SIOUX CENTER—As area residents prepare for Thanksgiving and the holiday rush that follows, Sioux Center leaders are urging residents to consider plans that help slow the spread of COVID-19.
“Thanksgiving is an opportunity for us to be thankful, and traditionally it is a time we gather with loved ones, sharing good company and food,” said Sioux Center Health CEO Cory Nelson. “This has been a unique year, and with the coronavirus continuing to spread, we are asking everyone to consider holiday celebrations that may be outside our usual traditions as well.”
Nelson urges residents to follow holiday recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help protect loved ones and the community.
Residents are urged to consider adding new traditions focused on gratitude and encouragement, especially in light of the ongoing impact of this pandemic on mental health.
“We have seen this spirit in Sioux Center from day one, where people are encouraging one another, from chalk murals, yard signs and window art, to a thousand other things less visible,” said Sioux Center mayor David Krahling. “Sioux Center, do not grow weary in caring for one another. Especially this holiday season, find safe ways to reach out to people, check on neighbors and let people know they are loved.”
As of Monday, Sioux Center Health had just six COVID-19 patients of various conditions.
Sioux Center Health CEO Cory Nelson is thankful for the low numbers despite Sioux County having a 30 percent 14-day average and the state being in its third wave of increased COVID-19 cases.
Nelson attributes part of the third spike in the pandemic to the state moving more fully into its indoor season.
“There are more people gathering, whether it’s families or small groups of friends in those indoor, closed spaces. That all makes a difference,” he said. “And we’re at a point where people are kind of getting COVID fatigue. It gets hard to put that mask on every day, hard to make sure we’re continuing to practice those social distancing principals, especially when we’re up against the challenges on the mental health side of things. We’re trying to find that balance of ways to connect with people emotionally and socially but still remain safe so we don’t transmit the virus unnecessarily.”
Regarding the COVID-19 patients Sioux Center Health has, Nelson said some now and in the past few years have had fairly significant respiratory issues but many of those individuals typically have preexisting conditions or tendencies, which means they have a harder time with COVID when they do contract it.
Nelson assures residents that helicopter service, which is used for transfers out of the hospital or traumas, has not increased due to the coronavirus.
“Perhaps people are noticing it more because they’re not doing as many other things, but that’s been going on as normal,” he said, noting emergency room numbers have been normal as well.
Sioux Center Health’s COVID call center, however, has seen an increase in calls with 423 last week — the highest since the third week of September when the center received 588 calls.
The respiratory clinic had 131 patients last week, which was also the highest since the third week of September.
Though Sioux Center Health’s hospitalizations haven’t gone up, Nelson said he’s still concerned for all of N’West Iowa.
“We have seen an uptick in areas like Rock Rapids, Hawarden, the lakes area and Sheldon,” Nelson said. “Add to that a lot of the areas have additional staff with community exposure who are out. That’s been a real challenge for the whole area. We’re really trying to manage keeping our workforce safe along with being able to take care of an increasing regional case load.”
Sioux Center Health’s positivity rate is 22.9 percent having tested 1,986 people since the third week of March, 603 of which have been positive cases.
The Test Iowa site on the hospital’s campus, which opened the last week of September, had a 32.3 percent positivity rate as of Monday, having completed 1,208 tests with 388 being positive.
Nelson said there’s good news for Sioux Center Health’s long-term care facilities though where a total of two Royale Meadows residents, seven Crown Pointe residents and 10 long-term care staff total have tested positive this year.
There were 100 COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities across the state, as of Monday.
“When you look at our numbers and looking at what some of the challenges are of keeping our health care workers able to take care of people, we really need to continue holding the line and making sure people are taking safety precautions seriously because one large family or group gathering could really transmit the virus rapidly,” Nelson said. “The outbreaks are happening more in those larger family events — weddings, funerals and other types of gatherings.”
Nelson is highly supportive of the schools, churches and businesses urging residents to wear masks.
“We continue to be very thankful for the support in the community and want to reiterate that it’s going to take everybody working together to help us,” Nelson said. “In a time that has highest hospitalizations and highest ICU utilizations in the state that we’ve had to date — 270 in ICU across Iowa on Monday when it was closer to 50 a week or so ago — and we see that increase remaining for another few weeks, working together can help keep those numbers down.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is with people in your immediate household or with a virtual gathering with others. For those planning to spend Thanksgiving with others outside their household, the CDC recommends these steps:
- Consider limiting number of guests gathering
- Wear a mask and safely store it in a pocket, purse or bag while eating and drinking
- Stay 6 feet away from others who do not live with you
- Wash hands often and use sanitizer when unable to wash hands
- Avoid going in and out of areas food is being prepared
- Use single-use options, like salad dressing packets, and disposable dishes and utensils
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces
- Avoid touching your mask, eyes, nose and mouth
- For those shopping on Black Friday, consider visiting favorite stores online or using curbside pickup for purchased items.