Iowa COVID-19 cases dip but remain high, daily deaths rise 37%

By: - November 30, 2020 1:06 pm

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

Iowa’s daily COVID-19 deaths continued to rise sharply as new positive tests dipped over the holiday weekend.

The number of new cases per day has dropped off significantly, but still remain eight times the level they were at the end of April, according to figures from the state and the New York Times.

The state’s daily average of 2,432 new cases in the week ending Sunday was down 45% from the level two weeks ago, the New York Times reported. The state added 1,509 new cases on Sunday, according to the Times. 

To put that in perspective, on April 30 the state reported 302 new cases from the day before. That was after the pandemic spread across the state, but also came as Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a proclamation allowing businesses to reopen in 77 counties. At that point, the state had recorded 7,145 cases, a number that now has grown to 228,690 as of Sunday, according to the Times’ database.

Part of the drop in cases could be because of reduced testing over the holidays. The Iowa Department of Public Health reported 1,297 tests on Sunday, for example, a week after 27,032 tests were reported on Nov. 23.

On a per-capita basis, Iowa ranked 13th in the nation in the average daily number of new cases over the past week, the New York Times reported. Iowa had ranked third, behind North Dakota and South Dakota, for weeks at one point. Those two states still top the nation in per-capita cases.

The Times reported 24 deaths related to COVID-19 in Iowa Sunday, with the daily average up 37% over the past two weeks. The state reported 2,403 COVID patients have died in Iowa during the pandemic, 93% of them age 60 or older.

Nursing homes continue to be COVID hot spots in Iowa. As of Monday, there were 156 active outbreaks, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported. The state defines an “outbreak” as three residents or staff who test positive for the virus. A nursing home must be free of new cases for 28 days before it is considered clear of an outbreak.

The state reported 4,951 have tested positive at the centers, and 1,063 have died at the facilities since the pandemic started.

Schools have continued to adjust to varying infection rates, with some returning to online classes. All but 9% of school districts now require masks.

All but 12 Iowa school districts are in counties where the COVID-19 test positivity rate is above 15%, one of the thresholds the state uses in ruling on districts’ applications for waivers of state rules favoring in-person classes. Thirty-nine counties were above 20% positivity as of Monday, based on a 14-day average.

The Times reported the highest per-capita counts in Humboldt, Sac, Kossuth and Hamilton counties. 

The Iowa Department of Public Health on Monday reported 1,162 patients hospitalized with COVID, down from 1,180 the day before. The number in intensive care fell to 224 on Monday from 235 on Sunday. Another 138 people had been admitted in the past 24 hours as of 10:40 a.m., up from 131 the previous period.

The number of intensive care beds available at Iowa hospitals has risen to 393 after dipping to 336 on Nov. 21, the state reported. Hospitals have 42.3% of their beds available statewide, though those in Polk County and some other areas have reported capacity issues

Nationally, the United States has reported 13.4 million cases, with the daily average of new cases up 8% in two weeks, the Times reported. The 266,758 deaths since the pandemic started, the daily average up 26% in two weeks. As of Monday, 93,219 COVID patients were hospitalized across the country, up 36% in 14 days, the newspaper added.

Across the country, more than 2,000 people are dying of COVID each day, a level last seen in early May, the Times reported.

President-elect Joe Biden has appointed a coronavirus task force that includes a Minnesota epidemiologist with Iowa ties.

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Perry Beeman
Perry Beeman

Senior reporter Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.