Iowa ranks in the Midwest’s middle on new COVID-19 cases

By: - May 6, 2021 1:37 pm

(Photo by Javier Zayas Photography/Getty Images)

Iowa is in the middle of the pack among Midwestern states in the number of new COVID-19 cases per capita.

The New York Times reported Iowa has been logging 11 new cases a day per 100,000 residents over the past week. South Dakota and Missouri also were at 11.

Three nearby states were higher: Minnesota at 27, Illinois at 20 and North Dakota at 17. Nebraska was at 10; and Kansas, eight. 

Looking a little farther out, Indiana had 17; Arkansas, seven; and Oklahoma, six.

Iowa among Midwest leaders in vaccinations

The Times reported that 32% of U.S. residents are fully vaccinated.

In the Midwest, Iowa and Minnesota were among the leaders with 36% of residents fully vaccinated. South Dakota at 38% and Wisconsin at 37% were slightly farther along. A bit behind Iowa’s pace were Nebraska at 35%, North Dakota and Kansas at 33%, Illinois at 32%, Oklahoma at 31% and Missouri at 29%.

Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, noted Wednesday that Iowa was experiencing a drop in vaccine demand. In Iowa, 54 counties declined their entire allocation in the most recent weekly round, she added. Thirty-four declined part of their shipment.

“Demand for vaccine in Iowa and nationwide is waning,” Reynolds said during a news conference. About half the states have turned down all or part of recent federal shipments.

Reynolds said public service announcements beginning next week on TV, radio and online outlets will inform people about the vaccines, in English and Spanish.

Asked by a reporter on Wednesday if the state is identifying the reasons why some people don’t want to get the vaccine, so the state can launch targeted outreach to them, Reynolds said the state “is working on it.”

“I think, honestly, a lot of it is just the mixed messaging that’s happening,” Reynolds said. “Do you wear a mask outdoors? Do you not wear a mask outdoors? If you get a vaccine, after you’ve met the criteria, the timeframe, can you remove the mask? I think Iowans … want to return back to normal, but there has to some incentives for getting the vaccine to actually make that happen. But we are in the process of trying to identify what that looks like.”

Reynolds declined to order a full mask mandate during the pandemic, and has worked to allow businesses to stay open. She pushed schools to hold classes in person.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regularly updates its advice online.

Reynolds’ comments came on the same day lawmakers sent a bill to her desk that would ban businesses from asking for proof that customers have been vaccinated for COVID-19.


Only 16 states had fewer COVID-19 patients in hospitals than Iowa, which averaged 236 over the past week, according to the Times database. 

Although all states were reporting test positivity rates of 10% or lower, Iowa was among the highest at 6% over the past week, the Washington Post reported. Only five states were higher: Michigan, South Dakota, Nebraska, Florida and West Virginia. A high rate of positive tests compared to all tests administered might indicate that  mostly people of high risk of being infected are getting tested.

At times, testing has focused on particularly vulnerable populations, which can raise the percentage. 

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported that 5,962 Iowans have died of COVID-19. The state has recorded 396,673 positive tests for the illness.

As of Thursday morning, there was one outbreak at a nursing home, with 18 cases.

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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.