As Test Iowa begins the drive-through testing in Ottumwa Wednesday, we want people to bear a few things in mind.

First, if you can avoid the area around the Beach and Bridge View, please do so. There will most likely be considerable traffic. Aside from the headache of simply being stuck in lines, it will be easier on everyone if there are not additional vehicles trying to get through the area. Do yourself a favor: unless you’re on your way to get tested, stay away.

Many, but not all, of the people being tested will likely be from this area. That means there will quite likely be an increase in the number of cases reported for Wapello County and the surrounding area. That’s not entirely a bad thing. It means the testing finds additional cases, not that they weren’t here before.

The thing to watch is going to be the rate at which tests come back positive. Experts say a positive rate of about 10 percent usually indicates enough testing is being done to monitor the situation and detect new outbreaks. Wapello County’s rate has been much, much higher recently, underscoring the need for work like what Test Iowa is doing.

If the testing results in Wapello County’s positive rate falling — even with the newly-discovered cases — it will go a long way toward giving officials a better idea of how widespread the virus is.

We may not know for a while whether that’s the case. The nature of mass testing means there may well be more volatility in the numbers than usual. In a lot of ways this is a snapshot. Think of that uncertainty as being the temporary adjustment as your eyes recover from the camera’s flash.

Simple errors could result in people from other areas being marked as in Wapello County and vice versa. That’s the kind of thing local officials have recently blamed for the gaps between their totals and the state’s.

Those gaps have closed significantly in recent days, but it’s entirely possible they could expand again as test results come back. If they can be reconciled with reasonable speed, that’s not a bad price to pay for getting a better picture.

The nature of pandemics is for society to be in a reactive posture, with efforts initially aimed at making up ground. That’s simply the way it goes. You can’t begin a response until you know a threat exists, which means any given illness is going to have something of a head start.

While parts of the United States have moved to stages where they are able to begin efforts to get ahead of the virus, Iowa is still clearly trying to catch up in important respects. This testing is a big part of that.

The tests also offer an active way for people to respond. This is something you can actually do, rather than waiting for events. Go to Take the screening. And, if it says you should be tested, here’s your opportunity.

There’s still a long road ahead. But we’ve been calling for increased testing for months. It’s here.

Now we’re calling on you to take the screening, get tested, and help Iowa see the whole picture.

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