Virus Outbreak Hospitals Prepare

A nurse at a drive up coronavirus testing station set up by the University of Washington Medical Center holds a swab used to take a sample from the nose of a person in a car March 13 in Seattle.

OTTUMWA — Nearly 100 students were quarantined in the Ottumwa School District, but new guidance is likely to mean a lower number soon.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced relaxed quarantine restrictions Tuesday. Going forward, those within 6 feet for longer than 15 minutes of a known COVID-19 patient won’t be required to quarantine for 14 days, provided each person properly wore masks.

Ottumwa Schools will follow the guidance, the district said Tuesday.

“This update to current practice should dramatically decrease the number of students/staff who have to miss school,” a statement from the district read.

As of Tuesday, 90 students around the district and seven staff members were under quarantine, per prior guidelines. Most quarantined were at the high school, where 37 students and three staff members have been exposed, according to district data.

This week, a staff member at Horace Mann tested positive for COVID-19, raising the number of staff positive to date to 11 in the district. Seven students have tested positive to date.

State data indicated only two new cases of the COVID-19 were in Wapello County on Tuesday.

From 10 a.m. Monday to 10 a.m. Tuesday, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported 667 new cases of the disease statewide. There were three in Van Buren, two in Appanoose, two in Monroe, and no new cases in Davis or Jefferson.

The state also reported seven new deaths, though none were in the Courier’s coverage area.

The top-five counties in terms of growth Tuesday were Polk (71), Woodbury (47), Webster (38), Dubuque (34) and Lyon (29).

There were 4,694 new individuals reported tested and 1,221 new recoveries reported.

In Iowa, there are 18,771 active cases of the disease. To date, 87,507 have tested positive, with 67,412 recovered and 1,324 dead.

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 coronavirus.iowa.gov. 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 kocker@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.

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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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