COVID-19 infection rates dip statewide, soar in smaller counties

By: - October 11, 2021 5:03 pm

COVID-19 cells (Photo via Ohio.gov)

The statewide COVID-19 infection rate continues to decline since its recent peak in mid-September, but certain counties in rural Iowa — where vaccination rates lag behind the state average — have new daily cases comparable to their pandemic peak last year.

Adams County has the largest number of infections per capita in the state, even though its rate of infection has dropped 21% in the past two weeks, according to New York Times data. Its two-week total of about 60 cases is on par with its peak in November, according to state data.

About 48% of Adams County residents are fully vaccinated, compared with about 54% statewide.

Next is Monroe County, also in southern Iowa, where 29% of tests have revealed COVID-19 infections in the past week, state data show. That so-called test positivity rate is the highest in the state and indicates that the number of recorded new infections is likely under-counted. The county’s two-week total of about 100 cases is comparable to its peak in November, when the virus was ravaging the state. The county peaked even higher at the turn of the year.

About 41% of Monroe County residents are fully vaccinated. In fact, the top 14 Iowa counties with the most cases per capita are all vaccinated at a lesser rate than the state average. Davis County, which has the lowest vaccination rate of about 33%, ranks 19th.

Still, many of those counties are comparatively small — Adams County has about 3,700 residents, according to U.S. Census data — and have little sway over the statewide average.

Over the past week, daily cases across the state have fallen by 7%, according to the Washington Post. The average number of daily cases has fallen 19% over the last two weeks, according to the Times.

The average daily case number was 1,317 on Saturday, according to the Times. Iowa saw daily case numbers under 100 for the entire month of June and in early July before a surge in the early fall. It peaked in September at 1,867.

Hospitalizations are down significantly since last week. The state reported 624 current hospitalizations Oct. 6 and 566 hospitalizations Monday. But the number of Iowans in the ICU increased from 141 to 152.

State data shows that unvaccinated individuals still make up the majority of hospitalized Iowans. Of patients in the ICU, 80.9% are unvaccinated. Among all COVID-19 hospital patients, about 75% are unvaccinated.

The state’s vaccination rate continues its sluggish upward creep. As of Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 54.3% of all Iowans have been vaccinated. At the county level, those percentages range from a high of 64.1% in Johnson County to a low of 32.6% in Davis County.

A recent Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll found that a quarter of adults do not plan to get the vaccine.

The number of long-term care outbreaks is two fewer today compared with Thursday, for a total of 30. The Iowa Department of Public Health does not publicly report which long-term care facilities are affected by an outbreak.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register. His investigative work exposing police misconduct has notched several state and national awards. He is a longtime trustee of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, which fights for open records and open government. He is a lifelong Iowan and has lived mostly in rural western parts of the state.

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