Forward Iowa County
The COVID-19 pandemic is a significant threat to our county, state and country and may continue for months or years until a vaccine is developed, but the citizens of Iowa County do not have months or years to wait to act. The goals of the Iowa County Health Department (ICHD) during this pandemic are to:
In the absence of a vaccine or treatments specific to COVID-19, population-based mitigation strategies—contact tracing, isolation, quarantine and, most notably, strict social or physical distancing contained in public health orders such as Safer at Home—have saved lives and slowed the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. However, the strictest of these prevention strategies, i.e. Safer at Home, comes at a significant cost to our economy, businesses, schools and the health and well-being of our community at large.
The Iowa County Health Department is committed to its intent to keep Iowa County residents and communities safe and healthy and to reopen Iowa County in a way that builds a strong foundation for long-term economic recovery. Local public health infrastructure in Iowa County is robust, especially with regard to testing, supporting isolation and quarantine, conducting prompt contact tracing and ensuring the local healthcare system is equipped to handle surges in COVID-19 illness. The ICHD uses public health strategies informed by data and the best evidence available to provide guidance.
However, moving ahead too quickly threatens recent progress and work towards minimizing the spread of the virus, which could have significant health and economic consequences. This document is not meant to replace state or federal guidance but rather to supplement guidance with local data and considerations. The information contained in this document and the Iowa County COVID-19 dashboard will be used to approach situations specific to the Iowa County community.
While it is the hope of the ICHD that our path forward will be linear, it is impossible to predict the course of this pandemic. It is possible that the ICHD may have to tighten or loosen policies to support Iowa County residents in staying safe and healthy and to maintain adequate capacity in our healthcare and public health systems.
Collective Responsibilities for Meeting Our Goals
In order to move Iowa County forward, each sector is encouraged to be aligned with our primary goals:
Each Iowa County resident and sector plays a critical role in meeting these goals. By working together, everyone can contribute to maintaining health and safety while Iowa County moves forward.
Public health professionals have the responsibility of tracking the COVID-19 virus and initiating a balanced response. Responsibilities of the local public health department during the COVID-19 pandemic include:
Health care systems are on the front lines of care, providing prompt diagnosis and treatment. A critical component of the local health care and economic systems is Upland Hills Health, which is also one of the largest employers in Iowa County. Responsibilities of the local health care system during the COVID-19 pandemic include:
Emergency Management (EM) has been instrumental in the Iowa County COVID-19 response and played a key role in establishing and operating the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) which was set up on March 13, 2020. The EOC allowed for a structured incident command approach to the threat of COVID-19 and remains open in mid-June to allow partners to continue to collaborate, communicate and respond. EM leads a number of COVID-19-related efforts including:
The business community plays a critical role as the driver of the Iowa County economy. To support a safe and successful reopening strategy, the ICHD invites the support of the private sector in promoting the health of Iowa County residents and workers. Responsibilities of the private sector during the COVID-19 pandemic include:
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, every Iowa County resident is encourages to participate in these activities:
Forward Iowa County – Metrics
The ICHD has identified metrics which will help inform recommendations regarding how and when individuals can interact safely. The current status of Iowa County related to these metrics will be showcased in a dashboard identifying key measures that will help with decision making both today and in the future. The dashboard measures three broad types of data including:
Epidemiology—What is the local disease burden, and how is it changing?
Healthcare—Can local public health and health care systems handle disease burden?
Public health—Is Iowa County able to contain infections and outbreaks?
Emergency management—Does Iowa County EM have adequate supplies and functional operations?
The ICHD is measuring the epidemiology metrics of disease incident, positivity rate and outbreak monitoring. The primary aim of these metrics is to decrease disease activity so the COVID-19 viral reproduction rate declines and the disease does not spread swiftly through the population.
Sustained and adequate testing rates based on the population size of Iowa County ensures our epidemiology measures are meaningful. Detecting active infection by testing leads to contact tracing and prevention of further disease transmission. In addition to testing, it is vital that health care systems are equipped to manage patient care during COVID-19 surges. To ensure that local health care systems are functional, the ICHD measures local health care facility use, staffing and supplies.
The third set of metrics on the ICHD COVID-19 dashboard measures the ability to identify and isolate cases to prevent further spread. Through rapid contact tracing, the ICHD can identify and notify exposed individuals or contacts. By providing education and isolation assistance, the ICHD can support affected individuals for the duration of the infectious period, thereby lowering the risk of disease spread in the community.
Emergency Management is an essential partner in the pandemic response, and the health department works in conjunction with EM to assess for adequate function and day to day operations.
In addition to the public-facing metrics, the ICHD will be monitoring additional measures when during disease surges to help identify opportunities to adjust our response. These process measures look at transmission dynamics, the timeliness of lab reporting, outbreak monitoring within priority populations and capacity for supporting isolation/quarantine. The ICHD COVID-19 response is not complete without taking into account the broader context of COVID-19 disease activity across the Southern Wisconsin region. More information regarding the regional context of the COVID-19 pandemic can be found here.