COVID-19 infections and deaths spike in Iowa as nursing home outbreaks rise

Iowa remains a national hot spot for COVID-19. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Another 695 Iowans were reported as infected with coronavirus on Wednesday, almost three times the number reported the previous day.

There were also 15 deaths Wednesday, the highest daily death toll in two weeks.

Over the past week, there have been an average of 488 new COVID-19 cases per day in Iowa, a decrease of 11% from the average two weeks ago, according to the New York Times. As of Thursday afternoon, there have been at least 43,901 cases and 855 deaths in Iowa since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Times’ COVID-19 tracker.

The Times’ data indicates a significantly higher number of day-to-day infections and deaths in Iowa than the what is being reported by the Iowa Department of Public Health, which has not responded to several questions from the Iowa Capital Dispatch about its data collection and reporting.

On Thursday afternoon, IDPH was reporting 587 new infections for Wednesday — 108 fewer than what is reported by the Times for that same day. On Thursday, IDPH was also reporting two deaths for Wednesday rather than the 15 reported by the Times.

In its calculations, the Times counts infections and deaths that have been identified by public health officials as “probable” coronavirus cases. Some states report only those coronavirus infections that have been confirmed through testing. Probable cases have been identified and evaluated using criteria developed by the states and the federal government.

The number of active outbreaks in Iowa nursing homes increased from 21 to 22 on Thursday, while the number of infections associated with the outbreaks continued to climb by roughly 30 cases per day — from 645 on Monday, to 671 on Tuesday, to 701 on Wednesday, to 732 on Thursday.

Between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday afternoon, four Iowa nursing home residents died of the virus, according to Iowa Department of Public Health data. That brings Iowa’s total number of nursing home residents who have died from COVID-19 to 465.

The four additional nursing home deaths reported by IDPH is greater than the total statewide number of COVID-19 deaths reported by IDPH for the same time period — which could be attributable to delays in either confirming or reporting one of the two sets of data.

The number of Iowans hospitalized with COVID-19 has continued to dip, dropping from 253 on Tuesday, to 246 on Wednesday, to 237 on Thursday. The number of infected Iowans admitted to a hospital during the previous 24 hours increased from 23 on Wednesday to 33 on Thursday.

Clark Kauffman
Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.