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'Unsustainable': Cerro Gordo County now has 1,600 active COVID cases, 35 deaths
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'Unsustainable': Cerro Gordo County now has 1,600 active COVID cases, 35 deaths

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Multiple times during a Wednesday afternoon press conference between the City of Mason City and CG Public Health, Mayor Bill Schickel and Director Brian Hanft made it clear that current area trends for COVID-19 are unsustainable. 

There are four times as many active cases now in Cerro Gordo County, 1,605, as there were at the start of the month. The number of hospitalizations for the region is at 91. Going into November, there were 27 deaths from the virus. Now there are 35. 

"We have hit almost 3,000 cases in Cerro Gordo County... That is scary to me knowing the impacts on our infrastructure," Hanft said. "This right now is downright scary." 

For his part, Schickel made clear early on during the press conference that if positive case rates don't dip it wouldn't be impossible for area hospitals to run out of beds. That's the kind of disruption this level of spread can have.

So to try and stem the tide, even just a bit, both Schickel and Hanft laid out some of the things that the city and county are doing right now.

According to Hanft, CG Public Health has been reaching back out to places of the worship in the county and asking faith leaders to strongly consider stopping in-person services. 

"It’s just not safe right now," he said.

Along with that, Hanft said that CG Public Health is also having constant conversations with school administrations and daycare providers about workable approaches to learning and care at such a precarious moment. 

"Each is teetering on the point of not being able to function any longer," as Hanft put it. Even if schools went entirely online, children with parents who don't have the ability to work from home would still need to go somewhere. 

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And then, in the slightly longer term, Hanft said that his department is making plans for how to best help distribute COVID-19 vaccines once they become available.

"When the day comes and we start to see the vaccine arrive, us and our community partners will be ready to get that vaccine out," he said. In preparing for that day, CG Public Health already has coolers on hand for storage of the vaccine when it arrives. 

As for the city, Schickel said that a fair amount of the staff's bandwidth is taken up by COVID-19. 

"We have a lot of things going on but our administrative team is dedicating a fair amount of time to combatting COVID," he said. 

What that's meant most recently is developing contingency plans for what to do if COVID spikes cause increased absenteeism for the city's workforce. According to Schickel, the city has about 10% absenteeism right now. If that goes up, it could be enough for services to shift.

"When we lost people, there’s a possibility that we would have to cut some services," Schickel said. 

Near the end of the meeting, Schickel told those in the city and across the county that this isn't just an effort that local agencies can win alone.

"We do all have the ability to determine whether this virus is spread."

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

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