September 1, 2020
Unfortunately, the coronavirus is still with us and the news is not good. By most measures of the Iowa I-80 corridor from Des Moines through Iowa City the results are trending worse and, in some cases, setting new records.
In Poweshiek County, the “New Cases per 100,000” is 11.6*. Anything above 10 is considered to be “accelerating”. Another warning sign is that Grinnell is sandwiched between Polk County at 24.2 per 100,000 and Johnson County at the very high level of 38.7. The average for the I-80 corridor counties of Dallas, Polk, Jasper, Poweshiek, Iowa and Johnson is at a level of 25.1, the highest level yet for this area. The trends suggest that, based on our location in the corridor between Johnson and Polk Counties, the pressures on our county will be acceleration of instances of COVID-19.
The percentage of tests coming back positive for the I-80 corridor as of today is 13.4%. To put this number in perspective, as recently as July, the CDC Director Robert Redfield defined a COVID Hotspot as anything above 5%. By this definition we are a COVID-19 hotspot.
We are both (Josh and John) very anxious to be worshipping together, in person, as we know many of you are. Worshipping together in person is a very meaningful part of our lives. However, this coronavirus is deadly, is accelerating in our area, is not backing off, and the actual numbers are the worst they have been. For ALL our health and safety and for the safety of the others we might infect if we get it and start passing it around, we cannot recommend any large-scale worship gatherings at this time. We feel we have to wait until the numbers are getting better rather than worse.
We do know a little more about the virus – for instance we know that the odds of getting COVID from touching a surface are not as high as was initially feared, although possible, and that all indications are that it is much less communicable than measles, one of the most contagious viruses. Given this we are looking into having a few gatherings that will be outside, brief, masks required, with rigid social distancing and hands sanitized when entering and leaving the space. (please see Rally Day info below)
Hoping for better news sooner rather than later,
Josh Sandquist and John Ashby
* These reported numbers are the 7-day moving averages meaning to get today’s number of 11.6, you take todays data point, add it to the previous 6 days data points and divide by 7. This is done to smooth out day-to-day fluctuations and get a more meaningful picture of the situation.
You can see the actual data on the website that Grinnell College is updating daily:
April 30, 2020 letter from Grinnell UCC member and GRMC Covid-19 response leader, Dr. Lauren Graham
Dear Grinnell Community,
First, thank you for all the words of support and acts of solidarity around the community. #GrinnTogether. I am writing today, 6 weeks into my role as COVID-19 medical coordinator for UnityPoint Health – Grinnell Regional Medical Center. As you may know, the last 6 weeks have been consumed with grueling work inside our hospital walls, preparing the medical community for an unprecedented public health pandemic.
However, the work you are doing AT HOME every day is paramount to protecting the health of the community. The way we continue to stay safe and protect ourselves and our loved ones is to continue staying at home until more definitive treatment, vaccination or herd immunity has developed.
Having personally reviewed the data carefully for Grinnell and Poweshiek County, the time is not right to reopen in our community. We are just beginning to see the uptick in cases in our area and are not yet at the predicted peak in cases. As the Grinnell community, we have worked HARD to flatten the curve and have done a tremendous job! Our slow uptick in cases is a true testament to the power of social distancing and staying at home as much as possible.
I would be remiss not to acknowledge that this physical separation is incredibly difficult, especially in these uncertain times. I long for the days when I can rejoin my faith community in fellowship and song and know that for my soul, almost nothing is needed more at this time. However, I know the risk that this poses to others, and cannot recommend reopening congregations at this time.
I encourage you to find ways to connect virtually and feed your soul with fellowship, music and nature within the confines of responsible social distancing. I continue to challenge you to stay away from the ones you love to protect them and hope and pray that brighter days are soon ahead.
In Hope and Love,
Lauren Graham, MD, MPH
Medical Staff President
UnityPoint Health – Grinnell Regional Medical Center