COVID-19 tests

This is a picture of CDC’s laboratory test kit for SARS-CoV-2 (also known as COVID-19 or coronavirus). CDC tests are provided to U.S. state and local public health laboratories and Department of Defense laboratories that were either previously qualified for being able to perform a similar type of test used to detect influenza or have been recently approved by their state public health laboratory for SARS-CoV-2 testing.

OSKALOOSA — There were 26 new cases of the coronavirus reported in Mahaska County Wednesday, while neighboring Marion County reported another 18.

The case growth between 10 a.m. Tuesday and 10 a.m. Wednesday around the state hit record numbers. There were 4,764 new cases reported in Iowa in that time period, the most for a single 24-hour period so far in the pandemic.

Record numbers also continued for hospitalizations, with more than 200 now in an intensive care unit, according to state data.

Hospitals around the state are beginning to report they are at- or near-capacity as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on and cases begin to grow exponentially.

As of Wednesday morning, the state reported a record 210 patients needed an intensive care unit, while there were a record 1,190 hospitalized around the state. New admissions in the last 24 hours also broke a record, at 230.

There were 11 hospitalized in Mahaska County and 10 in Marion County, according to the latest available state numbers from Monday.

Mahaska County’s average rate of positive tests has continued to rise. State data reported that in the last 14 days, an average of 23.2% of COVID-19 tests taken have returned positive. The rate was 23.1% in Marion County.

Experts with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say a 5% positivity rate can indicate a community is a hot spot.

The most recent report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force said COVID-19 growth in Iowa was “unyielding” and required “immediate action including mask requirements to decrease severity in morbidity and mortality among Iowans.”

While Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds did adopt a new proclamation Tuesday, which included some mask requirements depending on the activity or size of an event, she did not implement a statewide mask mandate that the task force has recommended.

The task force’s report is not publicly released, but was obtained by ABC News with the Iowa portion of the report posted by ABC affiliate WOI-TV.

The message to Iowans from the task force is to:

— not gather without a mask with anyone living outside their own household,

— to always wear a mask in public places,

— to stop gatherings beyond immediate household until cases and test positivity decline,

— and to get a flu shot.

The task force also recommends more widespread testing, with weekly testing of teachers, community college students, county workers, staff in crowded or congregate settings, all hospital personnel, and large private sector employers.

“These efforts to identify and reduce asymptomatic transmission should run concurrently with testing of symptomatic persons and contact tracing of cases,” the Nov. 8 task force report reads.

According to the task force, 96 of Iowa’s 99 counties are now in a red zone, including 24 metro areas. A red zone is the highest level of a hotspot identified by the task force, which means a high level of virus transmission.

Iowa is third in the nation for virus spread, behind North and South Dakota, according to the task force report.

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 Oskaloosa Herald 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.

Kyle Ocker is the group editor of the Oskaloosa Herald and the Ottumwa Courier. He can be reached at kocker@oskyherald.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.

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Group Editor

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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