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COVID-19 cases continue to multiply

Webster County has gone from 132 to 608 cases in last month

Webster County reached 608 COVID-19 cases Thursday, just 10 days after it surpassed the 400 mark, according to Webster County Public Health. The new number has increased by triple-digits since last Friday.

Cases in the county have more than quadrupled in the last month. On June 24, Webster County had just 132 cases. Many cases have been attributed to an outbreak at the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility.

On June 24, the county had marked one COVID-19 death. Now, the toll stands at five.

Cases fall into the following age categories:

• Children (age 0-17): 27

• Adult (age 18-40): 319

• Middle-age adult (age 41-60): 180

• Older adult (age 61-80): 71

• Elderly adult (age 81+): 11

In a statement Thursday, Webster County Public Health said the largest increase has been in the adult category, attributing 292 cases (48%) to the prison.

In addition to the increase in the adult category, the middle-age adult category has ballooned considerably as well, multiplying over five times from 34 a month ago to 180 Thursday. Older adults went from 16 to 71 in the same time frame.

A total of 453 cases have been classified as recovered.

Gov. Kim Reynolds on Thursday introduced the Step Up Mask Up Iowa campaign to encourage Iowans to wear a mask to stop the spread of COVID-19. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control started advising the public to wear masks in public over three months ago to control the exponential spread of the novel coronavirus by containing particles and droplets the virus attaches to, expelled primarily through breathing, coughing, sneezing and talking.

Iowa is in a shrinking minority of states where wearing a mask in public is generally not required. As of Thursday, 28 states have enacted some type of order requiring the general public to wear masks.

“COVID-19 is far from over, and I don’t want to go backwards,” Reynolds told Iowans in a recent video address and Tweet. “Whether it’s wearing a mask, social distancing, practicing good hygiene, or staying home when we’re sick, these simple steps continue to be the best defense against the virus.”

Even in states where no law or public health order for masks exists, retailers have started to take it upon themselves to require shoppers to wear masks for the safety of other shoppers and employees. In Fort Dodge, Walmart, Target, Aldi, CVS, Walgreens, Kohl’s and Mendards require shoppers to wear masks.

Hy-Vee began a campaign this week of distributing masks at the door to strongly encourage shoppers to wear them, stopping short of requiring them.

Without public health strategies that include wearing masks, shields, social distancing and aggressive contact tracing to mitigate the spread of the virus, the virus’ reproductive rate will continue on an upward trajectory, according to Dr. Megan Srinivas, an infectious disease specialist at Community Health Center and faculty member at the University of North Carolina’s School of Medicine.

“It’s not too late by any means to start doing things like a statewide mask mandate and get cases under control,” she said, noting that widespread mask and shield use in public now could help bring the virus’ trajectory down before children go back to school in August. “Wearing a mask or shield has proven to be very effective at reducing that reproductive (rate).”

Iowa surpassed 40,000 COVID-19 cases Thursday, as it marked 815 deaths.

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