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About 20% of hospital beds are available in Region 5 in the State of Iowa — about 455, according to Regional Medical Coordination Center data. But bed availability is not the problem hospitals face, said Clinton County Community Health Manager Michele Cullen during her weekly COVID report Monday.

CLINTON — “I don’t have a lot of change from Thursday except for an increase in numbers,” said Clinton County Community Health Manager Michele Cullen during her weekly COVID-19 report.

The total number of positive cases in the county rose 336 from Thursday, Cullen told the Clinton County Board of Supervisors on Monday morning. “That is a total of 2,651.”

On Sunday, 98 tests resulted in 38 positives, Cullen said. “So you can see our positivity rate continues to go up.”

Earlier this month, Clinton County reported a 14.9% positivity rate. That rate was 29.5% Monday, Cullen said.

Schools in Clinton County are requesting waivers from in-person schooling from the state, Cullen told the Supervisors Monday morning, not because students are ill, but because staff is diminished.

“Most of our schools are having quite a few staff test positive,” Cullen said. Other staff members may be home because they have been exposed to COVID or because they have children in 14-day quarantine and the parent has to stay home with the child, she said.

Schools are extending their Thanksgiving breaks or going to remote learning around the holiday, Cullen said.

“They’re trying to take into consideration that people will probably be gathering on Thanksgiving,” Cullen said. They want to give the virus enough time to appear and avoid close-contact spread in schools.

Cullen reported two deaths in the county from COVID in the last few days, one in a nursing home and one in a hospital.

About 276 residents were hospitalized in Region 5 Thursday, Cullen said. On Sunday that number was 313. Region 5 of the Iowa Preparedness Service Areas includes Jackson, Clinton, Scott, Muscatine, Cedar and 11 other counties.

About 20% of hospital beds are available in the Region — about 455, according to Regional Medical Coordination Center data. But bed availability is not the problem hospitals face, Cullen said. The problem is staffing.

Staff absences include workers who are isolating because they’ve tested positive for COVID, those who are in quarantine because they’ve been identified as close contacts and those who are in quarantine because of their children, Cullen said.

Some staff members may have to stay home with children who are not in school due to the pandemic.

Hospitals are eliminating elective procedures to free staff up for increased hospitalizations, Cullen said.

The COVID outbreak at The Alverno in Clinton continues, Cullen told the Supervisors Monday morning, and Wheatland reported a positive COVID test Friday.

Nursing homes are required by the state and by Medicare to test every resident every week, Cullen said Monday afternoon. They maintain close contact with the county health department and with the state.

Asked why nursing homes, which are isolating, using recommended personal protective equipment and following health department guidelines, are experiencing COVID outbreaks, Cullen offered no explanation.

“That’s a good question,” she said.

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