Iowa COVID cases jump sharply, test positivity among highest in nation

By: - March 29, 2021 12:20 pm

(Photo by Javier Zayas Photography/Getty Images)

Iowa has seen a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases during the past week and has one of the highest test positivity rates in the nation.

The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and epidemiologists have warned that the spread of new versions of the virus at a time when many Americans are ditching their masks and being more active outside the home could bring an uptick just when the nation appeared to be on its way to gaining control of the pandemic. 

Gov. Kim Reynolds lifted the state’s limited mask mandate and capacity limits for businesses on Feb. 7.

The Washington Post reported that Iowa’s new cases are up 33.7% in the past week. The New York Times reported Iowa had 22% more new cases than it did two weeks ago. 

According to the Post database, Iowa ranked 22nd among the states in the highest seven-day rolling average of COVID cases per capita. Iowa’s 34% jump in cases was far higher than the national increase of 9%.

Though Iowa’s test-positive rate of just under 7% is a fraction of what it was weeks ago, it is tied for fourth-highest nationally, the Post reported. Across the country, 5% percent of tests were positive over the past week.

Hospitalizations have risen in Iowa, too. The Times reported a 15% increase in admissions over the past two weeks, but a 41% decrease in the number of COVID-related deaths. 

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported nearly 1.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Iowa, with 579,150 completing their series of shots. 

Since the pandemic began last spring, 378,014 Iowans have tested positive for the virus, and 5,729 have died, the state reported.

Fauci got nervous when he saw the nationwide numbers plateau. Often that can mean a surge is coming.

“When you’re coming down from a big peak and you reach a point and start to plateau, once you stay at that plateau, you’re really in danger of a surge coming up,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview with “Face the Nation,” CBS News reported. “And unfortunately, that’s what we’re starting to see.”

Cases in the U.S. rose 15% in the past two weeks, to 30.2 million, with 45,552 new cases recorded Sunday, the Times reported. Mexico’s cases fell 18% over the past 14 days, standing at 2.2 million. Canada’s cases rose 40% in the past two weeks, and totaled 965,404 since the pandemic began.

An epidemiologist from Boston Children’s Hospital told ABC news a lack of full testing may be giving people a false sense of security.

“Cases alone may not tell a full story,” said Dr. John Brownstein. “Testing may not tell a good story either, because there’s a decrease in testing.”

Dr. Catherine Troisi, an infectious disease epidemiologist based at the UTHealth School of Public Health in Houston, told ABC that disturbing findings of long-term health effects from COVID are another reason why people need to continue wearing masks while keeping their distance from others.

“We’re a global society,” Troisi told ABC. “There’s a public health saying that there’s no ‘peeing section’ in the swimming pool.”

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Perry Beeman
Perry Beeman

Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.