COVID-19 in Hancock County: “It’s going to get worse”

Rebecca Peter

GARNER - Hancock County EMS Director Andy Buffington shared some grim news with the Hancock County Board Supervisors on Monday regarding the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the county.

It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Since October, Hancock County has seen a dramatic surge in coronavirus cases with a daily positivity rate of about 24 percent.

As of Monday, Hancock County recorded 686 total COVID-19 cases since March. 

“Our recovery rate as of two months ago was near 90 percent. This morning we’re at 46 percent,” he told supervisors.

“In the first 16 days in November - 251 cases – so almost 37 percent of the cases in Hancock County have happened in the last 16 days,” Buffington said. “It’s going to get worse which means there going be more people that we know, that we work with, community members we know, will be going to the hospital. Hopefully not, but some could perish from this.”

“The hospitals are at max capacity. This morning 85 people are in the hospital due to COVID. That's in our 12-county region. Essentially that’s Mercy One.”

“Two weeks ago today there were 39 people in the hospital because of COVID-19. Today it’s 85.”

Buffington noted that only one county in the State of Iowa is under 10 percent daily positivity rate and that’s Ringgold. Jones County is among the top due with a 51 percent daily positivity rating due to a prison outbreak.

He reported that Garner-Hayfield-Ventura has gone to a “hybrid” plan holding school. “I know West Hancock has looked at it as well,” he said. “We’re trying to work with them as much as they need us to.”

 “Like any of the schools, they’re doing as much as they possibly can.”

He highlighted the latest public health measures put out by Governor Kim Reynolds last week.

 “I don’t know where this is going to go,” he continued. “I honestly don’t. You heard about the ‘fall surge.’ I was hoping that wasn’t going to come true, but obviously it did. It's worse than we anticipated.”

As far as the additional mitigation measures at the courthouse, Buffington did suggest adding more hand sanitizing stations for people to use. While not necessarily a proponent of mask mandates, he supports people wearing facial masks.

 “However, it needs to be multifaceted,” he said. “If you’re going to mandate masks, you need to mandate people washing their hands. You need to mandate along with that, if someone is ill that they do not come to work.”

He acknowledged there is the financial aspect that could create hardship for some.

He also acknowledged that the virus reacts differently on the human body. 

“You have no idea,” he said.

He didn’t want to reach the point of having to shut down the courthouse again. While the courthouse doesn’t have “tons of foot traffic,” from the point of view of businesses, “this is critical.”

“Those businesses had razor thin margins before all this started,” he commented.

“The biggest thing is it’s going to have to be a comprehensive mitigation approach. It’s individuals that’s going to make this successful.”



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