Six counties at or above 15% positivity threshold for potential remote learning

Dr. Caitlin Pedati, of the Iowa Department of Public Health, discusses the thoughts behind setting a 15% positivity rate threshold for potential online learning
Published: Aug. 5, 2020 at 3:37 PM CDT
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DES MOINES, Iowa (KCRG) - State officials have released a new online tool that displays each county’s current positivity rate, a critical statistic that officials are using to determine whether school districts should be allowed to hold online-only classes.

The data, presented as part of Iowa’s COVID-19 dashboard, show that six counties are at or above the 15% COVID-19 positivity rate threshold set out by Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Education. Ann Lebo, the department’s director, previously said that threshold is when a district can be approved for a waiver for two weeks of online instruction if there is also at least a 10% absentee rate among the student population. A district could be approved without the absentee rate requirement if the county’s positive rate is at or above 20%.

The positivity rate shown in the new tool is an average daily percentage of positive tests out of total tests over the previous 14-day period. Like other data the state provides on its website, the numbers are updated as new test results are reported.

The six counties, as of 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, include Webster, Clarke, Franklin, Humboldt, Fremont, and Shelby. Several more fall between 10% and 14%, including Marshall, Clayton, Clinton, Dubuque, Bremer, Floyd, and Wapello in the KCRG-TV9 viewing area.

14-day average COVID-19 positivity rates for Iowa's counties, as of 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday,...
14-day average COVID-19 positivity rates for Iowa's counties, as of 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, August 5, 2020.(Courtesy: State of Iowa)

Dr. Caitlin Pedati, medical director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, said during the governor’s office’s Tuesday morning briefing that the threshold was set taking into consideration the needs of areas that are more, or less, populated.

“Finding a balance in how to bring students back to school safely is a goal that everybody is working on,” Pedati said. “And, again, I think I would say this is an example of a place where we continue to learn more, and being flexible is really important.”

Dr. Deborah Birx appeared on Sunday’s edition of “State of the Union” on CNN, and said that the spread of the novel coronavirus is “extraordinarily widespread. It’s into the rural as equal urban areas.”

“If you have high case load and active community spread...we are asking people to distance learn at this moment so we can get this epidemic under control,” Birx said, in reply to a question by host Dana Bash as to whether states with a 5% positivity rate should consider keeping schools closed.

The state of Iowa has seen an overall positivity rate of 9.4% since the pandemic began. 5.8% were positive among tests processed on Tuesday, with most recent days seeing rates between 7% and 9% according to state data.

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