Woodbury County saw its biggest spike in COVID-19 cases yet on Friday, indicating a worsening situation in Western Iowa.
According to Siouxland District Health, the number rose by 129, bringing the total to 287. On Monday, that number was 75.
The New York Times has been tracking the way outbreaks happen in cities across the country. The data currently shows the Sioux City metro area, which spans three states, is now the city region with the highest average daily growth rate in the United States. It has a 101 percent daily growth rate, and, on average, the number of cases has doubled daily.
The Times explains: “Growth rates are useful measures in epidemics because they tell us whether things are getting better or worse. In places where the growth rate is high but the number of cases is relatively low, a community may still have time to flatten its curve before an outbreak becomes widespread.
“Communities with a lot of cases and a high growth rate are on track to have a serious problem. A high growth rate on top of a large number of cases means that a still larger number of people are on track to become ill or die.”
The explanation for the spike comes from more testing, but the increased testing is due to new local outbreaks, which can also be connected to the jump in cases on the other side of the river in Dakota City, Nebraska.
Dakota County, which contains South Sioux and Dakota City, yesterday reported 246 cases.
Officials have held back from tying the spike to the Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Dakota City. Tyson officials have acknowledged cases, but not released numbers.
But in the Midwest, meat packing plants have been the driving force behind most of the recent spread of the coronavirus. Many in Eastern Iowa have been explicitly tied to plants there and led to temporary shut downs to contain the infections.
Many Iowans, particularly in Sioux City, cross the Missouri River to work at the Dakota City Tyson plant, and residents of Dakota County have to use Iowa hospitals because their own county doesn’t have any.
Woodbury County’s first reported death was 64-year-old Raymundo Corral, a Sioux City resident who worked at the Tyson plant.
And yet, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts has flatly refused to shut down meat packing facilities.
At his press conference yesterday, Ricketts called the spread a “community problem.”
“I don’t foresee a scenario where I would tell them to close,” he said yesterday.
“The Republican governor warned that would jeopardize the nation’s food supply and possibly lead to civil unrest if people could not get access to meat,” the Sioux City Journal reported. Ricketts cited some of the recent protests around the country demanding individual states reopen.
The packing plant shutdowns in Iowa have been a result of the companies deciding to do it, some after being pressured by local officials.
The JBS USA plant in Grand Island, Nebraska has led Hall County and its neighbors to become some of the biggest hotspots in the country.
“The Hall County rate is also now about equal to that of Louisiana, which ranks among the top states nationally in both cases and deaths. It’s also higher than the per capita rate in Michigan, a state that has been in such a significant state-ordered lockdown because of the virus that it’s spawned public protests,” the Grand Island Independent reported.
In Northwest Iowa, only six counties have zero reported cases.
“The health department for some reason doesn’t want to tell us where the cases are coming from, but I guess it doesn’t matter,” Sioux City Mayor Bob Scott said. “It somewhat proves for every case there is, there’s two additional people that become infected by it. That’s what’s concerning me and alarming me.”
by Nikoel Hytrek
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