Ames, Iowa City top COVID hot spot list; Hawkeyes suspend sports workouts

The Old Capitol is a landmark at the University of Iowa and part of the official university logo. (Photo courtesy of the University of Iowa)

Iowa’s two biggest college towns had the highest per capita infection rates among U.S. metro areas over the past two weeks, the New York Times reported Monday afternoon.

Ames had the highest rate in the nation as Iowa State University students settled in for fall classes. Iowa City, where the University of Iowa suspended sports workouts until after Labor Day due to a surge in cases, ranked second in the nation in the same period. 

“Due to the recent increase in cases in the community, we have made the decision to pause voluntary and mandatory workouts until after Labor Day,” Dr. Andrew Peterson, head team physician, said in a statement. “We remain confident in our overall process, including testing, contact tracing and daily health screening.”  

The university reported that 93 athletes tested positive for COVID-19 the week of Aug. 24-30.  

The Big 10 suspended football due to the pandemic, ending the Iowa Hawkeyes’ fall season before it started. However, Iowa State and the rest of the Big 12 are playing scaled-back schedules. Cyclones Athletic Director Jamie Pollard on Monday announced 25,000 season ticket holders will be allowed to attend the home opener Sept. 12 against Louisiana. Jack Trice Stadium has a capacity of 61,500.

A White House report on Sunday said Iowa had the highest per capita rate of infections in the country, and the fifth-highest positivity rate on a percentage basis. The state has been near the top for weeks. 

The national COVID-19 task force reported that Iowa had 7,321 new cases last week, or 232 per 100,000 people, an increase of 77.4% the week before. The state recorded 74 more coronavirus deaths that week, federal officials reported.

The White House listed these cities as in the red zone: Des Moines-West Des Moines, Iowa City, Ames, Clinton, Burlington, Pella, Fort Madison-Keokuk, Marshalltown, Ottumwa and Carroll. These counties also had more than 100 cases per 100,000 population, and a 10% positivity rate of more than 10%: Polk, Johnson, Story, Clinton, Des Moines, Marion, Lee, Sioux, Plymouth, Warren, Marshall, Wapello, Carroll, Henry, Winneshiek and Boone. Also, Delaware, Crawford, Howard, Clayton, Butler, Tama, Van Buren, O’Brien, Grundy, Clarke, Calhoun and Wayne. 

Statewide, Iowa’s new confirmed cases of COVID-19  reported that Iowa’s cases on Sunday were below the average of over the past week but still running several times what the total was in many weeks during the pandemic, the Times reported. The state had 763 new cases and at least three deaths statewide on Sunday, according to the newspaper. 

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported 490 positive cases and two deaths on Sunday.  

The average over the past week had been 1,165 cases a day, up 131% from the level two weeks earlier, the Times reported. 

As of Monday afternoon, there had been 64,823 cases and 1,116 deaths in Iowa since the coronavirus pandemic started, the Times reported. The state reported 64,828 cases and 1,116 deaths.

Over the weekend, the Des Moines Register reported on inconsistencies in the weekend data from the Iowa Department of Public Health, with 214 deaths temporarily disappearing from the totals. The state has been shifting both its test reporting protocol and its website design. 

The Iowa Capital Dispatch has followed problems with the state’s data for months

As of Monday afternoon, IDPH was reporting 12 school districts with positivity rates of more than 15%. Gov. Kim Reynolds requires a district to have both a high infection rate and significant absences before they can apply for a waiver allowing fully online classes. 

The governor has pushed for in-person classes. That brought court challenges asserting school boards should make those decisions.