District mask policy set for grades 5-12

Sioux Center High School science teacher Joy Hurst said at the Sioux Center School District Board of Education meeting Monday, Aug. 17, she’s also a coach, teacher leader, mother to three children in the district and thankful for the district’s implementation of a mask policy.

REGIONAL—Sioux County health officials are asking the county’s schools and colleges to mandate masks and implement other preventive measures to limit spread of the coronavirus in the county.

Sioux County is experiencing a COVID-19 “positivity rate” of 30 percent, higher than any other county in Iowa. Positivity is the percent of people who test positive among those tested for COVID-19.

To help slow community spread, health-care leaders are not only urging schools to enact measures including masks and physical distancing but all churches, businesses, residents and visitors in the county to observe them as well — with the ultimate goal to protect those most vulnerable to becoming ill and requiring hospitalization.

Administrators from the four Sioux County health systems met with leaders from each of the county schools and colleges via Zoom to discuss the status of the coronavirus outbreak in the region on Friday, Sept. 25.

The meeting was called to provide educators information regarding the status of hospitalizations in the county and the region, and to urge the schools to adopt or continue to maintain measures to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

Each of the four Sioux County hospitals — Hawarden Regional Healthcare, Hegg Health Center in Rock Valley, Sioux Center Health and Orange City Area Health System — are currently caring for COVID-positive inpatients.

Some of the more acute patients who would typically be transferred to larger hospitals in Sioux City and Sioux Falls, SD, and are being cared for locally due to full capacity in those hospitals.

Sioux Falls-area hospitals have assured us that they continue to accept critical COVID patients and it is well within their ability to do so.

In addition, each of the county health systems is experiencing some level of staffing challenges because of employees being quarantined.

While the county health system administrators expressed confidence that the majority of COVID patients can receive the care they need in their local hospitals, they are asking for county schools and colleges to help slow the spread of the virus during this outbreak.

The specific “asks” include:

  • Mandate facial coverings/masks at every possible level to help reduce the viral load/spread.
  • Maintain recommended physical distancing protocols in all indoor facilities.
  • Continue to promote hand hygiene, and measures to sanitize/clean surfaces.

Education leaders also were asked to adhere to public health guidelines and to set a good example in their communities.

Hospital administrators affirmed that close contact during indoor activities presents the highest risk for spread of the virus. While that always has been the case — and public health guidelines have, for some time, included the use of face masks and social distancing — the current capacity situation in county and regional hospitals calls for a more urgent response.

State epidemiologists have looked at the positivity rate of COVID-19 cases in Sioux County and have not identified a specific source for the outbreak, according to a joint announcement by county hospitals.

This article has been modified to add additional information from a representative for the Sioux County hospitals.