County sees surge in COVID-19 cases

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By Shelia Tomkins

This past week saw a large increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Guttenberg and the surrounding area, prompting a response from local hospital administrators, school leaders  and city officials.

As of Oct. 31, Clayton County reported 179 active cases, an increase over the 105 active cases reported a week go as of Oct. 24. There were 540 confirmed cases in the county since the pandemic began, with 358 recoveries and 3 deaths.  As of Oct. 31 the state's 14-day positivity rate for the county was 20.5%.

 Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinics

On Oct. 29, it was noted via Facebook that 50-80% of patients being tested for COVID-19 at the GMHC clinics were testing positive. 

Clayton County hospital leaders — Tim Ahlers, CEO  at GMHC in Guttenberg and Brooke Kensinger, CEO at Mercy One Elkader Medical Center —  issued a joint news statement on Oct. 30:

"In the past seven days, Clayton County has had its largest increase in COVID-19 positive cases as well as hospitalizations. From the start of the pandemic, MercyOne Elkader Medical Center and Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinics have been prepared for higher volumes, but have remained relatively stable. That environment changed this week. Now, our hospitals are experiencing the highest level of COVID-19 related hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic. Our hospitals are not yet at capacity and remain prepared to care for those in need.

"However, we must band together and act now to lower the transmission rates so that we lower the risk of overwhelming our local health care systems. It is critical that we work together as a community to take the steps we know can reduce the spread of COVID-19. We continue to encourage community members to wear face coverings, maintain physical distancing, limit group gatherings and practice good hand hygiene and sanitizing to minimize the spread of the virus.

"In addition, the timing of this new wave of COVID-19 cases in our community coincides with the annual influenza season. It is more important than ever to get your flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend all people six months and older get flu vaccinations to protect themselves and others from getting influenza.

"Hospitals and clinics are safe, and our providers are here to take care of you. It’s important to keep routine appointments and seek treatment for acute medical conditions.

"We need everyone to take this seriously to slow the spread. Together, we can protect ourselves, our families and our neighbors." 

Clayton Ridge School

On Oct. 27, school officials reminded students that face masks were required at all times at the school and school events when social distancing was not possible. Gaiters and  face shields are not acceptable.

School administrators moved to a hybrid learning model on Oct. 28 for grades 6-12. Elementary students continued face-to-face instruction.

During hybrid learning at Clayton Ridge, students are divided into two groups, and each group attends school every other day. Students who do not physically attend school work on assignments from home. 

The hybrid model is recommended by state and federal public health officials when the county positivity rate is between 15-20% over a 14-day average, and the school has a 10% student absenteeism rate. 

The school is monitoring positivity rates and absentee counts daily. 

The hybrid model will be used for two weeks, and will be reevaluated by administration by Nov. 11. 

St. Mary's/Immaculate Conception School did not respond to a Press inquiry about a COVID-19 response.

City of Guttenberg

Citing the increase in COVID-19 cases, city hall closed to the public last week. City officials asked that all business be conducted by either phone, email or through the city's website. Those who need to speak to a city official in person should call for an appointment at 252-1161. City officials said that city hall will be closed until the number of cases decline.

Guttenberg Public Library

Due to rising COVID cases, the Guttenberg library went to appointment-only visit that began on Nov. 2. Appointments are available from Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and are 30 minutes in length. Call the library, 252-3108, to make an appointment. 

The library will continue to provide its curbside pickup service.

Guttenberg Fire Department

The annual fund-raising dance of the Guttenberg Fire Department, scheduled for Oct. 31 at Lakeside Ballroom, was cancelled  on Oct. 30.

Other news

The Guttenberg Press closed its office lobby on Oct. 30. See story elsewhere in this issue for details on how to contact The Press staff.

A Press reader recommends a summary of COVID-19 information available on a weather website with a map of new cases giving a graphic profile of the dramatic increase in cases. Visit the website at:,-91.4421



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