Iowa spikes to third in the nation for COVID-19 cases; Biden meets with virus advisory team
Iowa’s effort to increase vaccinations for COVID-19 appears to have stalled, with 51% of the population fully vaccinated. (Photo by Javier Zayas Photography/Getty Images)
Iowa shot back up to third in the nation for the number of new COVID-19 cases, as hospitalizations and deaths continued to rise.
Eight-two of Iowa’s 99 counties had surpassed the 15% positivity rate for the infection that is one of the parameters that would allow local school districts to apply for 100% virtual learning. Two counties, Jones and Wayne, were above 40% positivity; 48 counties were above 20%.
The news comes as drug manufacturer Pfizer announced progress on a coronavirus vaccine. The manufacturer said clinical trials had shown the drug under development was 90% effective at preventing infection from the virus and it is on track to apply later this month for emergency-use approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
President-elect Joe Biden cheered the “excellent news” in a statement Monday morning but also cautioned:
“At the same time, it is also important to understand that the end of the battle against COVID-19 is still months away. This news follows a previously announced timeline by industry officials that forecast vaccine approval by late November. Even if that is achieved, and some Americans are vaccinated later this year, it will be many more months before there is widespread vaccination in this country.
This is why the head of the CDC warned this fall that for the foreseeable future, a mask remains a more potent weapon against the virus than the vaccine. Today’s news does not change this urgent reality. Americans will have to rely on masking, distancing, contact tracing, hand washing, and other measures to keep themselves safe well into next year. Today’s news is great news, but it doesn’t change that fact.
America is still losing over 1,000 people a day from COVID-19, and that number is rising — and will continue to get worse unless we make progress on masking and other immediate actions. That is the reality for now, and for the next few months. Today’s announcement promises the chance to change that next year, but the tasks before us now remain the same.”
Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were meeting in Wilmington, Delaware, Monday morning with a newly appointed COVID-19 advisory board.
Iowa had 4,944 new positive tests reported as of 8 a.m. Monday, according to New York Times data.
Over the past week, the state has averaged 3,498 new cases per day, an increase of 175% from the average two weeks ago, the Times reported.
Three people with COVID-19 were reported to have died Sunday and 14 on Sunday, bringing the state’s total number of pandemic-related deaths to 1,845 as of Monday morning, according to the Times database. Over the past week, there has been an average of 16 deaths per day; an increase of 9% from the previous two weeks. Only North and South Dakota had higher average infection rates, according to the Times.
As of Monday morning, 992 people with COVID-19 were in Iowa hospitals. The seven-day average of 838 hospitalizations a day is up 60% from the average two weeks ago, according to New York Times data.
The White House Coronavirus task force has for months advised Iowa to put a mask mandate in place, a move Gov. Kim Reynolds has refused, saying a mandate is unenforceable.
U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, in a statement Monday morning, said the outbreaks have “erased any ability for Iowans to think that this virus is under control in our state.”
Axne has asked state public health and emergency management officials for information on their plans in case of hospital bed shortages. She’s also called for Iowa to implement a statewide mask mandate.
“It is clear that current tactics aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 in Iowa are not sufficient to stop this latest and most deadly surge of the virus,” Axne said. “Urging personal responsibility is the job of every Iowan when speaking to their friends and neighbors — but in the face of a 50% surge in total cases in the past month and a deeply disturbing spike in hospitalizations, real and direct action must be taken to reverse this trend.”
Reynolds last week announced she would launch a series of public service announcements urging Iowans to step up their coronavirus precautions, including social distancing, wearing face coverings, avoiding group gatherings and washing hands frequently and disinfecting high-touch surfaces.
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