New infections soar in Iowa, but is it the beginning of a prolonged surge?

By: - December 10, 2020 3:28 pm

A coronavirus test kit. (Photo courtesy of Centers for Disease Control)

At least 2,326 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Iowa on Wednesday — a 79% increase over the 1,296 new infections reported just two days earlier.

The number of newly reported infections had been shrinking recently in Iowa, with the state averaging 2,017 new cases per day, representing a decrease of 41% from the average two weeks earlier, according to the New York Times’ COVID-19 tracker.

It’s unclear whether Wednesday’s sharp increase in new cases is the beginning of an anticipated post-Thanksgiving surge, or a short-lived aberration in new-case counts.

As of Thursday afternoon, Iowa had recorded 251,355 cases of COVID-19 and 2,724 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Times’ database.

As of Thursday afternoon, there were 142 current, active outbreaks in Iowa nursing homes, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. There are 5,783 infections associated with those outbreaks, which represents an increase of 341 nursing home infections from the 5,442 reported four days earlier, on Monday.

The continuing spread in Iowa nursing home is particularly worrying since close to half of all the Iowa deaths associated with the pandemic involve staff or residents of nursing homes.

The state’s seven-day average of daily deaths now stands at 39, a decrease from the record high of 45 that was posted on Monday, the New York Times reported. By comparison, the seven-day average of the daily death tally during September ranged from five to 10.

Hospitalizations, while still three times as high as the levels reported in September, are continuing their recent downward trend. On Thursday, the seven-day average of Iowans hospitalized with the coronavirus stood at 995, a considerable decrease from the peak level of 1,450 recorded on Nov. 22, and lower than Monday’s seven-day average of 1,071.

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported 863 Iowans hospitalized with COVID-19 on Thursday, a decrease of 31 from the previous day. There were 189 Iowans in intensive care on Thursday, down from the 196 reported the previous day.

Also, 124 Iowans were admitted to a hospital with the virus during the 24 hours leading up to Thursday afternoon, down from the 141 reported the previous day.

Individual hospitals in Iowa continue to report concerns with patient capacity, but state officials say that overall 35% of in-patient beds remain available. That’s down from 40% three days ago, with 386 ICU beds unoccupied.

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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.