OTTUMWA — Tim Richmond, Wapello County’s emergency management director, said Friday employees at JBS are now guaranteed access to COVID-19 testing through the TestIowa screening.

The company has been provided with a code to fast-track approval for testing, a step Richmond said has been taken statewide with meat-packing facilities and long-term care centers.

“Employees at JBS are guaranteed a test,” he said.

JBS employees will need to go through the company’s human resources office, Richmond said, so the company can apply the access code.

There has been considerable concern in recent weeks as Wapello County’s case load has increased rapidly. Similar increases in other communities have been linked to meat processing plants, though local officials have maintained the local increases are the result of community spread. Friday’s update from the state showed Wapello County reaching 350 cases, an increase of 22 compared to the day before.

The update increased the gap between what state and local officials reported, which had narrowed in recent days. But one element of the report paralleled what local officials reported: an increase in the number of people who have recovered from the COVID-19 virus.

On Thursday, local tallies showed the number of people who recovered from the virus at 11, more than the number of newly-confirmed cases in Wapello County.

There were an additional 62 tests added to the Wapello County total, and the rate of positive results remains high. The state’s numbers show Wapello County has not seen that rate dip below 30 percent for any day since the local surge in cases began at the end of April.

The increasing totals now give Wapello County the eighth-highest per-capita rate of infection in Iowa. Wapello is tied with Tama County for the ninth-highest number of cases, though that county’s per-capita figure is much higher.

Mayor Tom Lazio said traffic at the Ottumwa testing site has been below what officials had hoped. There had been 58 tests as of noon Friday, well below the facility’s potential.

Richmond echoed the call for people to take the screening at testiowa.com and be tested, and for residents to encourage each other to be tested.

“How [the virus] spreads through the community depends on the behavior of the community. Same thing for testing,” he said.

About 4,100 Wapello County residents have taken the online screening. That’s an increase of 10.8 percent over the previous day’s total.

Overall, Friday’s update said the state saw 374 new cases and 18 deaths. Sixteen of those deaths were from long-term care facilities. Gov. Kim Reynolds said Friday the state’s overall case count has stabilized. “Days to double continues to improve. Today it’s 18, which speaks to the slowing of the virus,” she said.

The crisis-level shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) also appears to be easing. Reynolds said the state’s overall supply is recovering and county supplies are doing the same.

“We’re starting to get a lot of the orders we placed in March, so our stockpile is in good shape,” she said.

Matt Milner can be reached at mmilner@ottumwacourier.com and followed on Twitter @mwmilner

Matt Milner can be reached at mmilner@ottumwacourier.com and followed on Twitter @mwmilner

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Managing Editor

Matt Milner currently serves as the Courier's Managing Editor. Milner is a trained weather spotter and is usually outside if there are storms. He joined the Courier in 2002.

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