Virus Outbreak US Surge

In this Oct. 23, 2020, file photo, University of Washington research coordinator Rhoshni Prabhu holds up a swab after testing a passenger at a free COVID testing site in Seattle.

OTTUMWA — Local officials announced two more deaths in Wapello County related to the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday.

The Wapello County Public Health Department said two individuals, one over the age of 81 years old and one between 41 and 60 years old, died. That raises the county's total to 71 in the pandemic.

At the Ottumwa Community School District, there have been four more staff members and three more students test positive for COVID-19.

The district reported the new positive cases Thursday. All three students were within Ottumwa High School, while two of the staff members were at Liberty Elementary School. The other staff members were at the high school and elsewhere in the district.

There are now 182 students quarantined district-wide, including 50 at Ottumwa High School and 38 at Evans Middle School. There are seven staff members quarantined.

Since the start of the school year, 28 students have tested positive as well as 42 staff members.

Evans Middle School started all virtual instruction on Thursday. That’ll continue Friday before students will return to in-person instruction on Monday. The move to two days of virtual instruction was due to a high volume of staff absences and a shortage of substitutes. The district planned to sanitize and clean the school building during the two-day break.

There were 53 new cases of COVID-19 reported Thursday in Appanoose County as active cases rose past 300.

Appanoose County, population 12,400, ranked 37th in the entire nation for virus spread when cases in the last seven days were adjusted for population by the New York Times. The small county has a higher rate of spread than more populated places like El Paso, Texas; Cedar Rapids; Bismarck, North Dakota; and New York City.

The new cases in the county pushed it to 330 active cases in the pandemic, according to data from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

In the last two weeks, 30% of coronavirus tests taken by Appanoose County residents have returned positive, making it the seventh-highest county in Iowa.

Between 10 a.m. Wednesday and 10 a.m. Thursday, there were 34 new cases in Jefferson, 23 in Wapello, nine in Monroe, seven in Van Buren and four in Davis.

Iowa added 4,337 more cases of COVID-19 in that time span, with 30 new deaths. There were 8,562 Iowans tested for the first time and 1,146 new recoveries reported.

Hospitalizations were again at record levels. Iowa reported 1,208 were hospitalized, a record high. There were 215 patients in an intensive care unit, another record high. In the last 24 hours, 207 have been admitted into a hospital.

Area hospitals are reporting high numbers, but so far they are managing.

The Ottumwa Regional Health Center said while numbers are rising, they still have capacity.

MercyOne Centerville Medical Center, which reported capacity numbers for inpatient beds earlier in the week, said beds have become available.

Both hospitals reminded patients even if numbers are reported at or near capacity they should still seek health care.

“We do not want to discourage people from seeking care at Mercy One Centerville either for COVID symptoms or other serious health issues that require medical intervention,” Ann Young, the vice president for health care experience at the hospital said. “Our emergency room is open 24/7 and sees patients regardless of the inpatient volume. Every patient who comes to the emergency room is seen, treated and/or advanced for further care.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds said all states are experiencing growing numbers of virus spread. While true, Iowa is currently third in the nation for virus spread, behind only North Dakota and South Dakota, according to a data analysis by the New York Times.

Reynolds reported that statewide, COVID-19 patients make up 21% of all hospital stays currently.

The Republican governor announced the state has entered into another contract with NOMI Health for the Test Iowa program — about $3.4 million for additional testing supplies.

Virus spread is in all communities across Iowa, Reynolds said. She pointed out that while most cases are in Polk County, when adjusted for population, the rural counties of the state are producing higher numbers.

"We're seeing significant community spread across our entire state," she said. "Both in our metro and rural communities. COVID-19 does not discriminate based on geography; the virus is present in all of our communities and all of us can help stop its spread."

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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