OTTUMWA — After several days of falling numbers, Wapello County’s COVID caseload took a big jump Thursday afternoon.
The 27 newly reported cases in Wapello County are the most since May 10 and only the sixth time the state has reported 20 or more new local cases in a single day. The state now lists 450 cases in Wapello County.
The count by local authorities took a huge jump, reporting 44 newly-confirmed cases. That brought the local total to 432. But the increase in recoveries meant the number of active cases stayed nearly even.
Iowa’s figures showed a significant increase in the number of tests for Wapello County residents, which accounts for part of the increase. The state reported 155 new tests for Wapello County residents, a new one-day record for the area.
The percentage of cases that tested positive was also up, topping 20 percent for the first time in three days. That ended a run in which the figure was below 10 percent, a threshold experts consider important for monitoring.
It was a reversal to a trend that had begun to establish itself in recent days in which the number of recovered patients outpaced new cases.
A statement from Wapello County Public Health sounded a note of caution Thursday as officials warned against “a false sense of security.” The statement said any short-term look at figures can be misleading since it is only a snapshot of conditions at that time:
“While our recoveries are promising, it is important to be aware that the recoveries that are occurring are primarily from the initial surge of cases approximately two weeks ago. There are still many more people who have not yet recovered and are still being followed by public health or who have not tested and are being followed by their local provider.”
While earlier cases in Wapello County were confined almost entirely to working-age adults, the past week has seen an increase in positive COVID tests from minors and the elderly. Seven people younger than age 18 have now tested positive, while eight people age 81 or older have done so.
The uptick took place the same day Gov. Kim Reynolds announced a major change in how testiowa.com will refer people for testing. There have been complaints that the assessment is too restrictive, denying referrals to people who seem to fit the publicly announced criteria. Reynolds said Thursday testing criteria for TestIowa is being loosened.
“Later today we’ll be opening the criteria so that anyone who thinks that they should be tested can be. … This is especially important as more Iowans are returning to work. So if you’re interested in being tested, please go to testiowa.com and take the assessment,” Reynolds said. “This change will be effective by the end of the day.”
Wapello County residents, urged by local officials to take the testiowa.com COVID-19 risk assessment online, have responded. But that’s not true of the entire region.
A total of 5,395 Wapello County residents have completed the assessment for, which can result in a referral for testing through TestIowa. It’s not the highest figure in Iowa, but outpaces any neighboring county by several hundred.
State data shows Monroe County, just west of Wapello, has not responded in the same way. With only 70 assessments completed, it’s the only county in the state that remains in double digits. In fact, no other county has fewer than 200 completed assessments.