As Covid-19 numbers grow, Benton County agrees to continue to restrict access to the county’s offices

Benton County officials meet regarding access to the courthouse at the Oct. 6, 2020 meeting of the Benton County Board of Supervisors.

By Jim Magdefrau

VINTON – Benton County’s numbers continue to climb with Covid-19, the Benton County Board of Supervisors heard at their meeting Tuesday, Oct. 6. The meeting was at the courthouse in Vinton. With that, county officials agreed with limiting access to the courthouse and other county facilities.

“I sure as heck hate to open up when numbers are going up.”

Benton County Supervisor Chair Richard Primmer

Katie Cox, Benton County Public Health Director, reported that numbers of positive cases increased from 249 to 368 in the month that she’d last met with the board. The 14-day average for positivity is also up to 6.4 percent. They are also up in numbers for ventilators being used, though there are many left.

As for opening the courthouse, the courthouse is doing well in keeping Covid-19 out of it. Cox related that health board member Dr. Maggie Mangold recommended that if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

“Unfortunately, the numbers you’ve given us are going in the wrong direction,” observed Supervisor Chairman Richard Primmer. “That’s just not good.” He is concerned about the high number of cases being added, plus high positivity, in the neighboring counties of Linn and Black Hawk. “For us to be in this area at 6.4 (percent), we are doing something right,” Primmer observed.

Positivity Rates

  • State of Iowa – 11.4 percent
  • Benton County – 6.4 percent
  • Linn County – 11.3 percent
  • Black Hawk County – 13.0 percent
  • Tama County – 11.3 percent
  • Iowa County – 6.5 percent (As of Oct. 7, 2020)

Cox felt education and encouragement of using masks are reflected in Benton County’s numbers, even though they are still going up.

It also helps that kids are consistently masking as the county works with the schools.

Auditor Hayley Rippel gave an update on how this is impacting the election. On the first day of early voting the courthouse had 48 voting in person. Primmer said voters need to be reminded to mask up in the common areas of the courthouse. Rippel stressed masks are encouraged.

Primmer felt that what the county has been doing has been working, even though they’ve received some heat on opening of facilities. He stressed, “I sure as heck hate to open up when numbers are going up.”

Primmer suggested reviewing this again Nov. 17, two weeks after election. Officials agreed.

Other business

After reviewing the quote for microphones and other audio equipment for the Benton County Courtroom, the supervisors approved the quote from RC Tech. The quote was $9,694.18. They will look into getting Covid-19 reimbursement for this, since audio help is needed with people having to wear masks and plexiglass.

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