The Dubuque County Public Health Incident Management Team and Board of Supervisors have done good work keeping up a full-court press on the issues surrounding public health amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
From the White House to the Statehouse to the courthouse, elected leaders are grappling with unprecedented challenges as they attempt to strike a balance between keeping the economy moving and keeping citizens safe.
In many cases, these issues have become muddled by politics, so Americans are hearing two different approaches, depending on the political leanings of the speaker.
Dubuque County public health officials and elected leaders have steered clear of those issues and narrowed their focus to the pieces they can address, most pointedly in the area of testing. That has resulted in the county nearly doubling the number of tests completed in a matter of days. Samples will be taken from another 1,000 residents in the coming week in a second targeted testing drive, this time focusing on the staff of assisted-living and residential-care facilities in the county.
This push for testing will move Dubuque County in the right direction and sketch a more accurate picture of the virus spread.
There is a key role for citizens to play as well. As positive cases increase, the Visiting Nurse Association, and now the Iowa Department of Public Health, work on contact tracing, informing those who have come into contact with someone who has tested positive. Those individuals are advised to be tested and take extra precautions on interactions. After the first batch of testing, about 1,000 people were notified about contact with a positive case. Of those, only 314 were tested.
Because of the limited testing, it is likely some of the other nearly 700 attempted to get tested in some way but were not able to do so. It’s also likely a share of those folks just didn’t take any preventive steps. Public health officials tasked with doing notifications have had to reach out again to a majority of those people. Here’s the call to action: Anyone notified of trace contact should seek testing.
The state’s Test Iowa initiative was purchased in an effort to ramp up testing. While plans called for 3,000 tests per day, last week’s testing numbered just more than 3,000 for the whole week. For the program’s $26 million price tag, the state should be seeing more progress. Gov. Kim Reynolds says efforts to increase testing should be evident this week. That will be a welcome change.
Another key player in the Dubuque County public health response has been Crescent Community Health Center. Typically, Crescent provides medical and dental care for the community’s under- or uninsured, among other patients. In the pandemic, the facility has gone into crisis response mode, setting up modules for COVID-19 symptom screening, for general upper respiratory tests, and soon, one for COVID-19 testing. Staff has reached out to patients, educating them to reduce their chances of getting the coronavirus and advising those who seem to have contracted it. They provide translators for Spanish-speaking patients as well as the Marshallese and other Pacific Island communities.
Crescent long has helped fill a void in our health care community. During this crisis, its presence has been critical.
While “flatten the curve” has become a mantra of this pandemic, it’s difficult to assess what the curve looks like when the assessment is dependent upon testing. The Dubuque County team deserves credit for proactively bringing more testing to the area.