Public health officials in Dubuque County are dealing with a rise in COVID-19 cases, as local governments, hospitals, emergency managers, and others work to respond to the pandemic.

The White House task force calls the city and county a “red zone.” Mary Rose Corrigan, the city of Dubuque’s public health specialist, says one challenge is confusion about when people who’ve had COVID-19 can go back to work. A few companies tried, erroneously, to require a negative COVID test.

“Research has shown us that people continue to test positive, even though they’re not symptomatic or contagious,” Corrigan says. “We’re trying to get the word out to worksites and others that those isolation guidelines are what they need to follow.” More than 15-hundred cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Dubuque County, along with 29 deaths.

Many people in the Dubuque area travel between Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin for work. Corrigan says others who take overnight trips should make decisions based on each situation.  “If a person from Illinois comes over to Dubuque and goes for a walk in the woods at a state park, there’s not much risk there,” Corrigan says. “If they come over to Dubuque and they go to a bar and spend the night at two restaurants and four different bars that are crowded, that’s a different risk.”

Corrigan says assess the risk and make contingency plans ahead of time, then follow your plan if the situation changes. One long-term care center in the county has had an outbreak and the Public Health Incident Management Team is working with all area nursing homes, which can now order their own testing, but it’s hard on residents as they can’t have visitors.

Corrigan says the team is also providing education and information to school districts which are now deciding how to hold classes.

(By Michelle O’Neill, WVIK, Rock Island)