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To the Editor,

I appreciated the opportunity to work with Robin Downard, Brown Health County Health Nurse to provide an update for the Brown County Commission regarding the decision to continue the mask mandate or rescind the previous order. Robin shared the number of cases and the new number of deaths due to COVID which increased dramatically from 18 to 28. This changed our rate from 19 to 29 deaths per 10,000.

From the hospital perspective, I shared a graph that clearly demonstrates that there has been a positive impact in the spread of COVID cases in our county since the beginning of the mask mandate. Cases decreased from a high of 22 patients a day to 7 patients a day. The increased attention to wearing a mask in Brown County proved to be effective.

This is no longer a COVID Crisis ā€” This is a Health Care Crisis. Hospitals are being challenged with the care of COVID patients throughout the county. I shared that since November 17, HCH started to keep lower acuity COVID patients since we could not transfer to our tertiary facilities as they were at capacity. We have averaged 4 patients with COVID in our facility and we had a peak of 9 patients in early December. Our average inpatient census is 12, so at any given time an average of 33 to 75 percent of our patients have been COVID positive. During this time, we also had 19 staff members out on quarantine. We have seen over 50 patients a day in our West Clinic on several occasions. The Emergency Department since December 1st, while the patient volume is lower, 25 percent of the patients have presented with COVID symptoms. Some days have been as high as 50 percent.

You may think that is only a few more patients. However, due to the isolation requirement, the additional staffing needed for nursing and aides is significant. I appreciate all the staff that are working extra shifts. We are bringing in additional traveling nurses to provide coverage for patient care, however as Iā€™m sure you have seen on the news, there is a nationwide shortage of healthcare professionals to adequately manage through this pandemic.

We have heard about spread of COVID in asymptomatic patients. In December, 10 percent of the patients that were being admitted or transferred to higher level of care were COVID positive, but did not show any symptoms of COVID! This is why masks are so important!

Regardless of the decision to rescind the mask mandate in Brown County, I hope that the citizens of Brown County do the right thing and wear a mask.

Please wear a mask to help us slow the spread of COVID 19.

John Broberg, CEO

Hiawatha Community Hospital

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