OTTUMWA — County officials announced two more deaths from COVID-19 in Wapello County on Friday, the second day in which the county has had multiple fatalities.

While local officials could release only limited information, the announcement said one of the deaths was a person age 41-60, while the other was between 61-80 years old.

The most recent county data showed 536 confirmed patients with COVID-19, 346 of whom have recovered. The county’s death toll is now eight, though hospitalizations dropped to 18.

The number of hospitalizations for Wapello County patients has increased sharply in the past week. That’s not unusual within the broader pandemic, as hospitalizations and deaths have generally lagged behind increases in the case counts.

On Thursday, Emergency Management Director Tim Richmond told county supervisors the pressure on local medical resources is increasing.

“At our health care coalition meeting [Wednesday] night, the hospital reported that they’ll move two patients out into a bigger hospital and then two more right back in. That’s the trend we’re seeing this past week,” he said.

State officials said the first case of COVID-19 identified in Wapello County through serology testing has been found.

Serology testing examines a person’s blood for antibodies. If antibodies for the COVID-19 virus are present, it means the person’s immune system responded to an infection. It’s a tool to allow experts to see how widely the virus spread, and it’s important given the fact the virus doesn’t always cause severe symptoms.

Only a handful of such tests have been conducted locally — no area county had more than one positive serology test as of Friday — and the numbers statewide are much smaller than those identified through the traditional swab testing. Serology tests have identified a bit more than 1,800 cases, a third of which are in Black Hawk County.

Questions continued Friday about how the state has handled reporting of outbreaks in Iowa businesses. The issue has drawn much more attention since Buena Vista County reported more than 400 new cases in a single day this week. The outbreak was tied to a meat processing plant.

Gov. Kim Reynolds said there have been eight outbreaks of COVID-19 outside of the long-term health care facilities tracked by the state. She said positive tests are reported to the state regardless of where they are conducted. That’s what begins the tracing process.

“In that investigation process is when they start to determine, talking to the facilities, the number of employees. And if they meet the criteria of 10 percent of their workforce testing positive, when they meet that criteria that has been established, then the Department of Public Health … [tells] the public that there has been an outbreak,” she said.

Reynolds also began looking forward to this fall, when many experts have said the state may well face a second wave of infections.

“We want to make sure we have a certain number of tests ready and available,” particularly for health care workers, Reynolds 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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