Johnson County sees highest single-day coronavirus case increase

County health officials hire 27 part-time contact tracers

A National Guard member waves through a car at the Test Iowa coronavirus testing site at the Kirkwood Community College
A National Guard member waves through a car at the Test Iowa coronavirus testing site at the Kirkwood Community College Continuing Education Training Center in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, May 28, 2020. Those wishing to be tested are required to show a QR code in order to enter. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Johnson County reported its highest single-day tally of new cases to date, continuing a spike of new COVID-19 cases in the county.

The state reported its first case on March 8, in Johnson County.

Seventy new cases of the virus were recorded in the county in a 24-hour period ending at 11 a.m. Monday — the highest daily total of any county in that period.

Three more Iowans died from COVID-19 statewide, bringing the state’s death toll to 707. Hamilton County reported its first COVID-19 death, making it the 55th county in Iowa to report a coronavirus death.

Home to the University of Iowa, Johnson County has seen an upswing of positive cases in the past two weeks, especially among young people.

Cases began climbing the week of June 14, and the county reported between 40 and 50 new cases on most days in that two-week period.

Monday’s posting brought Johnson County’s total to 1,096 positive cases — a 38 percent jump in a week.

Several restaurants and bars in Iowa City opted to close this past week to curb the recent outbreak, which public health officials say skews toward younger people. Of all the positive COVID-19 cases in Iowa, 66 percent have been in people aged 18 to 40.

The Johnson County Public Health Department hired and trained 27 new part-time staff to do contact tracing over the week and weekend, said Sam Jarvis, Johnson County community health division manager.

As for personal protections, he said the department’s health message hasn’t changed — wearing a mask, physically distancing and staying home if feeling sick are key to curbing the spread of the virus.

He added, anecdotally, that the public health department’s staff has seen fewer people wearing masks and physically distancing themselves, especially young people. He urged people even with experiencing mild symptoms to stay home.

“It’s hard to know if it is allergies or not, but please err on the side of caution because you can help prevent transmission,” Jarvis said.

Iowa’s university towns continue to see a steady rise in positive cases. Johnson County — along with Story County, home to Iowa State University — were among the 136 counties the White House included in a list last week showing counties with rising case numbers.

No COVID-19 patients in Johnson County, however, are hospitalized as of June 28.

The county also is home to the largest hospital in the state, the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. The public research hospital touted a 99.7 percent survival rate for COVID-19 patients earlier this month.

On Monday, the state reported 4,518 test results, topping 300,000 total tests statewide since the first cases in Iowa were confirmed in early March.

The state reported 302 positive tests, or 6.68 percent of the daily total.

Comments: (319) 398-8370; sarah.watson@thegazette.com

John McGlothlen contributed to this report.

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