Iowa’s COVID mitigation efforts eased as vaccine rollout stalls and infections increase

Polk County has a shortage of coronavirus vaccine. (Photo by Javier Zayas Photography/Getty Images)

As Iowa again loosens COVID-19 mitigation measures, the state is recording a 50% increase in the average number of new infections reported each day.

There were 11 new coronavirus deaths and 511 new infections reported in Iowa on Sunday.

According to the New York Times’ COVID-19 database, there has been an average of 1,710 new cases per day over the past week, which represents an increase of 50% from the average two weeks earlier. Among the reported tests in Iowa, the positivity rate is almost 43%.

The increased spread of COVID-19 in Iowa coincides with Gov. Kim Reynolds’ elimination of restrictions on spectators at sports and recreational events. The state had been limiting attendance at high school sporting events to the immediate household members of student athletes. It had also limited crowds at non-school sporting events and recreational gatherings.

As of Monday afternoon, Iowa has reported a total of 296,682 cases of COVID-19 and 4,138 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

Hospitalizations, which peaked in late November with roughly 1,300 COVID-19 patients in Iowa hospitals, dropped sharply in the subsequent four weeks, but are now leveling off at around 550. The Iowa Department of Public Health reports there are 96 Iowans with COVID-19 in hospital intensive care units, and 76 Iowans with the virus were admitted to hospitals within the previous 24 hours.

State public health officials say there are 95 active COVID-19 outbreaks in Iowa nursing homes, with 2,196 infections of staff and residents associated with those outbreaks.

Nationally, more than 3,000 Americans are dying each day of COVID-19, with some hospitals beyond capacity and with overbooked funeral homes turning away families attempting to make burial arrangements for deceased loved ones. At the same time, the Trump administration’s efforts to distribute a vaccine, dubbed Operation Warp Speed, has stalled, with many of the distributed vaccines sitting on shelves even as the death toll rises.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 9 million people have received a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, which is far below the president’s stated goal of vaccinating 20 million people before the end of 2020.

According to the Washington Post’s vaccine tracker, at least 98,691 first doses have been administered in Iowa, covering 45% of those Iowans who are first in line to receive the vaccine. Overall, the number of vaccines given to Iowans to date equals 3.1% of the state’s total population.

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.