While Johnson County has Iowa’s highest COVID-19 vaccination rate, unvaccinated residents could be at risk following updated quarantine guidance from the Center for Disease Control Prevention.
The new guidelines released on Aug. 11 allow people who are exposed to COVID-19 to wear a mask for 10 days and test on day five. In addition, it will allow for people who are COVID-19 positive to end quarantine after five days of being fever free.
Jennifer Miller, a Johnson County Public Health disease prevention specialist, said the new recommendations won’t impact the majority of residents in the county, but the people who will see a change are those who are unvaccinated.
“In this county we have really high vaccination rates and the main difference will be that people who are not fully vaccinated won’t have to quarantine at home for five days when they have an exposure,” Miller said.
Before the new guidelines, the CDC released guidelines in December 2021 lowering the quarantine period.
Sam Jarvis, Johnson County Public Health community health manager, said the new guidelines welcome a new phase of the pandemic, but recognizes that some people are concerned with the guidance.
Since Johnson County ended contact tracing in January 2022, Jarvis said the main COVID-19 mitigation strategy for the general population is to encourage masking, vaccinations, and getting tested.
“We are still a Test Iowa site where folks can pick up test kits and drop them off,” Jarvis said, noting that rapid engine tests are widely available.
So far in August, Johnson County reported a total of 319 positive COVID-19 cases. As of Aug. 21, the entire state of Iowa has experienced 6,357 positive cases in the last seven days.
Miller said they have a small concern of a COVID-19 case spike with the return of University of Iowa students on Aug. 22 and K-12 students.
“It’ll bring more people into town and it does increase the risk,” she said. “But it’s not just the students. It’s a risk to all of us.”
The new recommendations place more responsibility on the public, Miller said.
“Be thoughtful about it if you get [COVID-19], if you start to feel ill don’t just say ‘oh, I’ll just still go to the events and then I’ll go home and rest’,” Miller said. “We have to be thoughtful about not putting other people at risk doing the things that we’re doing in our own lives.”
In Johnson County, 76.07 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, the highest rate in the entire state. The new guidelines allow unvaccinated people to be in public while wearing a mask and symptom monitoring if they are exposed to COVID-19.
“They’ll be able to continue about their life with symptom monitoring and wearing a mask and previously that was allowed only for people who were fully vaccinated,” Miller said.