Members of the Iowa National Guard prepare for the opening of the TestIowa site in Ottumwa on May 13. The site will continue operations through at least May 29.

OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa TestIowa site will continue COVID-19 testing at The Beach through May 29.

Mayor Tom Lazio announced the extension during Tuesday night’s city council meeting.

“The TestIowa program has picked up. We did 183 tests yesterday. So we’re right at about 470 tests that have been taken. They are going to stay here, right now, through the 29th. There is a meeting this week to make that final determination,” he said.

Emergency Management Coordinator Tim Richmond confirmed the extension Wednesday morning. The Ottumwa location is one of eight drive-through testing sites statewide to which people may be referred after being screened at testiowa.com.

The TestIowa site opened a week ago and, at the time, officials said the site had a target of about 320 tests per day. It’s clear that figure is not being met, but the numbers do appear to be having an effect on Wapello County’s statistics as tracked by the state. A total of 127 Wapello County residents were tested on Tuesday, nearly a third more than were tested on the previous record for the county.

Eleven more positive tests were reported, bringing the state’s total to 416 confirmed cases in Wapello County as of 11 a.m. Wednesday. Local officials put the county’s total at 388 cases.

The increase in testing since the TestIowa site opened is showing up in another way as well. Tuesday’s results showed a 9 percent positive rate. That’s a major milestone, since experts say a sustained rate of about 10 percent generally indicates enough testing is being done to accurately monitor a community. The county’s positive rate had not been in single digits in nearly a month.

As more people recover from the virus, there is a gap between the raw number of positive tests and the number of active cases in Wapello County. The state counts 339 active cases locally, while local officials put the figure at 269.

Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday the state’s ability to trace positive cases has improved.

“Our ability to target the virus down to a zip code means that we can act with precision to identify and isolate positive cases, track and contain the spread, and keep things operating as normal,” she said.

Reynolds said restrictions in place to slow the spread of the virus can be further relaxed. Zoos, movie theaters, aquariums, museums and wedding reception venues can reopen effective Friday. Pools can also reopen.

“Effective June 1, Iowa schools will be permitted to resume school-sponsored activities and learning,” Reynolds said, including summer sports.

State parks are also reopening Friday, including campgrounds and plumbed bathrooms. But there will be restrictions, and playgrounds will remain closed.

— Matt Milner can be reached at mmilner@ottumwacourier.com and followed on Twitter @mwmilner


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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