WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Dramatic Rise in COVID-19 Cases in Lee and Des Moines Counties

Aug 28, 2020

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases has more than tripled during the past three weeks in both Lee and Des Moines counties.

On August 5, the state reported 98 confirmed cases of the virus in Lee County and 143 in Des Moines County. On August 28 the state reported 358 cases in Lee and 519 in Des Moines. Lee County had 2 deaths related to the coronavirus during that time while Des Moines County had 3.

“I’m very surprised by this spike that we’ve had just in August. For a while Lee County case numbers were relatively low compared to case counts in other counties,” said Michele Ross, Administrator of the Lee County Health Department.

“I think people are experiencing what I call quarantine fatigue. They’re tired of staying at home. They want to get out and try to return to their normal life.”

She is worried people have become lax about following the CDC guidelines to avoid spreading and contracting COVID-19:

  • Wear a mask in public places
  • Maintain social distancing
  • Avoid large gatherings
  • Wash hands frequently
  • Clean and disinfect common touch surfaces such as door knobs

“Take this seriously because it is spreading and we’re trying to keep our community transmission risk low,” Ross said. “Increased positivity rates have an impact on businesses, our schools, our work sites. The important message here is that we have to all work together. It takes everybody to help with these mitigation strategies.”

Ross said Lee County has asked the Iowa Department of Public Health for assistance to complete COVID-19 case investigations and contact tracing. She said nearly 40 other counties have also asked for the assistance.

“With the surge of the past month it’s been overwhelming so we felt like we needed the help,” Ross said.

She said the health department normally has one or two people who, in addition to their other duties, are trained to do contact tracing for communicable diseases. She said the county typically has around 25 such cases per year. 

Now, because of the pandemic, several more health department employees have been trained to do contact tracing, which Ross said takes time away from other programs and services. She said employees have been doing contact tracing seven days a week so they’re ready for a helping hand from the state.

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