County health officials prepare for student return during ‘unprecedented’ times

The Johnson County Department of Public Health is in conversation with university and hospital partners to have a high test kit availability for students when they return to campus on Jan. 18.


Johnson County Courthouse.

Sabine Martin, News Editor

Johnson County health officials are stocking up at-home COVID-19 test kits to prepare for students’ return to campus next week.

Sam Jarvis, Johnson County Department of Public Health community health division manager, said the department is in conversation with University of Iowa partners to have the highest testing capacity available.

He said the state sent out roughly 50,000 test kits for a seven-day period last week.

“So there’s a high demand and so we know that folks have a high interest in having these available so we are making sure that all of our partner sites are stocked with test kits as best as possible,” Jarvis said at a Board of Supervisors meeting Wednesday.

Jarvis said the county’s hospital partners are entertaining having test kits available at their clinics as well.

UI Dean of Students Angie Reams wrote in an email to the UI community on Jan. 11 that the UI is continuing to follow current guidance from the state Board of Regents and the state of Iowa regarding COVID-19.

The UI will begin the spring semester as planned on Jan. 18 with in-person classes, she wrote. In spring 2020, the UI canceled spring break and extended its winter holiday because of COVID-19.

According to data collected as of Jan. 12, the UI reported 81 new student and 108 employee COVID-19 cases. Since August 2020, the university has had 5,387 positive cases.

Johnson County Public Health reported 2,725 positive COVID-19 cases in the last seven days.

Jarvis said about a month ago, the county was reporting about 300-400 cases in a seven-day period.

“This is extremely unprecedented,” he said. “I know it’s overused quite a bit, but really what we’re seeing is just increased transmission, as our federal and state partners have noted that the omicron variant is highly contagious.”