the facility has climbed from 21 on Monday to 30 on Tuesday.

The home is owned by West Des Moines-based Care Initiatives, which operates 44 skilled nursing and long-term care facilities in Iowa. Marketing director Jason Bridie said the home has about 125 employees, who are working extra shifts and up to 12-hour days to continue to care for residents.

“The people that are working are working their tails off and putting in an extraordinary amount of sacrifice,” he said. “We have people that aren’t going home to their families because they don’t want to risk the chance that maybe they are carrying it and don’t know it.”

He said Heritage is so far the only one of its facilities that has seen a COVID-19 infection. Staff members across the chain have enough personal protective equipment after receiving new supplies in recent days, he said.

For most people, COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are among those particularly susceptible to more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Speaking at the governor’s daily news conference, Sarah Reisetter, deputy director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, said officials expect the number of cases in Iowa to peak within the next two to three weeks.

Reynolds also announced a COVID-19 legal information hotline for people with questions or problems related to the outbreak. The line, arranged by Iowa Legal Aid, Iowa State Bar Association and Polk County Volunteer Lawyer Project, is (800) 332-0419.

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