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Local health officials respond

Hospital, county respond to Bulletin questions on COVID-19

POLK COUNTY—Polk County health officials responded this week to questions posed by the Bulletin regarding COVID-19 locally.

The Bulletin asked Polk County Health and Human Service Director Joshua Kennedy and St. Luke’s Hospital CEO Michelle Fortune why the county is not releasing information on how many COVID-19 patients are hospitalized, how many St. Luke’s Hospital employees have tested positive for the virus and their response on Polk County Sheriff Tim Wright releasing a statement that his office will not enforce the governor’s latest executive order that masks are required in public.

Kennedys said regarding face coverings, the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and the associated studies on the effectiveness indicate they are one of several important strategies that when used in combination with other strategies, such as social distancing and hand hygiene will result in the desired outcome of reduced risk in transmission.

“We continue to provide informational material to local businesses and community members on how and when to wear face coverings as well as how to make homemade face coverings,” Kennedy said this week.

Kennedy also sent a press release that references the importance of the strategies, which he said is aimed at keeping the general public safe as well as employees and customers safe so that the economic recovery can occur without disruption to staffing issues related to the illness.

On the hospital questions, Fortune said St. Luke’s is not releasing individual or patient information because of privacy issues.

“Any positives that generate from St. Luke’s for in-county residents would be reported in the numbers from the health department and that is the best source for everyone to monitor the status in our county,” Fortune said. “I will share that our hospital and team has performed exceptionally well during COVID-19 and we remain a location ready to care for our community with ample PPE, expertise, equipment and staff ready to serve so our community should feel very confident in St. Luke’s. We have adopted universal masking at St. Luke’s for teammates and visitors and we are screening temperatures and symptoms for anyone entering the building.”