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As Johnson County COVID cases continue to rise, leaders urge public to do their part

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JOHNSON COUNTY, Iowa (KWWL) -- COVID-19 cases are back on the rise again in Johnson County over the last seven days after weeks of dwindling new positive cases.

According to the state dashboard, 46 new cases were reported yesterday, June 24th, the highest new case report since April. (click here for the most up to date data)

New COVID-19 cases in Johnson County as of 6/25

Today, county leaders addressed the public about the troubling sight of case increases and what they can do as part of 'Project Better Together'.

In this new wave of positive cases Johnson County Public Health Director Dave Koch and UIHC's Chief Executive Officer Suresh Gunasekaran said a new population is catching the virus, young people 20 to 25-years-old.

"We're at a very very critical moment, a pivotal point, if you will, where we're seeing a very large spike in cases in Johnson County," Genasekaran said.

Just as COVID-19 cases seemed to dwindle in the first Iowa county hit by the virus, this week has proved otherwise as new cases are back on the rise.

According to JCPH however, this time it's not being spread in factories or places of work but rather by young people out gathering.

"Oftentimes these individuals have milder symptoms, less hospitalizations, but the important aspect to remember is that these are also individuals that are working in our long term care facilities, working in our hospitals, working in our daycares, visiting their parents, visiting their grandparents, and oftentimes unknowingly potentially spreading the virus," said Koch.

The spike is happening a little more than a month before the University of Iowa will welcome back 32,000 students. University of Iowa Spokesman Rod Lehnertz said they're working to ensure the university is doing everything to mitigate the spread.

"Every student, every faculty member every staff member and every visitor will wear a mask or face covering when entering a university building, and when engaging in a laboratory, or classroom gatherings," Lehnertz said.

Leaders from the business community to government officials were united in their message today, it's up the individuals. Each speaker echoing what people do, whether they cover their faces and stay 6-feet apart matters.

"We see that there has not been as much social distancing and as much compliance with face coverings. As we want to see. And I will tell you that if this trend continues for a few more weeks or a few more months we will lose the ability to control this situation," Gunasekaran said.

Two people in the business community including Ben Smart, executive chef at Big Grove, Pullman, and St. Burch also spoke about what they're doing to mitigate risks such as taking temperature checks for employees and paying for sick leave to incentivize not coming to work sick.

"We've got to do these simple, simple things because I agree I do not think a lot of our businesses will be able to survive another shut down so please be safe wear your mask," Smart said.

Koch added disease prevention experts and contact tracers are working 7-days a week to try to get ahead of the spread. He asked anyone contacted by JCPH to get back to them as soon as possible.

He also added business owners should not hesitate to reach out to the county's public health department for a review of its re-opening protocols.

Click here for more information about COVID-19 from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

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Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids

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