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In the face of a growing threat from Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, Polk County residents have called the Polk County Health Department with questions about COVID-19 and have sought COVID-19 test kits, a spokesperson for the county said.
“We have seen an increase especially after the Fourth of July holiday,” said Nola Aigner Davis, Polk County’s public health communications officer.
She has some advice for residents.
“COVID-19 is not going away. If you are sick, stay home. If you are waiting for results from a COVID-19 test, stay home,” she said.
Aigner Davis added: “We all have someone that we love or care about in our life that may be high risk or can’t get vaccinated. It is our job to protect them.”
Health experts have confirmed COVID-19 cases are rising across the country, and the true toll is likely much higher than what is reported due to the use of rapid antigen at-home COVID-19 tests, which aren’t counted in official estimates — unless residents report it to officials.
Omicron subvariants BA. 5 and BA. 4 account for 80% of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S., according to a July 12 fact sheet from the White House, which found “early indications" that "BA.5 may have some increased ability to escape immunity, including from prior infections and has the potential to cause the number of infections to rise in the coming weeks." The fact sheet also stated the potential for the increase is “greatest where fewer people are up-to-date on their vaccinations and there is an increased waning of immunity from vaccines.”
“BA.5 has arrived. An estimated 10-15% of Americans will be infected. Unfortunately, hospitalizations and death will follow, albeit at lower rates than we’ve seen before,” wrote Epidemiologist Katelyn Jetelina in her Your Local Epidemiologist July 13 newsletter.
She listed five steps people can take to “safely ride this wave,” including:
- Those over 50 years of age should get their COVID-19 boosters.
- High risk individuals can take Pfizer's Paxlovid, an oral antiviral that protects people against severe disease. Contact your doctor or pharmacist.
- Don’t use the “CDC Community Levels Map” as a guide for when to mask, which differs from the recommendations listed in the White House fact sheet.
- Increase indoor ventilation.
- Use antigen tests.
Pfizer COVID-19 antiviral Paxlovid and information sheet. Photo by Black Iowa News.
How is COVID-19 affecting Iowa and the nation?
- Iowa has recorded 805,363 COVID-19 cases since the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020.
- Iowa’s daily average of new cases is 741. Cases have increased 30% from two weeks ago, according to the New York Times database.
- More than 9,718 Iowans have died of the virus.
- The U.S. has recorded more than 89 million COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.
- The nation’s daily average of new cases is about 130,000 according to the Times database.
- More than 1 million Americans have died of COVID-19.
- According to provisional death counts by the National Center for Health Statistics, 144,308, Black Americans have died of COVID-19, as of July 13.
Health experts are pushing Americans to consider wearing high quality masks like N95 or KN95 indoors, along with taking other preventative measures, to shield themselves from recent outbreaks. Purchase masks here.
“The health department does not offer free N95s,” Aigner Davis said. “I am not sure if there are any places in the county or the city that have free masks.”
The county’s website contains a link for Polk County residents to self-report positive COVID-19 at-home test results, which can provide the health department with “a more detailed picture” into the county’s positivity rate, according to its website. Polk County residents can call the center at 515-323-5221, if they don’t have a computer and need help with the website. Here is the link to report positive COVID-19 test results in Polk County. Other counties, like Johnson County, also want residents to self-report test results.
Need a COVID-19 test, vaccine?
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Polk County residents can pick up and drop off COVID-19 test kits between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the health department, 1907 Carpenter Ave., in Des Moines, Iowa. Here’s more information about the testing program.
According to the White House fact sheet, 17 over-the-counter, at-home, rapid test kits are authorized in the U.S. The federal government has also authorized each American household to receive 16 free COVID-19 tests. Order free at-home tests. People covered under private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid can receive up to eight free at-home COVID-19 tests each month per individual, according to the Biden administration.
This week, Polk County also confirmed its first case of Monkeypox.
View the White House fact sheet for more information.
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