The Richardson Independent School District in Texas is among the many districts across the state defying the governor’s mask mandate ban to require masks for students. (AP Photo/LM Otero via The Conversation)
Less than a week before Des Moines Public School students return to class, the Polk County Emergency Operations Center issued a dire update on COVID-19.
“Our hospitals are full. Our health care workers are tired,” said Helen Eddy, director of the Polk County Health Department. “This is what keeps me up at night.”
Eddy emphasized the risk of children contracting the COVID-19 virus. Less than half of Polk County teens eligible to be vaccinated — 43.5% — have received the vaccine.
“Children spread COVID-19 within their households, and those family members can then spread it in the community,” Eddy said. “We will not stop transmission in the community without stopping transmission among kids.”
Polk County health officials urged everyone to get vaccinated and wear masks in public, indoor settings, including schools. School districts are not allowed to mandate the use of face masks under current Iowa law.
Surge of infections continue
Iowa is currently in its sixth week of a COVID-19 surge. Polk County epidemiologist Dr. Meghan Schaeffer estimated that the state has another two weeks of the surge before cases stabilize, although large gatherings and a return to school may complicate the trajectory.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that Iowa’s COVID-19 cases were up nearly 70% over the past two weeks. Hospitalizations were up 77% in the same time period.
But even if the numbers stabilize, that doesn’t mean a return to the relatively low rates of the early summer.
“Two states that are closest to us but that started their surge about a month before us, Arkansas and Missouri, have stabilized, albeit at a very high level still, just under where they were at almost a year ago in November,” Schaeffer said.
The majority of infections in the Midwest are caused by the more contagious delta variant.
Too soon to say if State Fair was a superspreader
Schaeffer noted that large gatherings and holidays, like July Fourth, tend to be followed by an uptick in positive cases, and then an uptick in hospitalizations.
But she said it was “definitely impossible to say” yet whether the Iowa State Fair, which has drawn nearly 590,000 guests so far, will cause an increase in COVID-19 cases in Polk County. It takes several days after an event for people to display symptoms, get tested, and in severe cases, be hospitalized with COVID-19.
How should kids stay safe at school? Polk County health officials encouraged the following: What should adults do?
How should kids stay safe at school?
Polk County health officials encouraged the following:
What should adults do?
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