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Henry County's COVID surge follows state's pattern

MT. PLEASANT — Henry County Health Center Chief Executive Officer Robb Gardner said Iowa’s coronavirus cases “quieted down” over the summer before seeing a surge again in the last six weeks, which was a pattern Henry County followed.

Gardner provided a COVID-19 update at a hospital Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday afternoon.

He said the surge in the county was mostly contained in two isolated areas: the Mt. Pleasant Correctional Facility and the Christamore House.

Gardner said numbers are now trending downward, but the community must continue to be vigilant.

The hospital recently responded to the surge by tightening visitor policies. The CEO pointed out that as cases have risen so have hospitalizationa and a majority of positive cases are in people who are 40 years old or younger.

“People who are getting it are younger, and that’s something we need to pursue about how do we mitigate this with everyone in the population,” he said.

Gardner added regional health care providers and facilities continue to discuss mitigation strategies and believe the surge is related to mass gatherings. As winter approaches, he encouraged residents to get flu shots.

“That will be real important to get the flu vaccine because to have the combination of COVID and flu is going to be pretty impactful if that happens … that could stress the health care system even more so than when we were just facing COVID in isolation,” he said.

During the meeting, the board approved a bid from Winger Contracting for the facility’s chiller, cooling tower and air handling unit project. The original base bid estimation for the project was more than $2.5 million. Winger Contracting offered a $1.6 million base bid.

The health center’s chief financial officer David Muhs reported to the board that the hospital’s application for Accelerated and Advance Payment Programs through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was approved in the first week of September. The hospital received $6 million in advance payments.