COVID-19

The coronavirus disease COVID-19 was first reported from Wuhan, China, on Dec. 31, 2019.

OTTUMWA — The Wapello County Public Health Department said Monday afternoon that two more residents have died with COVID-19. 

The new deaths raise the county's total in the pandemic to 64. Both were individuals over the age of 81 years old, the local officials said.

There were another 22 cases of the coronavirus in Wapello County, as local hospitalizations were up to 10 over the weekend.

More cases have been reported in the Ottumwa School District as well. According to the COVID-19 update center on the district's website, Pickwick and Ottumwa High School each had one staff member report as positive Monday, while three district staff members classified as other were reported as new positives Monday. Additionally, a parent notification from Horace Mann indicated a staff member there was positive as well for a total of six positives on the day. Currently, according to the data, the district has 24 staff positives to date with three in quarantine.

There were three new student cases reported Monday as well, one at Wilson and two at OHS. That brings student positives to date up to 13 while 36 are in quarantine.

Local public health officials urge the public to continue following recommendations from the Iowa Department of Public Health, including wearing a mask, continuing to social distance, clean and disinfect highly used spaces, and staying home if you're sick.

Iowa added 1,469 new cases between Sunday and Monday, settling down a bit due to less testing from a record-setting streak between Friday and Sunday of new cases.

The state added 2,621 cases on Friday, 2,823 on Saturday and 2,887 on Sunday — each day setting a new record for 24-hour growth in the pandemic.

Data from the Iowa Department of Public Health showed another record-setting day for hospitalizations. Around the state, 718 were hospitalized with COVID-19 — with 156 in an intensive care unit.

According to state data as of Sunday, the latest available, there were 10 hospitalized in Wapello County. Four were hospitalized in Van Buren, two in Jefferson, two in Monroe and one in Appanoose.

The CEO of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Suresh Gunasekaran, told media Monday that it's time for Iowans to reverse the trend again.

"We need to flatten the curve," he said. "We've done this before. This is not something that we haven't done multiple times before around the country. I think its time to return to those behaviors that flatten the curve."

He said because of the spread, Iowa families will need to change their holiday plans to avoid mass spread in the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

"I think that these are the kinds of choices that Iowans are going to have to make," Gunasekaran said. "Every gathering would require people to come from other parts of the country, and I just don't think that we can do that this year. I think it's a pretty big sacrifice, honestly. I think most families look forward all year to Thanksgiving and Christmas — certainly Thanksgiving is the highlight of my year, usually. This year, it's going to have to be radically different."

Gunasekaran said he is confident the hospital he oversees in Iowa City will have beds, he's worried about whether professionals will be able to keep up with staffing. All hospitals in the state are in jeopardy giving current case counts, he said.

"This November brings us another critical juncture in this pandemic," Gunasekaran said. "And what this November is showing us is this pandemic is not over. ... If this November goes a different way, we could see a radically different healthcare system not just for patients that need treatment for COVID, for all conditions."

Gunasekaran also said the long-term effects of the virus is something that will be studied over the coming months and years. And while vaccine and therapeutics are in the news, Gunasekaran reminds Iowans there is still not a magic cure for COVID-19.

"There's not a miracle treatment of therapy for COVID," he said. "The mortality rate has stayed almost the same throughout the pandemic. ... We still don't know the long-term effects of coronavirus and the treatments that we're using — and we'll only found that out in months and years. I still think the best plan for Iowans is to go ahead and not get the virus."

The state reports more than 3,000 inpatient beds available statewide, but less than 400 intensive care unit beds are open. A model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects Iowa will run out of ICU beds by early December.

The average rate of positive tests for the last 14 days continued to increase in Wapello County, now up to 15.6%, as reported by state data.

Iowa reported 17 new deaths on Monday.

On Saturday, officials from Appanoose County confirmed a 41- to 60-year-old person with underlying conditions had died — the county’s fourth death. That death, however, has not yet appeared in state data.

There were 302 new recoveries reported around the state, and 4,145 individuals were tested for the first time.

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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