OTTUMWA — Wapello County’s COVID-19 outbreak reached a significant milestone with Thursday evening’s release of local data. For the first time, the number of newly-recovered patients outnumbered the newly-confirmed cases.

County officials reported five new cases, for a total of 316. But the number of recovered patients rose by 11. Thirty-three people have now recovered in Wapello County.

There’s still reason for caution. The Iowa Department of Public Health showed 328 cases in Wapello County on Thursday. While there were spikes on May 9 and May 11, four of the past six days have shown an increase of between 20 and 24 cases.

The rate at which Wapello County tests return a positive result remained high. The daily figure has not dipped below 30 percent yet this month, even as the overall figure for Iowa has fallen to around 10 percent.

That could change with Friday’s state update, if it shows a shift similar to the county’s data.

Wapello County has the eighth-highest per-capita rate of infection in Iowa and the 10th-highest number of cases. State totals continue to show seven people hospitalized for treatment locally.

Wednesday saw the launch of a drive-through TestIowa screening site in Ottumwa. The site relies on people being referred for testing after taking an assessment at testiowa.com. State figures show more than 3,700 Wapello County residents have taken the assessment, though it does not indicate how many of those were referred for actual testing.

Tim Richmond, the Wapello County Emergency Management director, said the start of testing in Ottumwa went reasonably well. About 70 people were tested on the first half-day of testing. That’s fewer tests than the site’s daily capability, though the hours will expand beginning Friday and will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. all of next week.

“We had a fairly steady stream early on,” Richmond said. “Yesterday went very well. We’ve learned a lot from different sites around Iowa.”

He said he took the testiowa.com assessment himself, and his office is working on how to put together a drive-through video of the site and process.

Gov. Kim Reynolds said Thursday the state has finished its validation of the TestIowa process and expects faster returns on test results in the coming days. A call center is also being set up specifically for TestIowa.

“TestIowa is a big part of our long-term recovery plan” she said.

About two-thirds of the people who have taken the assessment in Wapello County are female. The largest age group is adults ages 41-60, followed by adults between the ages of 18-40. That demographic breakdown closely mirrors that of the state’s total.

But despite the recent surge in cases for Wapello County, it is not the one with the highest local figures for the TestIowa screening. That belongs to Mahaska County, which has seen nearly 4,200 people take the assessment.

TestIowa now operates eight testing sites across the state, including the Ottumwa location.

Richmond cautioned against thinking the state’s overall situation is identical to conditions locally. “I don’t think we’re in the recovery phase,” he said. “We’re still in the middle of this.”

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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