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COVID-19 cases continue to rise

Board approves closing Marceline schools entire week of Thanksgiving

Angie Talken
Linn County Leader

COVID cases continue to rise

As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise area residents are reminded to stay home if they are feeling sick.

“The most important thing we can stress right now is if you feel sick - at all - stay home,” Krista Neblock, director of the Linn County Health Department said. “If you are waiting on COVID test results stay home until you know, and if you test positive stay home.”

As of Monday evening, the cumulative number of cases in Linn County had reached 502 with 111 active cases. 

At Monday evenings Marceline R-V School Board meeting, Superintendent Brain Sherrow told those present that 112 students or 18.21% of students in kindergarten through 12th grade were not in classes due to quarantine or waiting on test results.

Sherrow also noted that staff shortages have been an issue and are among top concerns.

In neighboring Brookfield, Brookfield R-II Schools Superintendent Dr. Kyle Collins said staffing shortages are worrisome for that district as well.

“We have seen a significant increase in staff and students on quarantine in the past few weeks due to either positive cases or close contacts of positive cases,” Collins said. “This has led to difficulty in finding an adequate number of substitutes for classrooms. We have been able to cover classes to this point. Our teachers, staff and administrators have worked incredibly hard to make this happen.”

Marceline City Manager Rochard Hoon said the Monday city council meeting was canceled, the second since April due to COVID-19 concerns.

“Several members (of the council)  expressed concerns about meeting in proximity to each other when several have family members or know of people who have been quarantined.

Dana Tarpening, city manager for Brookfield, said that their public works crews are being asked to limit their interaction with the public and to socially distance with one another and the public, along with wearing masks.

“We have closed all public works buildings to the public, and are asking public works employees to socially distance in and out of the buildings, to drive separate cars and to sanitize the vehicle daily,” she said noting the lobby in city hall is still open and city hall employees are on staggered scheduling.

Tarpening noted as of Tuesday morning she did expect the Nov. 24 Brookfield City Council meeting to go on as scheduled.

Neblock said that her office has as many as five nurses working seven days a week to work on contact tracing as the number of positive cases rises and an increase in the number of contacts to be reached out to during contact tracing, especially since cases began to increase in November.

“We typically have people staying until 9-10 p.m. and working seven days a week. We have worked really hard to stay up on contact tracing as best as we can,” Neblock said. “Regionally we have seen the health departments struggling to keep up with positive cases and part of that is the number of contacts with each positive. That is why it is important to be mindful- stay away from those large group gatherings.”

After months of wearing masks and practicing social distancing, many people are tired of the practices, despite the fact that rural areas - like Linn County - are just seeing an influx of cases.

“We talk a lot about COVID fatigue and I think we are seeing that in our communities. People are tired or we have been doing these things for so long we are losing the gusto we had in the beginning,” she said.  “Handwashing - making sure you are distancing yourself from people outside of your household. After you have been doing this for so long people forget and kind of fall off the wagon. But it is just as important - if not more so - now than ever.”

Following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Neblock said residents should continue to wash their hands for 20 seconds with warm soapy water or use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol base if water is not available. Residents should also wear a mask, especially when unable to social distance or when at any indoor activity with people outside of your household and staying at home if you are sick.

“This is something that needs to be taken seriously,” Neblock said.

The Linn County Health Department still has flu vaccine available, and Neblock said the vaccine is especially important this year with COVID.

“If you get the flu vaccine the CDC feels when it comes to illness you will be ‘taking the flu off the table’ if you will,” she said.

Linn County residents should call the health department at 66-258-7251 to schedule an appointment for a flu vaccine, which can be administered without the patient ever leaving their vehicles.

At Monday’s Marceline School Board meeting the board did have a lengthy discussion about what would cause the school to go virtual due to COVID. Sherrow noted he and the administrative team felt keeping instruction in the classroom was important as long as it can be safely done. 

Collins echoed those remarks.

“Our number one goal is to keep the school open for in-person learning. We believe strongly that in-person instruction is the best way for learning and student growth to take place. However, if we are not able to adequately and safely staff classrooms, or if the rise in community spread continues to worsen, we have a distance learning plan in place. In the event we are forced to shut down a classroom, building or the entire district, we would immediately pivot to that plan,” Collins said. “Teaching, learning and grading would continue virtually. We would consider any such closure temporary and would have a plan in place to return to in-person learning as soon as we could safely do so.”

As of the deadline for this publication, Marceline R-V Schools announced it would be closed the entire week of Thanksgiving. Teacher and staff will use Monday-Tuesday as Professional Development Days. All middle school activities have also been canceled until the Monday following the long Thanksgiving break. 

Neblock said it is important for anyone who feels sick in any way to stay home and get tested if they experience COVID symptoms.

“Stay home if you are sick at all,” she said. “We cannot stress that enough. Reach out to your healthcare provider to ask for their recommendations. If you are tested for COVID, stay home until you get a negative result. If you get a positive result stay at home following the guidelines for isolation or quarantine. We have to stay home when we are sick to protect our community as best we can.”