Testing, positive cases on the rise in county

Dave Faries

For those responsible for tracking coronavirus numbers in Audrain County, the past two weeks have been a roller coaster.

The total number of active cases stood at 146 on Oct. 9. That figure dropped to 130 a week later, although no one at the Audrain County Health Department believed the pandemic was slowing. As if to validate any caution, active cases ticked upward again this week. As of Thursday morning there were 154 people testing positive, with 20 new reported cases in one day alone.

Figures released by ACHD on Oct. 20 showed 134 active cases in the county. By the next day’s report there were 154 positives.

“We’re taking it one day at a time,” said Katie Swaim, a registered nurse and interim co-administrator with the ACHD.

Public health officials are by now familiar with the ups and downs of this pandemic. One bit of data that has improved over the two week span is the number of people getting tested. Since Oct. 9, more than 1,000 tests have been recorded in the county. Sixty-one tests took place between Oct. 20 and Oct. 21, perhaps accounting for the increase in positive results.

The upswing in testing includes those required to be checked before a medical procedure or athletic event. But it is also related to availability, with testing sites such as the one at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital in Mexico, a drive-through operation which does not require an appointment. And it helps public health officials understand the extent of COVID-19’s impact on the county.

Swaim explains that some numbers can be tricky to pin down. For example, a person can be active and asymptomatic and be counted in the latter category, but then develop symptoms days later.

Since the pandemic began, there have been 882 total cases recorded in Audrain county. The largest concentration of cases are among inmates and staff at the Women’s Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Vandalia, with 428 positives since March. Another 77 cases are associated with the Tri County Care Center.

Both facilities have experienced swings. As of Thursday, 120 WERDCC inmates and one employee had active infections. Last Friday, that number was 118 – all inmates. On October 9, 123 in detention and two employees were reported active. Meanwhile, the situation has calmed at Tri County. There have been no new active cases over the past two weeks.

Because 57 percent of the county's total caseload is contained to two locations, there are few known positives currently reported in the rest of the community. According to ACHD’s data, just 23 active cases existed as of Thursday – up from 16 the day before and 12 on Oct. 16.

“If you take those [WERDCC and Tri County] away, it’s steady,” Swaim said of the county’s long-term COVID-19 trend line. “It hasn’t gone away.”

There have been eight deaths attributed to COVID-19 since March in Audrain County, with two of those coming since Oct. 9.


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