The coronavirus disease COVID-19 was first reported from Wuhan, China, on Dec. 31, 2019.

CENTERVILLE — The Centerville Mayor has declared a public emergency, signing a proclamation to “strongly recommend” mask wearing as the local hospital is now at capacity.

The MercyOne Centerville Medical Center reported to the city Tuesday it had reached capacity after a strong virus surge. Hospitals in the Des Moines metropolitan area have suffered a similar fate.

Centerville Mayor Mike O’Connor signed a proclamation acknowledging the dangerous levels of hospitalization in the community. It largely echoed the plea for citizens to work to slow the spread of the coronavirus that Gov. Kim Reynolds included in her new statewide emergency proclamation Tuesday.

Centerville has seen a 300% increase in active cases between Halloween and Tuesday, according to the proclamation.

In part, the newly signed proclamation reads, ”In order to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the City, I strongly recommend that all persons in the City of Centerville wear a face covering such as a cloth mask, surgical mask or similar covering that covers their nose and mouth when in a public place.”

The proclamation continues to say a mask mandate will be implemented in the city if the spread continues.

A new nursing home outbreak was reported in Centerville Tuesday, as cases and hospitalizations continued their rise in Iowa.

Wapello County saw another 49 cases of the coronavirus added between 10 a.m. Monday and 10 a.m. Tuesday, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

There were 29 new cases in Appanoose County, where another long-term care outbreak was reported.

The Centerville Specialty Care facility showed up in state data for the first time, reporting 12 cases so far. The other ongoing outbreak in town, at the Golden Age Care Center, continues to report 13 cases.

Iowa added 4,441 new cases of the virus on Tuesday, as hospitalizations continued to rise statewide. As of Tuesday morning, a record 1,135 were in the hospital with COVID-19. A near-record 196 of them were in an intensive care unit. In the last 24 hours, 166 had been admitted into a hospital.

While state data showed 364 ICU beds were available, hospitals around the state were beginning to reach their capacity. Leaders of those hospitals have cautioned that the state’s hospital bed availability doesn’t account for whether there is staff available for those beds.

Des Moines television station KCCI reported Monday evening that that four hospitals under the UnityPoint umbrella were at capacity following a record surge of patients between Friday and Monday.

The Wapello County Public Health Department reported Monday that there were 10 hospitalized in the county. The state has not updated county-level hospital data since Saturday afternoon.

Iowa reported 27 deaths. Only one of those was from Wapello County, as the state has not yet added four other deaths that local officials announced late Monday in the deadliest day for the county.

Elsewhere in the Courier’s coverage area, there were 14 new cases in Jefferson, seven in Davis, six in Van Buren and three in Monroe.

The 14-day positivity rate continued to grow around the region. As of Tuesday morning, the highest rate was in Appanoose County at 26.3%. The rate is 23.2% in Wapello County.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a rate of 5% is indicative of significant community spread. A rate of 20% is the level set by Gov. Kim Reynolds for schools to request waivers to move to all-virtual instruction if they choose to. The state must still approve the waiver request if one is made.

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.

Those wanting to be tested can visit to schedule a test at the Ottumwa Test Iowa Clinic.

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.


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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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