OTTUMWA — Mahaska County is on the cusp of hitting triple digits for COVID-19 cases, and Appanoose County reported its 17th cases of the virus.

The outbreak in Mahaska County is driven by the 73 cases identified at Crystal Heights Care Center. Eighteen people in that outbreak have recovered. The virus is known to be much more lethal to the elderly, and Mahaska County’s figures reflect that. The county has had 12 deaths, on par with levels from counties with significantly bigger outbreaks.

Appanoose County’s experience has been more of a slow burn, by comparison, with no central site for the virus’ spread. The newest case is a woman older than age 81 who is receiving medical care.

Both counties’ outbreaks are dwarfed by Wapello County, which rose to 636 cases by 5 p.m. Friday in the state’s count. County officials announced another two deaths on Friday. Both were people over age 81. Sixteen people have died in Wapello County from the virus.

But the virus is not spreading nearly as fast as it did in May. State counts show Wapello County averaged 18.2 new cases per day for the month of May. It has yet to record even 10 new cases in a day this month. And, while raw numbers of tests in Wapello County is down in June, the daily rate of positive tests remains around 10 percent.

The state’s COVID website revealed the first Wapello County case of COVID-19 confirmed by serology testing, which looks for antibodies in a person’s bloodstream. Unlike the swab tests done at sites like TestIowa, serology tests can identify infections after the person has recovered.

Only one case has been found that way in Wapello County, though 62 people have been tested through blood draws. And state data shows that testing began much earlier than you might expect. Three separate serology tests were conducted on April 22. The county had only 13 confirmed cases total at that time.

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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