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A doctor takes a nasal swab sample to test for COVID-19 at the Cocodrilos Sports Park in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, amid the new coronavirus pandemic.

OTTUMWA — Four more residents of Wapello County have died with the coronavirus, local officials said Monday evening.

The Wapello County Public Health Department said that three people over the age of 80-years-old and one over the age of 70-years-old died. That brings the total dead in the pandemic to 76, they said.

Active cases of COVID-19 in Wapello County approached 600 on Monday as 12 residents were hospitalized.

Data from the Iowa Department of Public Heath reported that there were 30 new cases of the coronavirus were reported in Wapello County between 10 a.m. Sunday and 10 a.m. Monday. Another 30 were reported in nearby Davis County.

Iowa added 2,335 cases of COVID-19 in that time span while also reporting six new deaths.

Officials in Wapello County on Sunday reported that an individual over 80 years old had died, upping the county’s pandemic total to 72.

New cases in Wapello County have raised the active case count to 599, according to state data. The 14-day positivity rate was up slightly again, to 26.2%.

For the ninth straight day, hospitalizations in Iowa hit records. Around the state, 1,392 patients were in hospitals with COVID-19, with 271 in an intensive care unit — both numbers are records. There were 243 patients admitted in the last 24 hours, also a record.

Hospitalizations continued a rise in Appanoose County, where there were 12 hospitalized as of the latest available state data provided Sunday. There were four hospitalized in Davis County, five in Monroe, four in Jefferson, and four in Van Buren, according to the data.

Appanoose County added another 14 cases between Sunday and Monday. There were seven new cases reported in Monroe, four in Jefferson and two in Van Buren.

The state on Monday sought emergency help to keep up with contact tracing for what the Iowa Department of Public Health called an “exponential increase” in COVID-19 cases. The state agency put a request for proposals for entities that can quickly begin to trace contacts with positive COVID-19 cases.

The process will be expedited, according to a press release from the agency.

A spokeswoman for the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics said the premiere Iowa hospital was “very full” and making adjustments to free up beds for the most critically ill patients.

Hospitals in Des Moines were also nearing their limits, according to the Polk County Public Health Department.

“We cannot stress enough how alarming and urgent the situation has become for hospitals and their health care workers,” the department said in a statement.

Hospitals are most concerned about staffing, with more workers in isolation or quarantine due to community spread and those exhausted from months of fighting the pandemic.

The Associated Press reported that urban hospitals are beginning to transfer patients to rural hospitals around the state.

“The Iowa hospital community message is that we’re here, open and prepared to care for all, but we need everyone’s help to stem this current tide of COVID-19,” Kirk Norris, the Iowa Hospital Association President, said.

School districts in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Davenport began virtual classes on Monday.

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.

Those wanting to be tested can visit testiowa.com 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 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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