Number of coronavirus cases in Johnson County rises to 12, all took same Egypt cruise

Almost immediately following a press conference about the presence of coronavirus in Johnson County, state officials announced an additional five cases which brings the Iowa total up to 13.


Jenna Galligan

UIHC Chief Medical Officer Theresa Brennan speaks during a press conference on Tuesday at the Joint Emergency Communications Center.

Rin Swann, News Reporter

The number of presumptive novel coronavirus cases in Johnson County reached 12 on Tuesday after traveling on the same Egypt cruise, state health officials confirmed.

A Tuesday press release from the governor announced five additional presumptive cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state, bringing the statewide total to 13. All five new cases are adults between the ages of 61 to 80.

Earlier Tuesday afternoon, Johnson County urged individuals to take basic precautions at a press conference at the Joint Emergency Communications Center regarding the COVID-19 cases.

“The reason why we got everyone together here today is to reassure the public, instill a sense of calm, and instill a sense of the general public-health measures that you use, or should be using every flu season, are the most effective,” said David Wilson, the Emergency Management and Homeland Security director for Johnson County, on Tuesday.

RELATED: Iowa regents ask universities to prepare to move class instruction online amid coronavirus cases identified in Iowa

Also in attendance were members of Johnson County Public Health, Emergency Management, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Mercy Hospital Iowa City, and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, among other community leaders.

Health officials discussed basic procedures for avoiding the spread of novel coronavirus, such as hand washing, staying home when sick, covering coughs, and limiting contact with the face as prevention tactics.

Currently, all confirmed cases of the virus in Iowa are presumptive, meaning they are assumed to be positive until confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health officials at the press conference said they didn’t know how long it would take for the CDC to confirm a coronavirus case.

Dave Koch, director of Johnson County Public Health, described the individuals currently undergoing self-isolation, self-monitoring, or voluntary home confinement, as extremely cooperative.

Those in self-monitoring text or call twice a day to disease-prevention specialists for 14 days, Koch said.

“At that time, they’re not 100 percent restricted to their homes,” Koch said. “They show no symptoms. They can go outside for a walk; they can do those types of things. They are not to go on mass transit or airplanes, or anywhere where it is heavily congested.”

While affected individuals were out in the community before being confirmed as presumptive positives for COVID-19, Koch emphasized that risk of its spread is extremely low because they were not actively contagious without symptoms.

“For the general public who are unlikely to be exposed to the virus at this time, the immediate health risk of COVID-19 is low,” Koch said.

RELATED: Iowa governor makes disaster proclamation after five more presumptive positive coronavirus cases found

At this time, there are no cases of community spread in Iowa or a case where the patient had not just returned from travel outside of the U.S. or come into close contact with someone with the coronavirus.

Koch stressed that if someone suspects they may have COVID-19 or fit the criteria for it, that they call ahead to the doctor prior to going to work.

UI Health Care Chief Medical Officer Theresa Brennan agreed.

“If you feel that you have an obvious infection or an influenza-like illness, it is very important that you call your health-care provider before showing up,” Brennan said. “That allows us to direct you to the appropriate place for the best treatment.”

Margaret Reese, president of the Mercy Hospital Foundation and director of communications at Mercy, emphasized that Mercy Hospital has been preparing for several months for the COVID-19 situation and is following protocols and policies, accordingly.

“The information that was provided by the Department of Public Health suggests that they were all travel-related cases … Mercy Iowa City is prepared for the possibility for widespread transmission in our communities in southeast Iowa,” Reese said.

She also encouraged the public to look to the Johnson County Department of Public Health for additional information.

“Everyone can do their part to help respond to this emerging public health threat,” Koch said. “Everyday prevention methods are very important.”