Iowa hits a new milestone: 1,112 new COVID-19 cases in a single day

By: - August 21, 2020 5:35 pm

COVID-19 cells (Photo via Ohio.gov)

Iowa reportedly set a single-day record Thursday for coronavirus infections, with more than 1,000 additional suspected or confirmed cases.

Over the past week, there have been an average of 568 new cases per day in Iowa, an increase of 21% from two weeks ago, according to the New York Times’ COVID-19 tracker.

The tracker shows that on Thursday, the daily number of new infections in Iowa more than doubled from what was reported each of the previous four days, to 1,112.

Iowa’s previous single-day high of 916 new infections was reached on July 10.

As is usually the case, the New York Times’ single-day tally of Iowa’s new infections conflicts with what is reported by the Iowa Department of Public Health.

On Friday, IDPH was reporting Thursday’s total of new infections as 80 — or less than 8% of what the New York Times was reporting for the same day. In addition, IDPH said there had been four COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, while the New York Times was reporting six.

Iowa’s daily COVID-19 case counts can vary wildly, depending on the source. On Aug. 21, the New York Times (top) was reporting 1,112 new cases in Iowa for the previous day, while the state of Iowa (bottom) was reporting 80 new cases for that same day. (Screen shots of New York Times’ COVID-19 tracker, and the Iowa Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 website.)

IDPH has acknowledged problems with its data reporting, but only after those issues have come to light through media reports.

Earlier this week, the agency cited an “antiquated” computer system as the reason it had been under-reporting daily case counts. The problem, as explained by the governor and IDPH officials, was that the computer system was backdating test results. As a result, positive cases were showing up in the cumulative totals, but not in the latest daily counts that people look to in order to identify current trends in the spread of the virus.

The trend data are used by everyone from parents deciding whether it is safe to send their kids to school to Iowa workers deciding whether they should risk a trip to their office, plant or other place of business.

According to Gov. Kim Reynolds, the backdating issue has been fixed. However, IDPH continues to report substantially fewer new infections each day than what is reported by the New York Times and others.

State officials have repeatedly declined to explain why the IDPH daily numbers conflict with those reported by others, but some of the difference is likely due to the way “cases” are defined, with the Times counting both confirmed and suspected cases.

However, that wouldn’t explain why the cumulative totals for Iowa that are reported by IDPH are often close to, or even less than, what the Times and others are reporting.

For example, IDPH on Friday was reporting more COVID-19 cases in Iowa, to date, than the New York Times was. The state agency reported 55,006 infections to date in Iowa, while the Times reported 54,709.

IDPH says that currently there are 34 active COVID-19 outbreaks in Iowa nursing homes, with a total 1,034 staff-and-resident infections at those 34 homes.

One month ago, on July 22, there were only 502 infections tied to 20 active nursing home outbreaks in Iowa.

The number of Iowans currently hospitalized with COVID-19 decreased from 300 on Thursday to 293 on Friday. The number of infected Iowans admitted to a hospital during the previous 24 hours stood at 43 on Friday, the same level as Thursday.

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Clark Kauffman
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.

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