Dubuque County residents likely will see a decline in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases the county racks up each day in the coming weeks.
Are we finally flattening the curve?
Hardly. A decline in cases is inevitable because it will be driven by a decline in testing.
Operations at the Dubuque Test Iowa site were dramatically reduced, beginning Tuesday.
The directive came from the governor’s office, according to the Dubuque County Public Health Incident Management Team. In its daily update Monday, the team stated that the governor’s office had directed Epic Health and Wellness to not take more than 100 COVID-19 test samples per day going forward.
When testing began at Epic on June 22, the site saw a line all through the nine hours per day it was open. On July 10, Epic reported the line forming even when the site began opening at 4 a.m. Testing at Epic brought in 400 to 550 samples per day, and cases in Dubuque County jumped even higher.
Now, Epic’s hours are reduced to
6 to 7 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday this week, with no more than 100 tests per day.
Further, the Visiting Nurse Association is no longer is allowed to assist residents without internet access. People without internet access — such as many senior citizens — are told to ask someone to assist them in taking the online assessment.
These don’t sound like steps toward curtailing the pandemic.
President Donald Trump suggested back in June at his rally in Tulsa that less testing would be the way to lower the numbers. Trump said he was joking, and yet, here we are, weeks later, and the state’s Republican governor is giving the order to do just that in Dubuque County.
On Fox News on Sunday, Trump explained to Chris Wallace that the rising numbers in many states were because of the increases in testing. “If we tested half as much, those numbers would be down.”
True. But will the rate of positivity go down? If it doesn’t, then we aren’t making any progress on containing the virus. We’re just identifying fewer carriers.
In Dubuque County, as the number of positive cases climbed in recent weeks, so did the rate of positivity. On July 2, when Dubuque County had a total of 600 cases, the positivity rate was 5.4%. By July 17, when Dubuque County had 1,100 cases, the county’s positivity rate had climbed to 6.8%. As of Tuesday, when testing dropped to 100 per day, the county’s rate stood at 7%.
With the free TestIowa site limited to 100 tests per day, the number of confirmed cases certainly will go down. When testing is harder to come by, we could see asymptomatic folks — and maybe some symptomatic ones — who won’t bother with waiting in line or spend the money on a doctor’s office visit.
Instead, they will hope for the best. Hope they aren’t infecting others. Hope the virus will just settle down on its own.
That’s a risky gamble, and it’s disheartening that our state and national leaders don’t see it otherwise.