Dubuque, Johnson and rural counties fuel new COVID uptick

By: - November 10, 2021 1:40 pm

Three new COVID-19 outbreaks were reported in Iowa nursing homes last week. (Image via National Foundation for Infectious Diseases)

New, confirmed coronavirus cases are rising again in Iowa despite dwindling or stagnant infection rates in some of the state’s largest counties.

One reason is Dubuque County, where the two-week infection rate doubled in the past month, according to state data.

“I know we are not plateauing yet this week, and I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next seven days,” said Mary Rose Corrigan, public health specialist for the city of Dubuque. “We’d like to think it’s going to go down, but as I look in the community and see the majority of people not wearing masks and continuing to be with others in groups indoors, I don’t know.”

In terms of total new cases over the past seven days, Dubuque’s 536 cases were only eclipsed by Polk County, which had 909. Polk’s population is five times the size of Dubuque’s.

Johnson County, where Iowa City is located, also has a considerable surge that began in late October and had nearly 400 new cases in the past seven days, state data show. Children represent 43% of those new cases.

Statewide, children accounted for about 23% of new cases during the same period — a percentage that has remained mostly steady since the start of the school year.

The state’s two-week rate of infection peaked in September and steadily declined until late October, when it began to slowly rise again.

Among the less-populated counties, Taylor in southern Iowa had a recent one-week period that matched its new infections during the height of the pandemic in November.

Sandy Boswell, nurse supervisor for the county’s public health department, said the 61 new cases were a result of broad community spread.

“It’s just the events that we normally have,” she said. “There was Halloween. There were ballgames. … People don’t mask. They go to all the events, but they don’t protect themselves. Once a family gets it, the whole family gets it because the variant is so much more virulent.”

Other small counties with surging infection rates include Decatur — where 42% of new cases were children in the past week — Clarke, Wright and Winnebago.

Hospitalizations are rising again as well. As of Wednesday, 524 residents were admitted for treatment for COVID-19, according to state data, which was up from 515 the day before.

About 71% of those patients were unvaccinated for the virus before being infected. Among people younger than 60, the unvaccinated account for 85% of hospitalizations. For those who are 80 and older and admitted for treatment, about half are vaccinated.

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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.