Washington County care facilities want mask mandate from supervisors

Residents in long-term facilities suffer as positivity rate climbs

WASHINGTON — Long-term care facilities are circulating a petition for a mask mandate in the county, hoping to encourage the Board of Supervisors to act.

Susan Wellington and Chris Marshall with Halcyon House started the petition. The goal is to encourage the board to create a mask mandate and have the positivity rate decrease, Marshall said.

United Presbyterian Home and Pearl Valley in Washington, Parkview Manor in Wellman and Pleasantview Home in Kalona have partnered with Halcyon House to encourage the mandate.

Marshall said Halcyon House looks at the positivity rates in the county daily.

All of the counties in Iowa are in the red, or have a 14-day positivity rate greater than 10 percent. Washington has a positivity rate of more than 18 percent.

Wellington said many people may not think of the impact the virus has on a variety of different individuals.

With the positivity rate of more than 10 percent, Wellington said residents can only see visitors through windows.

“Right now our residents are even more isolated,” she said.

Residents have to eat meals in their rooms and socializing with other residents is restricted. The residents are getting less exercise because of the social isolation.

The high positivity rate affects others in addition to the residents.

Wellington said it puts stress on employees. There are three individuals staffing the COVID-19 isolation area.

“They have been working around the clock,” she said. “They don’t get days off.”

Some are sleeping at the facility in case they are needed.

Before starting the petition, Wellington said the pair hoped the governor would create a statewide mandate. While the governor increased requirements last week, it isn’t enough, according to Wellington.

Two or three weeks ago, Wellington and Marshall decided to act and start the petition.

At the facility, Marshall said they have seen masks work efficiently.

“We have had a couple of team members test positive two or three months ago, and we had no spread because they were very good about wearing masks and hand sanitizing,” she said.

Marshall said the masks may help decrease symptoms and decrease deaths.

No one likes wearing masks, she said.

The employees have to wear masks, shields, gloves and an isolation gown.

“It is hot, tiring and frustrating,” Marshall said. “But if it can help protect people, it’s worth it.”

The goal is to take the petition to the Board of Supervisors in the next few weeks. Marshall and Wellington hope having the signatures and the support of all long-term care facilities in the county will push the supervisors to act.