COVID-19 already has killed four times as many Iowans as flu and pneumonia do in a year

The number of new COVID-19 cases per day fell again in Iowa, but the state ranked last in testing. (Photo via Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners)

The coronavirus now has killed more than four times the number of Iowans who died of flu or pneumonia last year. 

The 2,519 COVID-19 deaths reported by the state as of Thursday compares with 583 killed by flu or pneumonia in 2019, according to state records. The virus was first confirmed in Iowa in March 2020.

The coronavirus death tally in Iowa amounts to 40% of the number of Iowans who died of cancer last year, and 34% of the number killed by heart disease, Iowa Department of Public Health data show. It is 1.7 times the number of Iowans who die from stroke in a year, and 2.8 times the number who die of diabetes. It is close to double the number that died last year of accidental injuries, of brain embolism and similar conditions, or of Alzheimer’s disease.

Iowa’s number of daily deaths from the coronavirus has risen 18% over the past two weeks, the New York Times reported

Iowa lost 69 people to COVID-19 on Wednesday alone, according to the Times’ database. That single day of coronavirus deaths was equivalent to 17% of the state’s annual total of deaths caused by high blood pressure, 404 in 2019. 

Gov. Kim Reynolds updates Iowans on the COVID-19 outbreak on March 13, 2020 at the state emergency operations center. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Gov. Kim Reynolds held a news conference Thursday to announce plans to distribute 172,000 vaccines this month. The initial focus will be health care workers and residents and workers at nursing homes, she said. 

Reynolds said she hopes the vaccine will prevent another surge in new COVID-19 cases, which have fallen sharply in the last two weeks. The Times reports the number of new cases, including the 3,097 on Thursday, has fallen 49% over the past two weeks.

In addition, the number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus in Iowa has dropped by 11% in 14 days, the Times reported.

The state health department reported 1,124 COVID-19 patients in Iowa hospitals Thursday morning, up from 1,160 the day before. There were 224 patients in intensive care, two fewer than Wednesday. The 136 COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals in the 24 hours leading up to noon Thursday was down from 181 the previous period.

While Reynolds noted that many schools have met the state’s guideline of having at least half of their instruction in person, state records show all but 18 school district are in counties in which the test-positive rate is 15% or above. That is one of the measures the state watches when districts ask for permission to shift to online classes.