Companies on high alert; no COVID-19 cases locally

As of Thursday morning, Marion County Emergency Management Department Head Jeff Anderson says there are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county.

However, companies in the area have been on high-alert amidst the outbreak in the state. On Wednesday evening, Pella Corporation’s Public Relations and Brand Communications Manager Nicolle Picray said the company had sent an employee home who had symptoms consistent with the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Picray says the company has asked the employee to self-isolate for 14 days as recommended by the Center for Disease Control. Additionally, the company has thoroughly disinfected the work area and any other areas the employee may have come in contact with. Employees in the vicinity have also been notified, and those who worked in close proximity of the employee have also been sent home.

“We’re doing everything that we can to ensure the health and safety of our team members to do our part to prevent the spread not only through our facilities, but through our community,” says Picray. “We want to make sure we have a healthy and safe work environment as this situation continues to rapidly change.”

Picray says company production will continue at this time.

On Wednesday, Marion County Public Health Director Kim Dorn said individuals need to keep in mind that there are other illnesses circulating throughout the population, such as the “regular” coronavirus, or a cold. It is a common virus that causes infection in your nose, sinuses and upper throat. She says an individual can exhibit these symptoms, which are similar to COVID-19, and not have that specific strain. According to Dorn, COVID-19 is only one of the seven specific strains of the coronavirus.

“We need to make sure that people understand that just because somebody says they’re a confirmed case, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are,” said Dorn.

“There is a specific test for COVID-19, and there are specific criteria in place in order to test for it. When we have lab-confirmed cases, it will be announced,” continued Dorn.

On Saturday, the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced community spread in Iowa. Dorn said community spread is when individuals have been infected with COVID-19 in an area but cannot specifically identify the source of infection.

“This is a big deal, and it changes how we’re going to approach things going forward,” said Dorn.

The Marion County Board of Supervisors held a press conference with representatives from Knoxville, Pella, Knoxville Hospital & Clinics and Pella Regional Health Center Wednesday afternoon.

“The responsibility to help control the spread of [COVID-19] is job one of county officials,” said Supervisor Chair Mark Raymie. “Everything else is speculation.”

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

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