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Linn County jumps from 3 COVID-19 cases to 71 in 9 days, with peak yet to hit

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LINN COUNTY, Iowa (KWWL) -- Linn County now has the largest number of COVID-19 cases in the state of Iowa, with 29 more cases announced today and two deaths.

There are 424 cases in Iowa at this time, 71 of them in Linn County where there have also been 2 deaths, the most in the state. (Click here for the most recent number from IDPH)

The county avoided a case for nearly 21 days as case after case was identified in neighboring Johnson County. However, Linn County has now overtaken the state with the most cases, and health officials said it will continue to grow.

21 of the cases in Linn are associated with Heritage Specialty Care in Cedar Rapids, a long-term care facility, according to Gov. Kim Reynold's office.

That's where two workers and four residents tested positive for the virus last week.

At a Linn County news conference today, Supervisor, Stacey Walker said the number of positive cases is likely not representative of the actual number of people infected with COVID-19. (You can watch the entire conference here)

"We know that these numbers do not represent what is truly happening in our community, given that testing is limited and many folks experiencing mild symptoms are being encouraged to self-isolate at home," said Walker, "The virus is spreading through our community at a pretty good click. Although we are unable to know exactly just how many are infected, we should assume that the number is high and will continue to grow."

The virus first hit the county on March 21st when officials announced the first three positive cases in Linn.

March 22nd another case was confirmed, March 23rd two more cases were confirmed.

On March 27th the county hit double digits with 10 new cases, and the trend continued into March 28th with 14 more cases.

Linn County Public Health Clinical Branch Supervisor, Heather Meador said the increase in positive cases was expected especially as the department has dedicated five employees to contact trace, to help determine where a person became infected.

"When we have a case that is positive in Linn County, for our Linn County residents, we contact that individual. We talk to them about where have you been, who have you been around? Your family members, people at work, others? And then we reach out to those individuals," said Meador.

The virus is considered widespread in Iowa, according to the CDC.

Meador said community spread is currently happening in Linn County and pleaded with the public to stay home unless absolutely necessary to stop the spread.

"Children need to avoid sleepovers, playdates, and outing with friends," said Meador, "We understand that this is difficult however, children could possibly take the virus from one household to another."

The worst yet, the outbreak has not yet peaked here in Iowa or the county. While the date is unknown, Dr. Tony Myers with Mercy Medical Center said if the rate of infection continues area hospitals could be overwhelmed in just two to three weeks.

"What happens in the next 10 to 14 days, how much we can prevent each other and ourselves from becoming infected is going to determine where that peak is, and how bad it is in three to four weeks," said Myers.

What would a peak look like? According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, it could be nearly 140 deaths in Iowa by the end of May.

Dr. Myers announced that all staff and employees at Mercy will begin to wear masks beginning tomorrow to help protect the community.

Meanwhile, Linn County Public Health continues to urge anyone who feels ill to stay home even if they're experiencing very mild symptoms.

More COVID-19 information and response policies can be found on the Linn Area Partners Active in Disaster page, here.

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Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids

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