COVID-19 infections show unprecedented surge in Iowa, with new records for hospitalizations, outbreaks

By: - November 2, 2020 3:07 pm

A COVID-19 cell. (Image via National Science Foundation)

Iowa saw a sharp, unprecedented surge in the spread of COVID-19 over the weekend, recording a staggering 7,856 new infections between Friday and Sunday.

The past week’s average of 2,123 new cases per day in Iowa represents a 101% increase from the average just three weeks ago.

According to the New York Times, Friday’s daily tally of new infections in Iowa was 2,731, followed by a record-breaking 2,826 new infections on Saturday, and 2,299 on Sunday. During that same three-day period, 28 Iowans died of COVID-19.

As of Monday morning, Iowa had recorded 131,097 cases of coronavirus, along with 1,733 deaths, since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Times.

As recently as August, Iowa was averaging about 500 new cases per day — less than a fourth of the current daily average. The increase in new infections doesn’t appear to be solely the result of increased testing, as Iowa has also been setting records for hospitalizations and deaths, with neither of those trends currently showing any sign of slowing down.

For most of last week, roughly 600 Iowans were being treated in hospitals for COVID-19. Six weeks ago, the average number of COVID-19 patients in Iowa hospitals was less than 300. Iowa is now averaging 14 deaths per day, double the rate seen in mid-September.

The number of COVID-19 outbreaks in Iowa nursing homes is continuing to increase dramatically, as well. On Monday, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported 80 active outbreaks in nursing homes, with 2,380 infections tied to those outbreaks. That’s a significant increase from the 52 outbreaks and 1,181 infections reported four weeks ago.

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported Monday that 718 Iowans were hospitalized with COVID-19. Just last week, Iowa topped 600 hospitalizations for the first time.

On Monday, the state also reported a record in the rolling 14-day total of new COVID-19 hospital admissions on Monday: 1,272. That’s almost double the number of new admissions the state was recording in late September.

The number of intensive care beds available in Iowa has dropped steadily over the past two months and fell from 400 to 381 last week. As of Monday afternoon, there were 375 ICU beds available. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington predicts Iowa will run out of intensive care beds by Dec. 4 — nine days earlier than what the institute was predicting last week.

A White House task force has repeatedly recommended that Iowa require people to wear masks in public. Gov. Kim Reynolds, who has allowed bars and other business to reopen with some restrictions, has declined to require masks, saying she trusts Iowans to act responsibly and that a mandate would be unenforceable.

On Sunday, President Donald Trump appeared in Dubuque for a campaign rally and restated his claim that the nation is “turning the corner” on new infections.

On a national level, COVID-19 has spread at an unprecedented rate in recent weeks, with new infections totaling 100,000 per day, the highest level since the beginning of the pandemic. More than 20 states, including Iowa, recently reported their worst-ever weeks for new infections.

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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.