The surge in confirmed COVID-19 cases in Dubuque County that local health officials predicted had not materialized as of Monday, but the majority of the results from last week’s “targeted testing” push had not been received yet.
From Wednesday through Friday, samples were taken from more than 1,450 county residents to be tested for the coronavirus. Those selected to participate were staff of long-term-care facilities or people identified as having contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19.
Local public health officials anticipated a marked spike in the number of confirmed cases in the wake of that effort, with results starting to pour in over the weekend, but that hasn’t been the case so far.
Thirteen new cases were reported Thursday, six on Friday, seven on Saturday, three on Sunday and six on Monday. It is unclear how many of those confirmed cases came from samples collected during last week’s drive.
The county’s total now stands at 197.
“When we met on Wednesday, we thought we would have results back in 24 hours, maybe 72,” said County Supervisor Ann McDonough during a meeting of the Board of Supervisors on Monday. “Obviously, that timeline has gone by. We’ve been watching the numbers climb, but there’s not been a surge. Also, I don’t see a large number of completed (tests).”
Local public health officials also noted that last point.
County Public Health Director Patrice Lambert said Monday morning that she knew of only 50 results that had been received from last week’s drive. Visiting Nurse Association Executive Director Stacey Killian knew of more, having just spoken to leaders of Crescent Community Health Center in Dubuque.
“We’re getting small batches of positives and negatives,” Killian said. “They’re coming sometimes in the middle of the night or early morning. It’s hard for me to give you a number right this second because we’re trying to get them straightened out. We should, within the next day or so, have a good amount of numbers.”
Lambert said the county incident management team expected many results to be reported in the next few days.
“It will take us probably until the end of the week to get all of that information,” she said.
According to state figures, 1,653 completed tests had been recorded in Dubuque County as of Tuesday. On Monday, that total only had risen to 2,251 — an increase of about 600. It is unclear how many of those new tests were from the “targeted testing” and how many were from local medical facilities.
Cris Kirsch, administrator of the county-owned Sunnycrest Manor said Monday morning that the long-term-care facility had received results for 136 of its 163 employees that were tested last week. There were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 so far.
Again, it was unclear if the results of those employees had been included in case counts released by the state Monday.
“There was a delay over the weekend and people were wondering, ‘How did our tests get all caught up? Where’s the bottleneck?’” McDonough said. “It sounds like it’s working the way it does. It’s just not being reported back to us the way we had expected.”
The Iowa Department of Public Health could not be reached for comment Monday.
While the results might not be in yet, the county’s local testing effort convinced state officials to extend its agreement to provide additional collection kits to the county and to have more tests run free of charge.
“They saw what we accomplished last week, that we are able to facilitate this,” said Lambert. “The state did grant us to be able to test (employees of) some additional assisted-living sites. We’ll just see how many collection kits we get. Then, we will expand out to our assisted-living this week. Our plan right now is to keep the same format: test Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.”