Polk County to require masks again in county buildings starting Monday


POLK COUNTY, Iowa — Polk County on Friday announced it will again require all employees and visitors to wear masks inside county buildings starting on Monday, Aug. 9.

“These measures are a direct result of not enough individuals in our community getting vaccinated,” Polk County Board of Supervisors Chair Angela Connolly said in a statement. “As long as there is a substantial pool of unvaccinated individuals COVID has an opportunity to mutate and cause unnecessary hospitalizations and deaths.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all people, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors in areas of the United States with high and substantial transmission of the coronavirus.

Research shows that even vaccinated people can get infected with the delta coronavirus variant, according to the CDC. Although vaccinated people will likely not get seriously ill, they can still spread the virus to others and put unvaccinated people at risk. The delta variant is more than twice as transmissible as the original strains of the coronavirus, the CDC said.

The CDC considers Polk County to be a high-risk area for coronavirus transmission. Polk County officials on Friday reported a 65% increase in daily coronavirus cases over the last seven days.

The surge caused by the delta variant can be seen in Iowa hospitals. UnityPoint Emergency Department Medical Director Clint Hawthorne said the delta variant is mostly sending unvaccinated Iowans to the hospital.

“Ninety-three percent of COVID-19 patients in our hospital are not vaccinated,” Hawthorne said on Thursday. “We’ve gone from the single digits to the double digits this past weekend. It is affecting people anywhere from their 30s to mid-50s, who may not have as many medical problems.”

Getting vaccinated is the safest and most effective way to prevent hospitalization and death from COVID-19. In total, 53.3% of Polk County residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to CDC statistics. Among Polk County residents 12 and older, 63.9% are fully vaccinated. Children under 12 are still not yet eligible for vaccination.

“Until our community reaches at least a 75% vaccination rate and drops back into the moderate transmission rate category, masks will remain an effective tool in reducing our collective risk of hospitalizations and death, particularly in our unvaccinated population of children,” Polk County said in a statement.

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