Iowa sees sharp jump in COVID-19 cases statewide, outbreaks at nursing homes

By: - September 17, 2021 4:17 pm

The omicron variant of COVID-19 has been detected in Iowa. (Image via

Iowa has seen a sharp increase in the average number of new COVID-19 cases and in outbreaks at nursing homes this week. 

In just four days, the two-week increase in cases surged to 44%, the New York Times reported. The Monday figure was 27%. The previous Friday, Sept. 10, it was 23%.

As of Friday, the newspaper noted, Iowa was averaging 1,704 new cases a day, based on a week of data. That is the highest figure the state has seen since early January, the Times’ database shows.

Hospitalizations up slightly

Perhaps because more than half of Iowans are fully vaccinated for COVID and some have immunity because they had the virus earlier, hospitalizations did not spike significantly in the past two weeks. They were up 2%, the Times reported.

The state has averaged nine COVID-related deaths a day, according to the Times.

The Washington Post reported Friday that Iowa ranked 18th among the states in per- capita COVID cases, and has seen a 36% increase in cases and 6.3% increase in hospitalizations in the past week. Iowa ranked 27th in per capita cases as of Monday.

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported as of Thursday, Iowa had recorded 11,439 cases in the past week, with 64 deaths. That case total means a lower daily total than the Times reported, at 1,634. State officials have said the Times uses both state and federal databases to compile information.

Since the pandemic began, the state has confirmed 468,223 cases and 6,401 deaths related to COVID-19.

Nursing home outbreaks up sharply

The state reported 26 outbreaks at nursing homes. In early August, there were two. On Aug. 25, there were five.

Gov. Kim Reynolds spoke to the press about mask mandates in school. (Photo by Katie Akin / Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, has focused some of her public comments this week on opposing Democratic President Joe Biden’s moves to increase vaccinations. She also criticized a federal judge’s decision to block Iowa’s new law, which she supported, that banned local mask mandates, calling District Judge Robert Pratt an “activist.” 

The governor has not directly addressed the most recent surge in cases this week. On Friday, Reynolds issued an annual proclamation letting farmers violate vehicle weight limits while transporting crops through Oct. 17.

Alex Murphy, the governor’s spokesman, and health department spokeswoman Sarah Ekstrand did not immediately respond Friday afternoon to an email seeking comment on the COVID situation.

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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.