Six residents have tested positive for COVID-19 at a state-run Iowa facility that treats people with disabilities, a number that has jumped in recent days.

None of the residents at the Woodward Resource Center had symptoms related to COVID-19 before they were tested, state officials said.

The residents tested positive for the virus in the span of roughly a week, according to the Iowa Department of Human Services officials. Three employees at the multi-building campus have also tested positive during that time.

Matt Highland, a spokesman for the department, said on Sunday that all six COVID-19 cases among residents are tied to one home on campus. The home's residents were tested after one resident had a positive test.

Highland said five of the residents who were tested were asymptomatic, meaning they did not have COVID-19 symptoms like a fever, cough or shortness of breath.

The first resident who tested positive for COVID-19 also did not have related symptoms, according to a letter sent to guardians and families late last month and obtained by the Des Moines Register.

"This individual was otherwise asymptomatic, but needed medical services which is where the test occurred," Diane Stout, assistant superintendent at the center, wrote in a letter on April 25, before also noting that the individual "is not currently on campus."

Stout also said the resident would be retested through the State Hygienic Laboratory in Coralville, the state's main location for COVID-19 testing. She did not explain why the resident was being retested.

Stout, in a second letter to guardians and families dated Thursday and also obtained by the Register, said the department began contact tracing with staff going back 14 days from when the first presumptive positive test results were received. That is the process of tracking every person that may have been in contact with an infected person.

Highland told the Register on Sunday that DHS is working on getting more COVID-19 testing on the campus. Residential services are provided on the campus for at least 180 people with intellectual disabilities and other related disabilities, according to the department. The residents are considered some of the most vulnerable individuals under state care.

A jump in COVID-19 cases

The Iowa Department of Human Services alerted the public on Monday that a resident had presumptively tested positive for COVID-19, marking the first known case of a resident there with the respiratory illness.

On Friday, the department confirmed that an additional two residents had tested positive for the virus.

On Saturday, that total jumped to six. Mary Hodapp, director of social services at the Woodward Resource Center, sent an email to guardians and families telling them results had come in during that morning that confirmed an additional three residents had tested positive for COVID-19.  The Register obtained that email.

Residents who tested positive have been moved to separate on-campus housing as part of the facility's protocol to mitigate the spread of the virus. People who have pending COVID-19 test results are already placed in isolation before results come in as a precaution, Highland said.

Ten residents in the home where the virus spread tested negative for the virus. The home has been thoroughly cleaned, Highland said. 

As of Sunday, Highland said three center employees have tested positive for the virus and 14 have tested negative. Test results for four employees are pending.

Barbara Rodriguez covers health care and politics for the Register. She can be reached by email at bcrodriguez@registermedia.com or by phone at 515-284-8011. Follow her on Twitter @bcrodriguez.