COVID-19: Black Hawk County Records First Death; 150 Total Cases
Local health officials have announced Black Hawk County's first death related to the coronavirus, along with 65 new cases.
The new figures were disclosed at a Thursday afternoon press briefing, held just hours after Gov. Kim Reynolds put stricter rules in place for northeast Iowa in an ongoing effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The new cases increase Black Hawk County's total to 150. County Health Director Dr. Nafissa Cisse Egbuonye said eight people are currently hospitalized with symptoms of COVID-19. She did not release any information on the person who died.
Thursday morning, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported 109 cases for Black Hawk County and no deaths. Egbuonye said the local numbers reported by the state are from the previous day. Moving forward, she plans to give day-of numbers whenever a local press conference is held.
Egbuonye attributed the increase in cases to an outbreak at the Tyson Foods meat processing plant in Waterloo. She declined to say how many cases were confirmed at the plant.
At her daily press briefing Thursday morning, Gov. Reynolds announced that 1,500 test kits were being sent to Black Hawk County to test workers at the Tyson plant. Any employee with symptoms can be checked for the corornavirus at UnityPoint-Allen Hospital, MercyOne or Peoples Health Clinic in Waterloo.
Tyson Foods shut down its pork plant in Columbus Junction April 6, due to an outbreak of the coronavirus. A beef processing plant in Tama is also closed. The governor said the state is not providing a running tally of how many workers at Iowa's 18 food processing plants have COVID-19, but plant managers are asked to notify state officials if at least 10 percent of the workforce is sickened by the virus.
Outbreaks have also occurred at nine long-term care facilities in Iowa, including the Bartels Lutheran Retirement Community in Waverly.
The spike in cases in Black Hawk County, combined with the confirmed outbreaks at nursing homes and meatpacking facilities, pushed the state's rating system to the point that triggered the governor to order stricter protective measures for 14 northeast Iowa counties through the end of the month.
Reynolds previously had banned all gatherings larger than 10 statewide. Now, in northeast Iowa, residents MUST do everything possible to stay six feet away from others in public. All gatherings for social, community, recreational, leisure or sporting activities will cease through April 30. With limited exceptions, residents can only gather with household members.
The governor's order includes the cities of Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Waverly, Oelwein, Cedar Rapids and Dubuque. Counties included in the order are Allamakee, Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Clayton, Delaware, Dubuque, Fayette, Grundy, Howard, Jones, Linn and Winneshiek.
The latest figures released by the Iowa Department of Public Health show 2,141 cases of COVID-19 in 82 of the state's 99 counties.
Note: Radio Iowa contributed to this story.