Story County Board of Health unanimously approves COVID-19 recommendations

David Mullen
Staff Writer
Story County's Board of Health unanimously approved their COVID-19 mitigation recommendations during a special meeting on Thursday. File photo

In wake of a current spike in coronavirus cases throughout Story County, the county’s Board of Health unanimously approved the finalized version of their mitigation recommendations in an attempt to reduce the spread of the virus throughout the county.

Prior to Thursday’s meeting Story County Board of Health Chair Dr. John Paschen said that the board received at least 10 emails from residents opposed to the board’s recommendations.

Lisa Heddens, a member of the county’s board of supervisors and ex-officio member of the board of health will present these guidelines to the Story County Board of Supervisors in an upcoming meeting.

“With the current rise in cases in Story County, we strongly recommend these guidelines are followed,” said Paschen during Thursdays meeting.We fully understand that what we are proposing is difficult and also that no mitigation plan is foolproof. However, if these principles are followed, we can get and keep this virus under control until the availability of a vaccine.”

Paschen added as a county board of health, “our duties include the protection of public health of the residents of Story County; our recommendations are made in light of what is best for the public’s health, and we stand by our recommendations.”

The recommendations target multiple institutions such as businesses, social and religious gatherings, daycares, schools and Iowa State University.

Some of the recommendations that will be presented to the Story County Board of Supervisors include:

  • Businesses to require all staff members to wear face covers
  • Hosts of large social or religious gatherings to assure attendees adhere to social distancing guidelines and will wear face coverings throughout the event
  • Teachers and daycare staff to wear face coverings and stagger lunch times
  • Iowa State University to enforce mitigation principles when off campus and when using mass transit

The board is also asking that each schools, daycares and events and religious gatherings to take the contactless temperatures of each participant.

One of the larger recommendations include requesting Iowa State University prohibits spectators at fall sporting events including football games this year. However, despite these requests, Iowa University announced plans to fill Jack Trice Stadium at 50% capacity on Wednesday.

“As guided by the Governor, the CDC, Iowa Department of Public Health and other state and federal health experts, the current plan is for a 50% capacity limit for events at Jack Trice Stadium, including football. Additional mitigation strategies will be used to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread such as physical distancing, face coverings, electronic ticketing and crowd management designed to reduce fan congestion and contact,” Wendy Wintersteen told the Iowa State Community in a release on the university’s website.

While board members applauded Iowa State’s efforts to enforce face coverings worn by all students and faculty members, board members do not agree with the university’s decision on sporting events.

“I think it’s a terribly wrong decision to allow fans to spectate major sporting events this fall,” Paschen told the Tribune. “The [U.S. Centers Disease Control and Prevention] would classify a football game (as) the highest risk event that could be held and spread the disease.”

“The University put out a statement about how they care about the community and want to be members of the community, if they’re true to their word, they need to cancel spectators at fall sports. If they don’t, that just says that their document that they put out [isn’t true and] they don’t care a rip about us.”

On Monday, members of the Story County Board of Health said they believe large events such as football games will not be safe to the public.

“We cannot think of anyway these events can be made even remotely safe with the masses of people from throughout Iowa, and other states, who routinely attend these events. Please do it for the health of our community, Paschen said during the board’s meeting on Monday.

On Thursday, health officials reported an additional 29 cases of COVID-19 throughout Story County. Since the beginning of March, nearly 450 cases have been reported within the county, as cases and hospitalizations throughout the state began to decline.

“We were doing really well in Story County until June 1 or 2, and we can get there again,” Paschen told the Tribune. “If we follow these guidelines we can get this virus under control until a vaccine is released.”

And although Gov. Kim Reynolds extended the Emergency Proclamation order for another 30 days on Thursday which alters the level of enforcement the board has, but Paschen says at least their guidelines are out there for the public.

“One thing we learn as a physician is, all we really give is advice and if they don’t take it, they don’t,” Paschen told the Tribune. “But they can never [say] that they weren’t told.”