This 2020 electron microscope made available by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention image shows the spherical coronavirus particles from the first U.S. case of COVID-19.

OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa Community School District is asking students and staff to only wear approved face coverings, following the state’s shift on quarantine rules.

The district announced the change Thursday, saying all students and staff are asked to only wear approved cloth or medical face coverings.. They say face shields, neck gaiters and bandanas do not count as proper face coverings in the new guidance released Wednesday by the Iowa Department of Public Health.

That guidance will significantly cut down on the number of students and staff who have to quarantine for 14 days after potential exposure to COVID-19. In the new guidelines, if a person is exposed by a COVID-19 positive individual, but both were properly wearing masks during the encounter, the exposed person will no longer have to quarantine.

Since the new policy was announced, the number of students quarantined around the district has dropped from 90 to 57, as of Thursday. The most impacted buildings remain Evans Middle School, with 17 students in quarantine, and Ottumwa High School, with 12 quarantined.

Masks are generally required in the Ottumwa School District, with some exceptions.

There were nine new cases of the COVID-19 disease in Wapello County, according to state data on Thursday morning.

The number is the difference in totals reported between 10 a.m. Wednesday and 10 a.m. Thursday by the Iowa Department of Public Health. The 14-day positivity rate in Wapello County continues to hover around 9.5%, according to state data.

Iowa had another day of four-digit growth. The state added 1,057 new cases of the disease. There were also 16 new deaths, raising the state’s total dead since the start of the pandemic to 1,358.

The state also added 6,634 new individuals tested and 1,185 new individuals recovered.

Around the Courier’s coverage area, there were three new cases reported in Van Buren, two in Jefferson and two in Monroe.

The top-five counties in Iowa in terms of case growth were Woodbury (98), Polk (95), Dubuque (74), Linn (46), and Dallas (38).

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets. It is often mild and some individuals remain asymptomatic or have only cold or flu symptoms. But the disease can be more severe, require hospitalization and lead to death, particularly in older or immunocompromised people.

Experts, including those at the CDC, say wearing masks when in public, keeping at least 6 feet of distance between people when possible, and good hygiene can prevent the spread.

The Ottumwa Courier relies on data reported by the Iowa Department of Public Health, using its coronavirus data dashboard at Data is checked each day at 10 a.m. and then compared to the data previously captured from the dashboard to produce stories.

The state has changed how it reported the data several times, and local officials often produce data based on different standards or in different timeframes. Therefore, the data will not always align with other sources.

Kyle Ocker is the group editor of the Ottumwa Courier and the Oskaloosa Herald. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.


Kyle Ocker is a Centerville native and award-winning multimedia journalist. Kyle is currently the first vice president of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and vice president of the Iowa Print Sports Writers Association.

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