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New cases, positivity rate down significantly from end of 2020 rates

Though the death toll has increased, Webster County Health Department (WCHD) data over the last two weeks has shown progress, with new COVID-19 cases and positivity rates down significantly from the last two months of 2020.

As of Thursday, Webster County’s positivity rate was 5%, with 36 people under public health isolation.

From Feb. 12 to Thursday, a total of 49 new cases were diagnosed. The highest daily increase was 13 cases; the lowest was three cases.

For public health, those numbers seem to be part of a downward trend over the last two months — a welcome relief after many single days with exponentially higher case numbers than the recent two-week total.

“We started to see the beginning of the downward trend in cases around the end of 2020 and it has continued into 2021,” said Kelli Bloomquist, WCHD public information officer. “We are still seeing positive COVID tests and exposures, but not to the extent that we were seeing in September, October and November.”

As long as the public continues to wear masks, social distance and stay home while sick, Bloomquist believes that trend will continue, particularly as more become vaccinated.

As of Thursday, Webster County has accumulated 4,904 cases since the pandemic began.

The death toll has gone from 64 to 86 in the less than two months since New Year’s Day, though some deaths may have occurred before Jan. 1 since Iowa Department of Public Health reporting typically has a delay of up to a week between a death and its reflection in data.

For 72 of the deaths, 84%, COVID-19 itself was the direct cause.

Since spikes in November that prompted alarm among public health and hospital officials, total case increases have slowed:

∫Nov. 7: 2,274 cases.

∫Dec. 5: 4,211 cases.

∫Dec. 19: 4,498 cases.

∫Jan. 1: 4,755 cases.

∫Feb. 25: 4,904 cases.

The 14-day positivity rate that spiraled out of control in the fall has also shown significant progress. This marker indicates the proportion of those tested who receive positive results:

∫Nov. 7: 21%

∫Dec. 5: 20.1%

∫Dec. 19: 16.1%

∫Jan. 1: 13.7%

∫Feb. 25: 5%

“The decrease can be attributed to many things, including an increase in mask wearing, social distancing, staying home when you’re sick, the availability of testing and now vaccinations, the understanding of quarantine guidance and the adaption of people’s behaviors that once may have increased the passing of germs,” said Bloomquist.

Webster County passed a public mask mandate on Dec. 22, bringing the entire county in line with a similar mask mandate passed by the Fort Dodge City Council on Nov. 23. Though the city’s mask mandate has since expired, the county’s remains in effect.

As of Thursday, 7,164 vaccine doses have been administered in the county, roughly 60% of them from Moderna.

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