The major part of the Washington County Board of Health’s monthly meeting on Nov. 19 was a detailed discussion of the possible need to issue quarantine or isolation orders for residents afflicted with COVID-19. While Iowa code provides for such an emergency action, there were issues about monitoring procedures, possible spread of the COVID-19 virus to animals other than humans and the right of appeal of either a quarantine or isolation order.
At a special session on Nov. 13, the board approved the creation of a two-member executive committee to review the details and orders for such actions. At the Nov. 13 session and again on Nov. 19, the board agreed that the authority and responsibility to issue the order should involve more than one board member. In the case of isolation, the order can order an individual to a hospital. Non-compliance could lead to a misdemeanor arrest.
However, it was stressed that either order is “a last resort,” one that to date, has not been issued in the county during the eight months of fighting COVID-19.
A key concern for all members was setting an exact process to initiate either quarantine or isolation orders, including a review of the orders. Equally important, members agreed, is that any policies or procedures formulated by the board should be reviewed by the county attorney, especially because once an order is in place, it has to be followed. That lead to further discussion about order enforcement and monitoring the infected individuals.
The board agreed that further information, especially regarding enforcement procedures and monitoring, is needed, and that a work session could be set in early December with a policy in place by the end of the year.
In other business, the board:
• approved re-appointment of Cathy Buffington and Jack Seward, Jr. to the board. Both earlier informed the board they would be willing to serve another term. Seward also is the Board of Supervisors’ representative on the board;
• received the environmental health report about working with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (specifically, meat and poultry) investigation of the sale of smoked meats in Wellman which had started in July. IDALS made purchases of the products . Two warrants were served in Wellman on Oct. 13 and 130 pounds of product was seized. It was put in cold storage as evidence. There also was the sale of smoked fish andd cheese products as well as Reduced Oxygen Packaging, all in violation of the Food Code. The issue involves the Board’s Environmental Health Department when it comes to checking licenses and doing inspections of the production facilities. Reportedly, there had been no compliance with either set of requirements. Cease and desist orders were sent out this month. Reportedly, sales have stopped.
There also was a follow-up regarding a dog bite case (involving a pit bull) in which a small child was bitten on the face and required medical attention. The dog was deemed vicious under the Washington County Code, was quarantined at a veterinary office for 10 days, received rabies shots and has since been taken out of the county. The owner paid all vet costs; and
• received a COVID-19 update in which it was noted that the department is dealing with 35 to 45 cases a day (work also includes the schools), requiring overtime and that staff has been, at times, overwhelmed.