Iowa universities should increase COVID-19 testing to help slow the spread of the virus, the White House said in a report released Tuesday afternoon.
The state of Iowa reported 5,472 new cases last week, up 15% from the prior week. There were 173 new cases per 100,000 people in the state, the seventh-highest in the country.
Universities should dramatically increase testing to “quickly find and quarantine on-campus cases and prevent spread in surrounding community,” the White House.
Polk County, Johnson County and Story County, which are home to some of the state’s colleges and universities, had a combined 30.4% of new cases. New infections surged as students returned to campus in late August and early September.
Johnson County is home to the 33,300-student University of Iowa, while Story County is home to the 36,200-student Iowa State University. There are 27 colleges in Polk County, including Drake University.
The White House recommends state-wide use of masks to prevent the spread of the disease and deaths in vulnerable communities, in addition to rapid contact tracing to identify those who may have come in contact with anyone who has been infected.
Schools should use incentives as a way to encourage testing and implement wastewater surveillance to identify changes in transmission levels, the White House said, noting that case counts should be tracked in a transparent way, like at the University of Arizona, the report said.
Any student who tests positive should not be sent home as doing so would make it more difficult to conduct contact tracing and prevent transmission.
Iowa State University earlier this month opened a new COVID-19 testing center after the positivity percentage spiked from 13.6% during the first week of classes to 28.8% during the second week.
Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Aug. 27 ordered bars across six counties, including Polk, Johnson and Story, closed after a wave of new cases, especially in young people. Restaurants were ordered to stop serving alcohol after 10 p.m.