Health department hiring staff to keep up with Covid-19 infections

By Adam Strunk

The Harvey County Health Department down graded the county’s current ability to handle COVID-19.

Director Lynette Redington spoke on the status of the county’s health care system and ability to handle the disease at a press conference on July 10. She ranked that ability a six out of 10. Last week, she ranked that ability at 7.5.

“We’ve had some changes since that time, obviously,” she said.

She said Newton Medical Center’s capacity has decreased a little bit.

“I wouldn’t say they are overrun at this time,” she said. “They have a plan, and they are implementing that plan.

At the time the county was up to 63 confirmed cases, a 47-case increase over three weeks with two Harvey County residents hospitalized. On Saturday the County announced confirmation of 18 more infections, bringing the active case total to 35, and total number of cases to 81.

“We’ve also noticed, for contract tracing, the health department is needing a bit more manpower, person-power; we’re adding additional part-time staff on,” she said.

Redington said the amount of tests being conducted locally, as well as nationally, has increased, and private labs have become swamped, increasing the time it takes for them to return test results, now with a wait between five and nine days.

“If you do have symptoms and you are getting tested, please go and quarantine yourself until you are getting test results back,” Redington said.

She said the good news was that there have been no new deaths.

She also said that the county’s ability to handle the cases would increase once health department staffing was increased.

“For contact tracing, the health department is needing person power, and we’re adding staff,” she said. “We’re seeing testing increasing, but those private labs are taking five to seven to nine days for results to come back.”

Redington was asked at what point the county would consider moving backward on their re-opening plan.

The county plan is currently in the “phase out” phase, which has no regulations regarding businesses or gatherings.

She said she discussed the matter with Public Health Officer Doyle Detweiler, and he would rather not move backward on the plan.

“His recommendation is to have a mask mandate,” she said. “He does not feel we need to move to phase three at this point,” she said, adding that he wanted to see how a mask mandate would work.

The county will consider a mask mandate at its upcoming Tuesday meeting, she said.

Redington took time to explain what the recent announcement about community spread meant.

She said it meant that health officials are unable to figure out where people came in contact with a COVID-19 case.

Currently, 18 cases out of the county’s 63 cases have been untraceable. She said, in some cases, it could mean people are contracting COVID-19 from unreported cases in the county.

“I would think it’s encouragement to take preventative measures,” she said, adding that people should keep six feet of distance from each other, wash hands, and wear masks.