Local official issues warning as COVID-19 cases keep rising in Iowa Great Lakes


Photo courtesy of Okoboji Tourism

DICKINSON COUNTY, IOWA (KELO) — While there are 188 cases of the coronavirus in Dickinson County, Iowa, a local public health official said it’s likely there are more cases out there associated with the Iowa Great Lakes Area.

Dickinson County is home to the popular destination of the Iowa Great Lakes, which includes Okoboji, Spirit Lake, Arnolds Parks and several other communities along with multiple lakes.

Brandon Rohrig, the Director of Population and Public Health for Dickinson County, said the 188 cases listed on the Iowa Department of Health website are individuals who listed a Dickinson County address. It may be a permanent address or a seasonal address that was claimed as the residence, Rohrig said.

But the Iowa Great Lakes area draws visitors and seasonal residents from other states, including South Dakota.

Rebecca Peters, the director of Okoboji Tourism, said in a June 12 KELOLAND.com Original story, most visitors or seasonal residents of the area are from a 250-mile radius. Peters said the area draws an estimated 570,000 annually. Most of those visitors are in the season from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend.

While the county and Iowa know of the COVID-19 positive individuals who declare a county residence, “we can’t tell how many are from Minnesota, South Dakota or Nebraska,” Rohrig said.

States will communicate when COVID-19 may be traced to another state, he said.

Recently the state of Minnesota contacted Iowa about a handful of cases in Worthington, Rohrig said.

Cases in Dickinson County quickly spiked last week after being at about 20 during the first week of June, Rohrig said.

Iowa Department of Health map. The map shows the number of cases in Dickinson County and other counties as of June 19.

On the morning of June 12, the county had 117 cases. Late that afternoon, Arnolds Park Amusement Park announced it would be temporarily closed for two weeks because of the COVID-19 spike. The park had opened June 3 with precautions in place including limited attendance.

Rohrig said several other businesses have also closed for two weeks because of the coronavirus.

The increase in cases continues to be driven by people under 40 who are gathering at house parties or private lake parties without wearing masks or maintaining social distancing, Rohrig said.

For those who plan to visit the Iowa Great Lakes, Rohrig said they should limit their contacts to family or a small group. They should wear a mask if they enter a local business such as a grocery store or liquor store. They should avoid large gatherings or crowds and “don’t link a bunch of boats together for a private party.”

The advice is the same for local and seasonal residents. “Hopefully they will take that to heart,” Rohrig said.

Dickinson County will be a mass COVID-19 testing site on Monday, June 22, Rohrig said. Individuals can get tested as part of a state program called Test Iowa.

“That will probably drastically increase our (COVID-19) numbers,” Rohrig said.

Test results should be available on Wednesday, June 24, or Thursday, June 25, he said.

If there is a spike after mass testing, “I hope that makes more people aware of (the situation),” Rohrig said.

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