Analysis: Iowa had one of America’s worst rates of COVID-19 infection in 2020

A medical worker holds a swab used to test for COVID-19. (Photo by Mladen Sladojevic/Getty Images)

Iowa is seeing a sharp reduction in COVID-19 deaths, but it reportedly has one of the nation’s worst records of coronavirus infections during the 2020 pandemic.

Iowa reported one additional coronavirus death Sunday, along with 506 new cases of the virus, the New York Times reported. Over the past week, the state has averaged 1,139 new cases per day, a decrease of 31% from the average two weeks earlier.

Although the number of new cases is now at a level not seen since mid-October, that decrease coincides with a recent sharp reduction in the number of tests taken for the virus. Over the past 10 days, the number of tests taken each day in Iowa has ranged from 1,200 to 4,500 — the lowest levels reported since late April and early May.

According to a detailed analysis by the Washington Post, 34% of the people tested in Iowa during the past seven days are positive for the virus — one of the highest positivity rates in the nation. The analysis suggests only four other states have posted higher positivity rates over the past week: Idaho, Pennsylvania, Alabama and South Dakota.

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during a news conference Dec. 22, 2020, at Iowa PBS in Johnston. (Screenshot from Iowa PBS livestream)

At a press conference six days ago, Gov. Kim Reynolds said that “over the last 14 days, the statewide average positivity rate was 12.6%” and over the previous seven days “the statewide average positivity rate was 9.5%.” The numbers reported by Reynolds are consistent with those published by the Iowa Department of Public of Health on its web site.

According to the Post’s analysis, Iowa also has one of the nation’s worst rates of infection on a per capita basis, as measured over the entire 10-month span of the 2020 pandemic. As of Monday, Iowa had reported 8,794 infections for every 100,000 residents. The only states with a worse rate of infection are, in order, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, according to the Post.

To date, there have been at least 275,846 COVID-19 cases and 3,745 deaths in Iowa since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Times’ database.

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported on Monday there were 586 Iowans hospitalized with the virus, up from 553 reported the previous day. Also, 82 Iowans had been admitted to hospitals with the virus during the previous 24 hours, an increase from the 71 reported Sunday.

The state reported 124 active outbreaks in Iowa nursing homes, a decrease from the 131 reported last Wednesday. Overall, Iowa’s nursing homes have reported a total of 1,138 deaths from the virus.

On Dec. 8, Iowa changed its methodology for calculating and reporting COVID-19 deaths to use death certificates. That resulted in a one-time increase in the number of deaths that were previously unreported, and since then has added to the lag time between a death occurring and a death being reported.