Coronavirus 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, blue/pink, cultured in the lab.

OTTUMWA — There are now more than 100 active cases of the coronavirus in Wapello County, with 35 new cases identified in the last 24 hours.

Thursday was the highest single-day spike for Wapello County since late May.

The spike in Wapello County was mimicked across Iowa, as the state added 2,469 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday. There were 10 new cases in Jefferson County, seven in Appanoose, six in Davis, six in Monroe and three in Van Buren.

Whether the 35 cases Wapello added Thursday are the product of more testing was not immediately clear. The data reported by the Iowa Department of Public Health, which is for individuals tested, indicated that 213 Wapello County residents had been tested so far this week. That’s roughly on par with the daily average seen since September.

Another indicator that the spike is not directly correlated to more testing is the county’s positivity rate over the last 14 days. The factor jumped to 11.6% on Thursday.

However, testing data understates true testing numbers because of how it's reported publicly, according to Cedar Rapids television station KCRG.

The station reported Wednesday that state officials are processing between 70,000 and 80,000 tests per week, but the state's website reports only 30,000 or 40,000.

State officials said this is because the state's website refers to individuals tested. If an individual takes multiple tests, it is still only reflected as one individual tested in the state's public reporting. Paul Trombino, Gov. Kim Reynolds' chief operating officer, told the station that about 40% of individuals reported on the state's data website had been tested multiple times throughout the pandemic.

Data from the Iowa Department of Public Health indicated there are 118 active cases of COVID-19 in Wapello County as of Thursday morning.

Iowa also eclipsed 600 hospitalized, as the record growth of COVID-19 patients needing medical attention continued. As of 10 a.m. Thursday, there were 605 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 around the state, with 135 in an intensive care unit.

The Wapello County Public Health Department reported Wednesday that there are 10 residents hospitalized from the county.

In Iowa, about 33% of inpatient beds are available. There are about 381 intensive care unit beds available, not just for COVID-19 but also for other illnesses and ailments.

model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects that Iowa will run out of ICU beds by early December.

Iowa reported 11 new deaths on Thursday, 7,708 new individuals tested, and 979 new recoveries.

The IHME model projects the state will eclipse 1,700 deaths by the end of this week and that Iowa will eclipse 2,000 total deaths by mid-November.

Iowa continues to be identified as a red zone by the White House Coronavirus Task Force, according to their latest report dated Oct. 25. The report, which is not released publicly by the White House, was obtained and posted by ABC News.

The rate of new cases is the 11th highest in the entire country, according to federal data from Oct. 17-23.

The growth in cases, the report said, is related to indoor gatherings.

“We are finding that as the weather cools, friends and families are moving social gatherings indoors, significantly increasing the spread,” the report states.

Iowa must increase mitigation efforts to slow the spread, the report recommends. State officials are not bound to follow recommendations in the reports. In fact, Gov. Kim Reynolds has for months resisted calls from experts and the task force to mandate masks across the state, a move they say would save significant lives and slow the spread.

The report also reminds Iowans that individuals can have the coronavirus and be contagious, even without symptoms.

“People must remember that seemingly uninfected family members and friends may be infected but asymptomatic,” said the report. “When meeting people who are not a part of one’s household, masking and physical distancing must be observed at all times, especially when indoors.”

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 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.

Kyle Ocker is the group editor of the Ottumwa Courier and the Oskaloosa Herald. He can be reached at 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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