Iowa reports 83 additional deaths amid the latest surge in infections

Drawing of coronavirus cells. (Image via National Foundation for Infectious Diseases)

Iowa recorded 83 new coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, one of the state’s highest single-day death tolls during the 10-month pandemic.

The state also recorded 1,480 new infections, according to the New York Times’ COVID-19 tracker. Over the past week, there has been an average of 1,565 new cases per day in Iowa, an increase of 37% from the average two weeks earlier.

Tuesday’s spike in deaths represents Iowa’s fifth-highest single day death toll since the pandemic began in March — with the four highest totals all reported in the past seven weeks. On Dec. 3, the state recorded 85 deaths; on Dec. 9, 102 deaths; on Dec. 10, 99 deaths; and on Dec. 17, 97 deaths.

The increase in infections and deaths comes less than a week after Gov. Kim Reynolds rolled back mitigation measures for sporting events; two days after anti-maskers gathered in the rotunda of the state Capitol with signs that said, “Mask mandates violate bodily autonomy;” and one day after Reynolds called on lawmakers to approve legislation that would mandate the option of in-person classroom instruction for all Iowa children.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there have been at least 299,254 cases of coronavirus in Iowa, and 4,222 deaths, since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Times’ database.

Hospitalizations, which peaked in late November with roughly 1,300 COVID-19 patients in Iowa hospitals, dropped sharply in the subsequent four weeks, stood at 516 on Wednesday. The Iowa Department of Public Health reports there are 79 Iowans with COVID-19 in hospital intensive care units, and that 82 Iowans with the virus were admitted to hospitals within the previous 24 hours — an increase from the 62 reported on Tuesday.

With vaccinations continuing to be delivered to Iowa nursing homes, the number of infections and outbreaks in those facilities continued to trend downward. State public health officials say there are 84 active COVID-19 outbreaks in Iowa nursing homes, with 1,938 infections of staff and residents associated with those outbreaks.

Only 14 states have a lower completed-vaccination rate than Iowa. 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.

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.

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.