COVID-19 illustration

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Note the spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a corona surrounding the virion, when viewed electron microscopically. A novel coronavirus, named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019. The illness caused by this virus has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Local hospitals, schools and assisted living facilities are taking precautions to prevent a potential outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Marion County.

According to a press release from the office of Governor Kim Reynolds, testing at Iowa’s State Hygienic Laboratory has indicated two additional positive cases of COVID-19 in the state. As of Thursday evening, this brings the state’s total to 16 positive cases.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) both cases are tied to the same Egyptian cruise as other positive cases. Both are older adults (61 - 80 years). One is from Johnson County, and one is from Carroll County. Both are recovering at home in isolation.

Pella Regional Health Center and Knoxville Hospital & Clinics have both released statements regarding visitor restrictions. Effective immediately, only primary caregivers are allowed at Pella Regional. Primary caregivers include parents, stepparents, legal guardians, spouses/significant others or “other defined” caregivers.

All caregivers are required to wash hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand foam/gel when entering or exiting a patient’s room. Caregivers must also be free from illness, including fever, cough, sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting or a runny nose.

At Knoxville Hospital & Clinics, visitors are restricted to two adult primary caregivers. They must also wash their hands with soap and water before and after entering a patient’s room, limit movement within the facility and be free of illness.

Superintendents and principals for Knoxville, Pella Community, Pella Christian, Melcher Dallas, Twin Cedars and Pleasantville school districts released a joint statement informing residents on precautions each district has and will continue to take.

“While our overarching objective is to keep students and staff members safe, we also acknowledge that we have a social responsibility to ensure the continuity of education for our students. The Marion County Health Department has asserted that the risk to students and staff is minimal at this time and they do not believe that the current situation warrants closing,” reads the statement.

The statement says the school districts are in constant communication with the Marion County Health Department (MCHD) and the Iowa Department of Public Health. A separate statement from Pella Christian Schools says if the number of absent students reaches 10 percent or higher, they are to notify MCHD to determine whether schools should close.

If families travel to an area the Center for Disease Control considers high-risk over spring break, Pella Christian Schools will require a 14-day quarantine before those students return to school, as recommended by the CDC. Current high-risk countries include China, Italy, Iran and South Korea.

Denise Lamphier, communications director at Central College, released the following statement to the Chronicle:

“Central continues to monitor the emerging global coronavirus situation with the health and safety of students, staff and faculty at the forefront. The college’s emergency management team continues contingency planning related to the potential disruption of activities (domestically and internationally) and the potential of an outbreak on campus. Central’s planning continues to be based on CDC guidelines.”

All four WesleyLife facilities in Pella are currently under visitor restrictions. Only caregivers and those with medical power of attorney who need to make decisions on a resident’s behalf or sign medical authorizations are allowed in facilities.

Lisa Ryan, WesleyLife director of communications, says an exception for residents who are nearing the end of their life will be made for loved ones. They will be screened for symptoms and limited to two visitors at a time.

Visitors are also questioned if they’ve recently gone on a cruise or traveled out of the country. Of the 10,000 residents WesleyLife serves across the state, Ryan says none have been tested positive for COVID-19.

“It’s tricky for us because our communities are very social places,” says Ryan. “We like people to visit, we like people to come spend time and take part in our programming. We know that it’s hard for older adults when we’re saying, ‘I know your daughter visits every Monday, but she can’t come this Monday.’”

Ryan says they’re suggesting other ways to stay in touch, like Skype, FaceTime and phone calls.

“We’re not trying to be cruel or difficult,” says Ryan. “We’re truly trying to keep people safe.”

To help prevent the spread of coronavirus, the CDC recommends the following:

  • Frequently wash your hands for 20 seconds or more with soapy water. If unavailable, use hand sanitizer. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

President of the American College of Emergency Physicians William Jaquis, MD, FACEP, also recommends not shaking hands and staying at least two to six feet away from others.

Emily Hawk can be reached at ehawk@pellachronicle.com or by calling the newsroom at 641-628-3882.

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