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Vaccination Update

Clayton County COVID-19 VaccinUpdate

On Thursday, 3/4/2021, the Iowa Department of Public Health announced that those individuals under age 65 with certain underlying health conditions would be vaccine eligible beginning Monday, 3/8. Qualifying medical conditions for those under 65 include:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Down Syndrome
  • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
  • Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or higher but < 40 kg/m2)
  • Severe Obesity (BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2)
  • Pregnancy
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Smoking
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus

Full listing and information on qualifying medical conditions can be found at the CDC website:

Clayton County vaccine providers will continue to prioritize those age 65 and older and those who qualify under Phase 1B tier groups as set forth by the Iowa Department of Public Health. We ask for anyone who is newly eligible due to underlying medical conditions and under age 65 to have patience as we complete these two previously eligible groups. We anticipate increased vaccine doses in the coming weeks and will work with our local partners to make them available as quickly as possible.

As we work through this transition, individuals age 65 or older can continue to call one of the below numbers to place their name on a vaccine list to be contacted as doses are available:

• Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinics: Individuals may call (563) 252-5571 and leave a message with their contact information.
• MercyOne Elkader Medical Center: Individuals may call (563) 245-7089 and leave a message with their contact information.
• Regional Family Health-Strawberry Point:  Individuals may call (563) 927-7575 or visit

Individuals age 64 and under with qualifying underlying conditions can visit one of the below pharmacy sites to place their name on a vaccine wait list to be contacted as doses become available:

• Hartig Drug Guttenberg:
• Guttenberg Pharmacy:
• Clayton Drug: (563) 933-4762 or (563) 245-2530

Again, we appreciate your patience as we work through this transition period. Updates on vaccine availability and county wait list options will be provided as it becomes available.

For additional information on COVID-19 vaccines, please visit the CDC website:

Foundation of Cornerstone Communities Awards $10,500 to Support Healthy & Vibrant Communities

The Foundation of Cornerstone Communities is pleased to announce the recipients of the Foundation’s 2021 first quarter grant awards totaling $10,500. These projects, in three different communities, will directly impact the everyday health and vitality of residents served by the Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinics. 

The City of Guttenberg was awarded a grant in the amount of $4,500 to support the construction of two pickleball courts. The Clayton County Conservation Board was awarded a grant in the amount of $3,000 to support the Osborne Park walking path project. And, the Edgewood Board of Economic Development was awarded a grant in the amount of $3,000 to support the Edgewood Viking Loop Trail project.

Commented Denise Schneider, City Manager, “The City of Guttenberg would like to thank the Foundation of Cornerstone Communities for their generous contribution to our pickleball court project. This project will provide a place of recreation and fitness for anyone young or young-at-heart. Playing pickleball allows you to work on your balance, agility, reflexes, and hand-eye coordination without putting excessive strains on your body. It is organizations like the Foundation of Cornerstone Communities and generous individuals, families, and businesses that make many of our wonderful community projects possible through their generous funding.”

“We are so excited to complete the Easy Walking Path project through the Osborne Native Animal Exhibit and Pioneer Village,” said Molly Scherf, Clayton County Conservation. “Creating a hard-surface pathway will enable all of our visitors the opportunity to enjoy these portions of the park that currently are lime-chipped and hard to navigate when wet for those with mobility issues. This project is being fully funded by grants and private donations. Thank you to the Foundation of Cornerstone Communities for helping us reach our goal,”

Added Michelle Brady, “On behalf of the Edgewood Trail Committee, I would like to thank the Foundation of Cornerstone Communities for their support on the Viking Loop Trail project. The grant application process was smooth and we are grateful for the Foundation’s commitment to bettering our community.”

Do you value your local healthcare? Do want to help keep our communities health and strong? Do you have a project that would support our mission? Become a member of the Foundation of Cornerstone Communities and partner with us to provide funding for grants to organizations who may have projects that align with our mission of creating a healthy and vibrant today. 

Learn more from any board member, or by visiting the website or calling 563-252-5516.

When you make an endowed gift to the Foundation for Cornerstone Communities, it will cost you far less thanks to the generous Endow Iowa 25% state tax credit. Gifts of $50 or more to endowed funds qualify for the Endow Iowa tax credit. Various gift types qualify for the tax credit, including charitable IRA rollovers, gifts of grain, gifts of stock and cash gifts.

COVID-19 Vaccination Scheduling

Due to the overwhelming number of calls for vaccination appointments, we are unable to return all of the calls.  If you have called and left your information, YOU ARE ON THE WAIT LIST.  There is no need to continue calling. We will schedule vaccination appointments from the wait list in the order the calls were received. Appointments will be made based on our weekly allocations from the state. Expect lengthy delays for a call back for your vaccination appointment.

Clayton County is allocated a certain amount of vaccine weekly by the State of Iowa. We have no control over how much we receive and are doing our best to manage the vaccination clinic volumes based on the amount allocated.

If you would like to be placed on the vaccination wait list, please call our scheduling line at 563-252-5571. Again, only one call is necessary. 

GMHC will continue to screen all of our patients and visitors even after you’ve been vaccinated. The vaccine is 95% effective two weeks after the 2nd dose is received. It is still unknown how long the vaccine will provide protection from COVID-19. 

Your best protection from COVID-19 will be a combination of getting vaccinated, and continuing to wear a mask, staying at least 6 feet away from others, avoiding crowds, and washing your hands often.

Notice to Bidders & Public Hearing

Notice to Bidders – GMHC Surgery Renovation Project

Notice for Public Hearing – GMHC Surgery Renovation Project

Vaccination Information

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

With the arrival of the vaccines, there has been a lot of excitement.

There are currently two vaccines being distributed. It appears there may be a third vaccine available soon.

As the vaccine gets distributed to the states and then to the counties, each county is doing its best to get the vaccine to as many as they can.

The vaccine is typically given in the upper arm. Once given, the recipient waits 15-30 minutes, being observed for any reactions that might be considered an allergic reaction, before going home. The most recent report from the CDC is that there have only been 10 allergic reactions in 4 million doses of the Moderna vaccine given. Moderna is the vaccine being used by Clayton County. The Pfizer vaccine requires storage that is not available in Clayton County.

For both Pfizer and Moderna, a second vaccination is required. The booster dose for Pfizer is at 21 days and for Moderna, 28 days. It is important to get the second dose in order to get the full protection of the vaccine.

After receiving a vaccine, it is not unusual to develop side effects over the following 36 hours. The most common side effect is a sore arm, similar to after receiving a tetanus shot. Other side effects include fatigue, feeling tired, body aches, headaches, low grade fevers and chills. Typically the symptoms resolve within 12 hours of starting.

The side effects after the first dose are not necessarily the same after the second dose. Sometimes the side effects are worse, sometimes less. The side effects are a good sign that the body is responding to the vaccine.

Having received both my first and second dose, I can confirm that the symptoms do occur. After the first dose, I had a sore arm within hours of getting the shot. The arm stayed sore for a few days. After the second dose, I felt good, until the next morning. I awoke with a headache, fatigue and body aches. I took Tylenol and went back to bed. By the afternoon, I was feeling much better, and by supper time, all of my symptoms were gone.

Multiple questions have been out there regarding if you should or shouldn’t take Tylenol or Ibuprofen before or after receiving the injection. There is a theory that taking it before the injection may dampen or reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine, however, this is not proven. In fact, it has been proven that it does not have an effect on the vaccines given to children. The current recommendation is that if you routinely take Tylenol (acetaminophen) or ibuprofen, continue to take it. If not, avoid taking it prior to the vaccination. Once you have been given

the vaccine, if you start to have symptoms, it is safe and appropriate to take either Tylenol (acetaminophen), ibuprofen or other pain relievers.

If you are concerned about the symptoms you develop after being vaccinated, call and talk with your healthcare provider.

Once you have been vaccinated, it will still be important to wear your mask, wash your hands and watch your distance. The vaccine prevents you from becoming ill if you are exposed to COVID-19, however, you may still become infected with it and be able to spread it to others. When the number of active infections becomes low, and few cases are being seen, we may then be able to get rid of masks.

Clayton County Public Health is working with the Health Care Providers of Clayton County to set up clinics across the county in the coming weeks and months to distribute the vaccine as quickly as they can. Due to limited doses of vaccines available, this process will not go as quickly as we would like, but, will occur as quickly as we are able. Multiple meetings occur every week and sometimes every day, in order to be prepared for the next step or change that may occur.

Please be patient. The goal is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible, and we are committed to doing our best.

Be Well, Be Safe and Be Kind.

Hurry Up and Wait

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

Hurry up and wait. We all know what that is like. 

Hurry to the airport to get checked in on time and then wait in line to get through security. Push your way through the crowd to the parking lot, and then get stuck in traffic. Running late to an appointment and then have to wait 30 minutes for the doctor. 

UGGGHHH…we hate it.  But in the end it is worth it.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Hurry up and wait, seems to have been a bit of a theme. As we watched this new disease grow in China, we waited to see if it would arrive in the States.

Once it arrived, we watched to see how it would spread.

We hurried to develop plans on how to manage the possibility of an influx of patients. How many could we treat, where would we put an excess number of patients if we had to?

We developed plans for staffing. Crammed to learn all we could from others that were treating this new disease that was like nothing the medical world had ever seen.  

And we waited.

We watched what was happening in New York and Italy and anywhere that was being overwhelmed with patients, knowing we could learn from them.

Then we waited.  

We continued to plan and learn.  And we waited for COVID-19 to arrive in Iowa.  And it did.  

We cared for patients with the tools that we had and waited for treatments to come.  And they did…dexamethasone, remdesivir and convalescent plasma. 

We’ve been waiting for vaccines, and now they are here!

We have been hurrying up and waiting again.  Staff at public health and local medical facilities have been meeting for weeks, going through multiple scenarios of how, who, where and when to administer vaccines.   Multiple meetings weekly have been occurring.  Finalization of plans have been held up awaiting direction from the state as to who can be vaccinated, when and how many vaccines are available to each county.  

The preparation has been worth it.  Each time a call comes down from public health giving the next direction, they have been ready.  

Last week the state gave the go ahead to start vaccinating those 65 years and older, as well as other essential workers in a step-wise fashion.  Now we wait for vaccine. 

As providers in Clayton County, our goal is to vaccinate as many people as we can, as soon as we can.   The limiting factor at this time is the availability of the vaccine.  

So, we will hurry up and wait.  

We will hurry up and plan vaccination clinics, and then wait for vaccines.  

So, be patient.  Know that as soon as we have supplies, we will vaccinate.   If you have signed up on a wait list, trust you will be contacted when clinics can be scheduled.  Due to packaging and the limited doses, vaccination will be by appointment only.  Appointments will be made as vaccine is available.  

It will happen. It is happening.   

In the meantime, even if you have been vaccinated, remember to Wear a mask, Wash your hands and Watch your distance.  

Be patient as we hurry up and wait.

Be safe, Be well and Be kind, because to quote a friend, “It truly is the right thing to do”.

Vaccine Plan

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

Happy New Year!

We made it.  2020 is behind us. But what awaits us in 2021? We may not know, but we will find out. Like it or not here it comes. 

One thing we know is that after waiting and waiting, the vaccine is finally here.  

This may be a good time for a refresher regarding the vaccines. Currently, there are 2 vaccines that have been approved for the prevention of COVID-19, one from Pfizer and the other by Moderna.  

The Pfizer trial included 40,000 volunteers, the Moderna study included 30,000. Of the volunteers that developed COVID-19 after being vaccinated, only 5% of them had received the vaccine, the other 95% that became ill with COVID-19, had received the placebo, or the non-vaccine injection.   

Side effects of receiving the vaccine may occur in some that receive it and could include soreness at the site of the injection, redness at the injection site, fever, chills, fatigue and headache. The side effects are listed as only lasting 24 hours. They are considered a normal reaction.

The technology for these first two vaccines was developed in 1990 and its use as a vaccine, studied for the past 10-15 years.   

The distribution of the vaccine being done in phases.  

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)) developed a plan for distribution, based on risk, in order to be efficient and to ensure equity in distribution.    At this time they have made recommendations for the first 3 phases. Each state is then able to use the recommendations to decide on how to role out the vaccination process in their state.

Phase 1a includes health care workers and nursing home/long term care facility residents. Who will be included in Phase 1b, in Iowa, was just announced by The Iowa Infectious Disease Advisory Council (IDAC). They have announced that it should include those over the age of 75 and some groups of essential workers in certain situations. Current direction by the IDAC is that all of Phase 1a needs to be completed before Phase 1b can start.  

As our state continues working feverishly to finish up vaccinating Phase 1a, be assured that Clayton County has been doing their part. Our county received enough vaccine to finish Phase 1a. Our county has frequent meetings with the state and with the multiple health organizations in our county. This has allowed Clayton County to collaborate and efficiently disperse the doses.  

Many counties in Iowa have finished vaccinating Phase 1a.  Now we wait.  We wait until the state lets us know when we can move forward.  

In the meantime, the health care providers in your community are working diligently making plans to vaccinate the citizens of Clayton County.  They are waiting for word from the state and the next delivery of vaccines.  As soon as they get the word that Phase 1b can start, it will happen.  

Be patient. We are all anxious. We are all excited and ready to help make it happen. Your turn to help and be vaccinated, will happen.  

It is important to remember that wearing masks, washing your hands and watching your distance, will need to continue until the country sees a significant drop in cases.  So, hang in there.  Summer is just around the corner.

We truly are in this together.

Be safe, be well and be kind.


By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

“You can only go halfway into the darkest forest; then you are coming out the other side.”

I first read this old Chinese Proverb in 2019 on one of those daily desk calendars. It made immediate sense to me. We can all relate.

The night of my dad’s funeral, it stormed and on our drive home, many times, we couldn’t see the road. At one point we considered turning around, but realized we were at the halfway point and either way the road was bad and it would be the same distance. We were on our way out the other side. So, we kept going, and we made it through.

We have been hearing about the development of a vaccine for months, we have known they will be coming, and now here they are. We are planning for the initial arrival of vaccine for health care workers in Clayton County, the week of December 21, 2020. Staff and residents in long term care facilities will follow.

A list, based on risk, has been developed by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)) to plan for distribution to make this efficient and to ensure equal spread.

As more vaccine becomes available, it will be distributed to more and more groups of people, until all those eligible have been vaccinated. The plan is to distribute the vaccine in batches for weekly delivery as it is available and there are staff able to administer it. As you can imagine, this may take a while. Even though the vaccine was not ready for distribution, the planning for the distribution has been going on for weeks, at the federal, state, county and local levels.

The Pfizer trial included 40,000 volunteers, the Maderna study included 30,000. Of the volunteers that developed COVID-19 after being vaccinated, only 5% of them had received the vaccine, the other 95% that became ill with COVID-19, had received the placebo, or the non-vaccine injection.

Side effects of receiving the vaccine may occur in some that receive it and could include soreness at the site of the injection, redness at the injection site, fever, chills, fatigue and headache. The side effects are listed as only lasting 24 hours. They are considered a normal reaction.

You may have heard that four people developed Bell’s Palsy from the vaccine, a temporary drooping of one side of the face. The reports are that it lasted only 1-2 days and only in 4 people out of 45,000 volunteers, making it a rare occurrence. There were no deaths that could be related to the vaccine. 

The technology for these first two vaccines was developed in 1990 and its use as a vaccine, studied for the past 10-15 years.

The first proclamation by Governor Reynolds for Iowa, was made March 9, 2020. The proclamation on March 17, was the first to put in place mitigation steps, such as closing restaurants, bars, and limiting mass gatherings.

Here we are, in the middle of December, nine months later. Vaccines are on the way and there is hope that most of the general public will be eligible for them by spring. That is only 4-5 months away.

It appears that we are over halfway through this “dark forest”. Be patient, don’t lose hope. Continue to wear masks, social distance and wash your hands. Even once you have been vaccinated, it will be important to remain vigilant, until all are vaccinated that are eligible and want to be vaccinated.

That day is closer now than it was a few months ago. Don’t give up now.

Christmas is around the corner! Happy Holidays to all!

Be safe, Be well and Be kind to one another.

Help Us Save Lives this Holiday Season

This week’s article comes from me, Tim Ahlers, CEO at GMHC. As she and our other providers tirelessly care for our patients, I’d like to start off my message by thanking Dr. Michele Dikkers. She has diligently written 33 articles to keep the communities we serve up to date on this pandemic. Her first article entitled “Protect Yourself” was published on April 1, 2020. And now, here we are 7 months later with yet another plea to protect yourself and your loved ones as we approach the holidays.

COVID-19 has hit the communities we serve, and it has hit hard. Guttenberg has become a hot spot. Our dedicated staff is doing their best to take care of patients, but they are exhausted. We need YOU to help us save lives.

How can you help us save lives?

Statistics show that 80% of infected people are below the age of 60. Perhaps this is your son or daughter, granddaughter or grandson, niece or nephew.

Statistics also show that 90% of people who die of COVID-19 are above age 60. Maybe this is your mom or dad, uncle or aunt, grandma or grandpa. 

Protect your loved ones this holiday season. I respect tradition, but think twice about the big celebration. Prepare a meal for those who live under your roof. 

Does it sound like that is too hard for you? Our health care professionals are doing REALLY hard work right here at GMHC. We’re trying our best to save the lives of your loved ones. And we’re hoping the choices you make this holiday season will make our work a little easier.

Help us save lives. Always mask, watch your distance, and wash your hands.

Being Thankful

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

As we enter November, my mind automatically goes to Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving should remind all of us to be thankful. I try to be thankful every day, not just in November. It can be simple things or big things. The sun coming up in the morning. The moon and stars shining in the sky at night. Seeing the wonder of the Mississippi River every day. Washing machines, so much better than a rock down by the river. There’s my car, much better than an ox and a wagon.

I am thankful that I get to do a job that I enjoy. I treasure the privilege of taking care of the people in my community. I work with medical providers that feel the same way. We look forward to challenges and being able to be available to our patients in their time of need.

Then came a new coronavirus, COVID-19. It has changed our lives too.

Though we have been aware of COVID-19 and watched it ravage the states on the east coast, then the west coast and then the south, we maintained lower case numbers, until now. The number of new cases in the state of Iowa, per day held steady, under 1000, until the beginning of October. The past week as seen over 3500 new cases daily. Over the past 2 weeks, the number of cases in Clayton County has increased over 200 cases. Local clinics are seeing 50-80% of those tested, testing positive for COVID-19.

This disease is just starting to hit our state. As we study the curves from other states, we know that from the beginning of an increase in the curve (number of cases), until it begins to slow, is approximately 12 weeks.

The number of admissions for many hospitals in NE Iowa are at, or very near, capacity.

The number of deaths in Iowa has risen to over 1800 people. That is the population of Guttenberg. A whole town gone.

There is a desperate need to slow the spread of this disease, flatten the curve and protect our community.

I am thankful for the people I work with. All of them, housekeeping to plant management to receptionists to nursing staff, therapy, lab techs, radiology techs, etc., there are too many to mention. Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinics employs approximately 160 staff members, MercyOne in Elkader employs approximately 100 staff members.

They are working extra shifts, working in departments other than their own, trying to find extra room for extra beds/admissions and how to care for them with the staff we have and coming up with new policies and processes to better care for the ill patients of our community.

There have been businesses in the community that have made donations to the workers. We have received pizza, donuts, drinks, and support. We are thankful for our community, and their support.

An effective way to support our medical community, care providers and support staff, would be to wear a mask, decrease the numbers of cases, flatten the curve. Help decrease the numbers of people needing to be hospitalized. Help decrease the number of deaths.

It is a privilege to serve this community, but it will take more than just the medical professionals to fight this fight, it will take all of our community. We are asking for help in protecting our community.

PLEASE, wear masks. It is vital. It is the best tool we have to prevent the spread.

Help flatten the curve.

Wear masks, Wash your hands and Watch your distance.

Due to the current surge, there may be weeks I am unable to submit an article.

Thank you for your support.

Remember, we are in this together. We must flatten the curve.