December 9, 2022

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Interior The Freshmaker

COVID-19 positivity tracking survey launched in Polk County

If you take an at-home COVID-19 test and test positive, the Polk County Health Department says it wants to know about it.

DES MOINES, Iowa — With a quick swab and a 15 minute wait, at-home COVID-19 tests are giving people the ability to test themselves for the virus from the comfort of their own home. But the Polk County Health Department says it wants to know about those positive tests. 

“We don’t know how much COVID is actually in the community,” said Nola Aigner Davis, public health information officer of PCHD. 

To track these positive at home tests, the department created a survey

“It’s on our website,” Aigner Davis said. “And this really gives us a good indication of the positivity of COVID-19 right now in Polk County. It also gives us a better bigger picture of what we can share with the community versus prevention strategies or we can share our organizations and businesses about maybe rethinking some of the policies right now.”

The department said the county is seeing a surge of the BA.5 subvariant, which is highly contagious and quickly becoming the dominant strain. 

“The gratifying thing about this particular surge is, even though the numbers are high out in the community, we’re not seeing a commensurate increase in the hospitalization,” said MercyOne infectious disease specialist Dr. Ravi Vemuri. 

In order to keep those hospitalizations at a manageable rate, doctors like Vemuri are urging people to check their vaccination status and stay up to date. 

Those under the age of 50 who are healthy should have their primary vaccination (two shots of Pfizer or Moderna or one of Johnson and Johnson) and a booster. 

Those 50 or older or those who are considered immunocompromised should have their primary vaccination and two boosters. 

Vemuri said some immunocompromised patients may have even more boosters, something that would have been determined by their doctors. 

“Unfortunately in Iowa, I think we only have like 30% of us that are considered adequately boosted,” Vemuri said. “So there’s still a lot of room for people to go in, go ahead and get boosted. Because even though the Omicron variant isn’t nearly as deadly or as severe as the previous variants, it can still cause a lot of problems.”