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COVID-19: ISU reports 130 cases during its first week of classes; 78 more Johnson County residents test positive

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Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

Iowa State University started classes on Aug. 17, and on Monday, ISU reported 130 students and staff members had tested positive for COVID-19 during the first week of classes. The positives accounted for 13.6 percent of the 957 test results the university reported between Aug. 17 and 23.

ISU had previously confirmed 175 cases of the virus among students who were tested as they moved into residence halls before the start of classes.

Also on Monday, the Iowa Department of Education (DOE) rejected the Ames Community School District’s request to start the school year with less than 50 percent in-person instruction. The district was requesting permission to use a hybrid model of instruction for the first four weeks of the new school year that would only have 25 percent of students in class at any one time.

So far, DOE has not approved any waivers for districts wanting to start the 2020-21 school year with less than 50 percent in-person instruction.

In response to DOE rejecting its waiver request, the Iowa City Community School District filed a lawsuit in conjunction with the Iowa State Education Association seeking to have the authority to make decisions regarding school safety during the COVID-19 pandemic returned to local school boards.

DOE rejected ICCSD’s request to start the school year with two weeks of online education, even though the district’s request was fully supported by the Johnson County Public Health Department.

In a letter accompanying ICCSD application for a waiver, Johnson County Public Health Director Dave Koch wrote, “Based on the results of our case investigations and contact tracing interviews we strongly believe that we will experience another, larger surge in cases as [University of Iowa] students return, and that illness will spread not only in students but throughout the community.”

Johnson County is seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases.

At 10 a.m. on Tuesday, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported another 78 cases of the virus had been confirmed in Johnson County during the previous 24 hours. IDPH’s official estimate of the county’s 14-day average positivity rate for its COVID-19 tests has increased to 10.9 percent.

The 78 cases in Johnson County accounted for almost 16 percent of all the new cases IDPH reported between 10 a.m. on Monday and 10 a.m. on Tuesday.

Statewide, IDPH reported another 492 Iowans tested positive for COVID-19 during that period. That total includes 14 residents of Linn County.

The new cases bring the total number of Iowans who have tested positive for the virus to 57,076.

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The department also reported another nine deaths from the virus during the 24-hour period ending at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. The state’s COVID-19 death toll stood at 1,048 on Tuesday morning.

Although DOE has not granted a waiver for schools to start the school year with less than 50 percent in-person instruction, one school district announced on Monday it will be switching to all online classes for its sixth-graders.

On Friday night, the Indianola Community School District (ICSD) disclosed that one of its sixth-grade teachers at Indianola Middle School had tested positive for COVID-19. That teacher was in self-isolation, and seven other sixth-grade teachers were in quarantine, ICSD Art Sathoff said in a Facebook post. In a video message to district parents on Monday evening, Sathoff said one of the quarantined teachers had also tested positive.

“This means that we are, unfortunately, going to have to move the sixth grade to continuous learning-remote to begin the school year,” Sathoff said. “Virtually the entire sixth grade team is impacted, and there is no way to arrange coverage for onsite learning.”

Sathoff said the district expected to resume in-person classes for sixth-grade students on Sept. 8.

Indianola Middle School is not the first school in the district to report a case of COVID-19. On Aug. 8, the district confirmed a case of the virus at Irving Elementary School. Classes in the district began on Aug. 4.


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