Jan 5, 2022 - COVID

Why a COVID-19 surge is underreported in Polk County

An illustration of a woman standing in front of COVID-19 outline.

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

People who test positive for COVID-19 using at-home rapid tests are not included in official case counts unless the results are verified using a PCR test, Polk County Health Department spokesperson Nola Aigner Davis told Axios.

Why it matters: A recent surge in COVID-19 cases is underreported.

  • The growing use of at-home tests offers convenience but has left health agencies across the country in the dark, PBS News Hour reports.

Driving the news: The highly transmissible Omicron variant is now the predominant strain in a four-state region that includes Iowa, according to a CDC report published Tuesday.

  • There were 17,773 new COVID-19 cases reported in the state during the past week — up 73% from the prior week — according to preliminary data released Monday by the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Yes, but: Preliminary studies show that vaccines or prior COVID infections are generally effective against the variant, keeping people alive and out of the hospital, Axios' Caitlin Owens reports.

The big picture: Hospitalization and death data may offer a clearer picture about the severity of the pandemic.

  • Those numbers have gone up in recent weeks but are still less than half of the levels recorded in late 2020, according to The New York Times.

What to do: Iowans looking for a test can request one or schedule to pick one up for free at TestIowa.com.

  • People who test positive using at-home rapid tests are encouraged to report the results to their county health department. In Polk County, call 515-286-3890.

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