Benton County deals with Covid-19 and derecho recovery in August 25 meeting in Vinton

Benton County Courthouse

By Jim Magdefrau

VINTON – The Benton County Board of Supervisors heard an update on health in Benton County at the Tuesday, Aug. 25, meeting of the board, as well as recovery efforts after the derecho.

Katie Cox, Benton County Public Health Nurse, read the Covid-19 numbers for Benton County as of that day, with 182 testing positive so far, with a 14-day average of 4.4 percent for those testing positive. She also gave regional hospital information. Ten to 15 of the positive cases from Benton County have been hospitalized.

Schools are looking at different parameters to determine if they will be open or use a hybrid model. One of those is the positivity rate. Benton and Belle Plaine are planning to go back 100 percent, while encouraging masking.

With people getting together to help clean up after the derecho, the county might see a spike in two weeks in positive cases, as has happened after graduation parties and July 4 celebrations. They are also cautiously waiting to see what happens with schools opening and fall activities beginning.

She also explained testing and symptoms, contact tracing and ruling out other things that are not Covid-19.

After the presentation, Supervisor Chairman Richard Primmer felt the big takeaway was that things could possibly spike again, with the storm, cleanup, the start of school and its activities, as well as Labor Day.

“I know everybody is working hard and trying to make best decisions,” Cox said, “and trying to get things back to normal.” She felt it has been really important to talk through things. “People are really trying.”

Another update will come in a couple of weeks.

Derecho

Over two weeks after the high-wind derecho that rolled across Benton County, Emergency Management Director Scott Hansen gave an update on the county’s recovery efforts.

He said Benton County has a recovery coalition for widespread disasters, such as the recent one. When FEMA individual assistance does not open, which it hasn’t yet for Benton County, the first assistance is the Iowa Individual Assistance Program, for those who meet income guidelines. This goes through HACAP guidelines. He felt HACAP might be overwhelmed as they provide case management. They have reached out to the mental health region to help with case management.

When HACAP is done, they come to the disaster coalition. This usually comes around to the social services office taking the lead, since they know most of the social programs they can put people into. They can also use the rural access program. Hansen sought permission to have the rural access and social services people help with the coalition. Sheriff Ron Tippett added he has an employee who can help with this.

Hansen expects 50 to 100 cases.

Most people have insurance, and people go there first. Hansen knows there will be gaps with unmet needs that can’t be filled.

He said they have putting up individual assistance applications, but it’s hard to get this. He said he was caught off guard because usually they just include everybody as a whole. But they cherry-picked one county this time, which was Linn County. They are still working on that.

They will make a major announcement on the programs available for Benton County.

Other business

A land use hearing was set for Tuesday, Sept. 22, at 9:15 a.m. for Tim and Shelby Folken for land in Section 3, Polk Township.

A land use hearing was held for Chris and Julie Frimml a land in Parcel C, Section 10, Eldorado Township. This is for a new house. The land use change was approved.

The board approved the termination of the farm lease on the Cedar Valley Ranch property.

The board canvassed the Walford special election.

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