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70 percent increase in COVID-19 cases in Cerro Gordo County in past two weeks
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70 percent increase in COVID-19 cases in Cerro Gordo County in past two weeks

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June 24 CG health press conference

Mason City Mayor Bill Schickel started off Wednesday afternoon's public health press conference with a reminder for residents in town and across the county: "We need to continue to take physical distancing seriously and wear a mask when out and about," he said near the top of the weekly event. 

The mayor's reminder to residents comes as positive tests for COVID-19 in Cerro Gordo County have doubled during the past two weeks so that the total number now stands at 62. In just the past week, the increase was 25%. "It's been a spike," Schickel made clear before sharing that the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health is concerned about the increase as well.

According to Schickel, the health department has said that the upward trend in positive cases hasn't come from one specific source but from community spread and day-to-day contact. "The message there," Schickel said, "is that we cannot let our guard down." 

To expand on Schickel's message, Mason City Police Chief Jeff Brinkley, who was the weekly guest for the press conference, said that this particular spike is at least partially owed to a younger demographic. "That spike that we’re seeing is in younger people so we’re encouraging them to really be paying attention to that."

During his portion of the press conference, Brinkley said that the police department has tried to do its part in minimizing spread by doing more work over the phone, utilizing personal protective equipment and maintaining distance (when possible) while out in the field. "Every day for us we tried to make the best decisions we could for our staff and for our community," Brinkley summarized. 

And as a small payoff from those practices, Brinkley said that no officer in the department has tested positive for COVID-19, though there's been a close call. 

Along with adjusting to working during an ongoing pandemic, Brinkley said that the department has also had to adjust to policing in a present reality where there is heightened scrutiny on law enforcement in the weeks since George Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. 

But Brinkley suggested that the adjustment hasn't been as drastic for the Mason City Police Department because officers have tried for some time to make community work a part of the job. For #BlackLivesMatter protests in Mason City, Brinkley said that the department tried to meet with organizers as early as possible and support them how it could. 

"We understand the need to be heard and we support that movement. We try to take care of our little corner of the world and do better," Brinkley said. "I think those are conversations in incubation right now. I’m really excited with where we are for that."

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Jared McNett covers local government for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at Jared.McNett@globgazette.com or by phone at 641-421-0527. Follow Jared on Twitter at @TwoHeadedBoy98.

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