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Medical Professionals, First Responders Discuss Coronavirus

Having a huge number of people get sick at once would stress the resources of the health-care system nationwide, as we’ve seen in some other countries, said one health professional. We must allow resources to catch up.

by Angie Holland, The Oskaloosa Herald, Iowa / March 17, 2020
Laurie Kuypers, a registered nurse, reaches into a car to take a nasopharyngeal swab from a patient at a drive-through COVID-19 coronavirus testing station for University of Washington Medicine patients Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in Seattle. The appointment-only drive-through clinic began a day earlier. Health authorities in Washington reported more COVID19 deaths in the state that has been hardest hit by the outbreak. AP

(TNS) — Community spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) has begun in Iowa.

Currently, no cases have been reported in Mahaska County.

First responders and healthcare professionals recently discussed recent recommendations to keep the community well and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Emergency Management

Emergency Management Agency/911 Administrator Jamey Robinson said regarding the 911 center, he expects a possibly higher call volume and he wants to make sure his staff is staying healthy.

“We are working on plans currently to make sure that our concrete operation plan is up to snuff and is going to get us through this,” he said. “And as far as the community, we’re working with all of the different agencies.”

Robinson said the EMA’s will “continue working with all the different agencies and partners to make sure that they have what they need to continue to provide the services that they do.”

Mahaska County Sheriff Russell Van Renterghem said dispatchers are doing a much more thorough screening of callers for the safety of emergency responders.

“If [people] travel to one of the countries listed and they’ve got the symptoms, we need to know that and take a little more precaution, the gloves, the mask, that type of thing, prior to us getting there to assist them,” he said. “Also, we’ve implemented at the jail those same medical questions for anybody that’s being admitted into the county jail. And there again, that’s more for the jailers, more for the deputies to give them a heads up.”

Mahaska Health

Mahaska Health physician Shawn Richmond said the majority of people infected with COVID-19 are not going to have a severe illness.

“You’re going to have common cold type symptoms or maybe flu-type symptoms. We’re really wanting to protect our immunocompromised individuals, our elderly individuals,” he said. “I don’t want the public to all of a sudden think “oh my gosh, if I get this I’m going to die or might die or I need to find out if I have it or not.”

Richmond said he felt generally people did not have to lock themselves in their houses but older community members and those who are immunocompromised need to be careful.

“Now certain groups of people, I do think our elderly and our immunocompromised just need to be really careful,” he said. “And all of us need to be careful.”

What to do if you are feeling ill

Richmond said as COVID-19 is a virus, there is no specific treatment for it, other than taking care of the symptoms.

“Treatment is supportive: Tylenol or ibuprofen, plenty of fluids, rest,” he said. “If your symptoms become severe enough; if you’re having difficulty breathing, high fever, lethargic, then we will want to see you.”

Mahaska Health Population and Quality Director Denyse Gipple said the hospital’s message is to call before presenting so the health center can prepare and protect its staff.

“Although if you have a medical emergency, you do need to call 911,” she said. “We just ask that you let EMS know so they can protect themselves as well.”

With regard to testing, Gipple said the hospital will be looking at individuals’ symptoms, exposure history and travel history.

“The testing guidelines do change quite rapidly,” she said. “There tests available. We do have the supplies needed to collect those specimens and submit them to the state hygienic lab.”

Social distancing is a way to keep from getting sick and passing it along to someone that is at a “greater risk of higher illness.”

Gipple said social distancing techniques are aimed at being preventative.

“If we were to have a huge number of people get sick at one time, that would stress the resources of the healthcare system across the nation, as we’ve seen in some other countries,” she said. “So we really want to slow the spread to allow for resources to catch up and allow for everyone to be cared for the way they need to be cared for.”

Mahaska Health CEO Kevin DeRonde said the hospital is prepared and have plans in place.

“We also want to keep in mind that Mahaska Health, along with Iowa hospitals and health systems, they do conduct emergency preparedness training year round,” he said. “We’re prepared for this and we’re thankful to have partners like Jamey and the rest of the crew to work through this.”

List of resources

• A public hotline has been created for Iowans with questions about COVIC-19. Call 211 or 1-800-244-7431.

• Iowa Department of Public Health:

• Emergency Management Agency:

• Mahaska Health:


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