A rural U.S. county has a jump in virus cases as a university reopens.
Story County, in the dead center of Iowa, is mostly farmland, with only about 90,000 residents. But it has seen its coronavirus case count shoot up by almost 30 percent, or at least 308 cases, just in the last two weeks.
What happened? Iowa State University, in Ames, reopened.
At least 141 of those new cases are students who were tested as they moved into residence halls or campus apartments for the fall semester. The university said it had tested 6,500 students, using its veterinary diagnostic lab to process the tests and get results back quickly, usually within 24 hours.
That is still only a portion of the student body, which numbered nearly 33,400 students last year. Many students living in sorority or fraternity houses or in off-campus apartments, for example, may not have been included.
Students who test positive are moved to “isolation rooms” on campus, and their recent contacts are notified. Other students living in university housing who may have been exposed to them are given quarantine rooms and monitored for symptoms.
“We understand that receiving news that you need to isolate or quarantine is stressful for our students and families, especially when this impacts participation in campus events and classes,” Erin Baldwin, the interim senior vice president for student affairs at the university, said in a statement on Friday, adding that the school would “provide flexibility while they navigate coursework virtually.”
The increase in virus cases comes as Ames and the rest of Story County work to recover from an unusual type of severe windstorm, known as a derecho, that wreaked havoc across much of the Midwest last week.
“We are acutely aware that as many as 1,200 Ames customers remain without electricity five days after the storm,” Mayor John Haila said in a statement late Saturday. He said the city had opened cooling centers and had distributed ice to residents without power.