Virus Outbreak

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, pink, cultured in the lab.

OTTUMWA — As spread of the coronavirus continues at one of the highest paces in the country, there were more than 5,065 new cases in Iowa Friday. Wapello County alone added 68 of those.

The positivity rate average over the last 14 days in Wapello County increased to the second-highest level in the area. According to state data, 25.1% of the COVID-19 tests taken by Wapello County residents have been positive the last two weeks.

Appanoose County remains the highest in the Courier's coverage area, at 30.9%. There were 32 new cases reported between 10 a.m. Thursday and 10 a.m. Friday.

The increase in cases has led the Centerville Community School District to shift back into a hybrid learning model for grades 6-12. Those grades will be off on Monday and then Howar Middle School and Centerville High School will begin learning in a hybrid model starting Tuesday. The change will last through winter break, but will not change instruction for students in fifth grade and below.

The Moravia Community School District reported Friday that positives are continuing to grow. The district said that 69 students are quarantined, 12 are positive with COVID-19 and nine other students are awaiting results from their tests. There are three staff members also out with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

The state continued record-setting numbers for hospitalizations. There were 1,227 hospitalized with COVID-19 on Friday, a record. There were also a record 240 patients needing an intensive care unit. There were 213 patients admitted in the last 24 hours.

The latest available county-level data, as of Wednesday evening, showed 11 were hospitalized in Appanoose County and 10 were hospitalized in Wapello. There were five hospitalizations in Van Buren County, four in Jefferson, three in Davis and two in Monroe.

The number of cases at some long-term care facilities around the area ticked upward.

In Appanoose County, there were seven new cases reported at the Golden Age Care Center, moving the total there to 42. There was one new case reported at Centerville Speciality Care, for a total of 27.

The long-term care facility at Good Samaritan Society in Ottumwa was up one case to 135.

Area hospitals are reporting high numbers, but so far they are managing.

The Ottumwa Regional Health Center said while numbers are rising, they still have capacity.

MercyOne Centerville Medical Center, which reported capacity numbers for inpatient beds earlier in the week, said beds have become available.

Both hospitals reminded patients even if numbers are reported at or near capacity, they should still seek health care.

“We do not want to discourage people from seeking care at MercyOne Centerville either for COVID symptoms or other serious health issues that require medical intervention,” Ann Young, the vice president for health care experience at the hospital said. “Our emergency room is open 24/7 and sees patients regardless of the inpatient volume. Every patient who comes to the emergency room is seen, treated and/or advanced for further care.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds said all states are experiencing growing numbers of virus spread. While true, Iowa is currently third in the nation for virus spread, behind only North Dakota and South Dakota, according to a data analysis by the New York Times.

Reynolds reported that statewide, COVID-19 patients make up 21% of all hospital stays currently.

The Republican governor announced the state has entered into another contract with NOMI Health for the Test Iowa program — about $3.4 million for additional testing supplies.

Virus spread is in all communities across Iowa, Reynolds said. She pointed out that while most cases are in Polk County, when adjusted for population, the rural counties of the state are producing higher numbers.

"We're seeing significant community spread across our entire state," she said. "Both in our metro and rural communities. COVID-19 does not discriminate based on geography; the virus is present in all of our communities and all of us can help stop its spread."

There were 19 new deaths across Iowa, including one in Van Buren County. There were 10,974 new individuals tested and 1,134 new recoveries reported.

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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