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Gov. Reynolds thanks Floyd County health workers for role in fighting pandemic

  • Rep. Todd Prichard, D-Charles City, and Gov. Kim Reynolds bump elbows in what has become one of the new ways of greeting to avoid shaking hands in a world dealing with the coronavirus. Press photo by Bob Steenson

  • Gathered for a group photo at Floyd County Public Health Tuesday morning are, from left, Joanne Starr ARPN, nurse practitioner at the Floyd County Medical Center Clinic; Kim Isakson, chief nursing officer at FCMC; Gail Arjes, director of Floyd County Public Health; Gov. Kim Reynolds; Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg; Rosemary Tobin, director of nurses at Nora Springs Care Center and a member of the Floyd County Board of Health; Sue Ayers, co-owner and infection preventionist at Chautauqua Guest Homes; Floyd County Supervisor Linda Tjaden, who is also chairwoman of the Floyd County Board of Health; Lezlie Weber, Floyd County Emergency Management Agency director; and Marianne Kuethe, risk manager at Comprehensive Systems. Press photo by Bob Steenson

  • Gov. Kim Reynolds makes a point at a gathering at the Floyd County Public Health Department Tuesday morning in Charles City. Next to her is Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg. Press photo by Bob Steenson

  • Gov. Kim Reynolds, foreground red jacket, and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg meet with Floyd County health workers at the Floyd County Public Health Department Tuesday morning. Also at the meeting are, clockwise from left, Rosemary Tobin, director of nurses at Nora Springs Care Center and a member of the Floyd County Board of Health; Gail Arjes, director of Floyd County Public Health; Sue Ayers, co-owner and infection preventionist at Chautauqua Guest Homes; Floyd County Supervisor Linda Tjaden, who is also chairwoman of the Floyd County Board of Health; Lezlie Weber, Floyd County Emergency Management Agency director; Marianne Kuethe, risk manager at Comprehensive Systems; Barb Burton and Lindsey Wulff, RNs at Public Health; Kim Isakson, chief nursing officer at Floyd County Medical Center; and Joanne Starr ARPN, nurse practitioner at the Floyd County Medical Center Clinic. Press photo by Bob Steenson

  • From left, Floyd County Emergency Management Agency Director Lezlie Weber, Floyd County Public Health Director Gail Arjes and Rep. Todd Prichard welcome Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg and Gov. Kim Reynolds to the Floyd County Department of Public Health Tuesday morning. Press photo by Bob Steenson

By Bob Steenson, bsteenson@charlescitypress.com

Iowa’s governor said a big part of the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has relied on health workers and others at the local level, and on Tuesday morning she stopped in Charles City to offer some of those people thanks.

Gov. Kim Reynolds and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg visited Floyd County Public Health Tuesday, and spent about half an hour talking about how the county has coped with the coronavirus and how the state can support that effort.

Sharing their experiences with the state’s highest executives were members of the Public Health staff as well as representatives of the Floyd County Emergency Management Agency, Floyd County Medical Center, Comprehensive Systems, Chautauqua Guest Homes and the Nora Springs Care Center.

The visit was also part of Reynolds’ commitment to visit every one of Iowa’s 99 counties at least once every year.

“We’re going to try to hit some of the different counties so we can stop and just say thanks for the coordination and collaboration that has taken place across the state during COVID,” Reynolds said. “It’s been incredible to see all that happen and really how everybody’s come together to help take care of Iowans.”

Gail Arjes, Floyd County Public Health administrator, said, “We want to thank you, too, for all your guidance and support we’ve had through this.

“Here in Floyd County, we’re a small county, with not a whole lot of resources, so my team here consists of people from the hospital, from long-term care, from our residential facilities. We all came together to help each other out,” Arjes said.

Reynolds, Gregg and all the health care representatives wore face masks though the entire discussion, except for a brief moment when they slipped them off for a group picture.

Arjes and Lezlie Weber, the Floyd County EMA director, both said the county had been preparing for a pandemic situation for a long time as part of their regular emergency response training.

“We all knew each other, which also helped,” Arjes said. “We were all just a phone call away. We had been planning for a pandemic, but to this scale, maybe not. Maybe not quite this large.”

Sue Ayers, co-owner and former administrator at the Chautauqua Guest Homes, said the whole community came together.

“The local sewing shop, those ladies were making masks. … We had a lot of people helping us. Even our local Rotary club donated three laptop computers … to foster those relationships between residents and families” at the Chautauqua homes and Comp Systems, Ayers said.

Reynolds said, “We know that’s what we do as Iowans, but, I tell you, I have seen it on steroids over the last four months, and it just makes me so proud. We do that, it’s kind of who we are, but it’s been amazing. This is really awesome.”

Gregg talked about state efforts to deal with hunger during the pandemic.

“There was increased food insecurity because of some of the economic impacts, and we saw that pretty significantly across the state. There were a number of challenges that we worked to face,” he said.

“I guess the one we’d highlight here is so many of the food banks and food pantries rely on senior citizens for their volunteer base, and as a result of this pandemic many of those folks had to stay home and back away, so that left us with a bit of a challenge that right at a time of increased need there was a decreased availability of volunteers,” he said.

“We found a variety of ways to deal with that,” he said. “The one I would highlight is Gov. Reynolds and I reached out to the FFA and FFA students — obviously a close connection to feeding the world — and here in Charles City I know that the Charles City FFA students helped staff multiple mobile pantries. I know they couldn’t have operated those without the help of the Charles City FFA here.”

The comments the local health care workers had for the governor’s actions during the pandemic so far were almost universally complimentary.

Joanne Starr, a nurse practitioner at the Floyd County Medical Center Clinic, offered a word of caution, though.

“I’ve told patients when I see them, just because they’re releasing and reducing restrictions, now isn’t the time to run around like a chicken with your head cut off,” she said. “So much of what health care does in general is educate, educate, educate.

“That would be my encouragement to people who are out there is, please, wear your mask, wash your hands and stay home. Be responsible, because your actions impact everyone around you,” Starr said.

Reynolds nodded her head in agreement.

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