State scales back hospital COVID reporting requirements

By: - November 24, 2021 2:04 pm

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are on the rise in Iowa. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

It was burdensome and unnecessary for hospitals to report the county of residence for Iowans receiving in-patient treatment for COVID-19, according to Sarah Ekstrand, a spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Public Health.

As such, the department is no longer requiring hospitals to report the information, which the state previously published online. A page on the state’s coronavirus website that contained the information was recently removed — a change first noted by the Iowa Falls Times Citizen.

“Iowa hospitals continue to be stressed for staffing, and any effort IDPH can do to reduce the burden on hospitals will provide much-needed relief,” Ekstrand told Iowa Capital Dispatch.

It’s unclear how much time was required to collect and submit the information.

Ekstrand said state health officials used it to track infection trends early in the pandemic, but they now rely on other “existing data collection.” She did not elaborate.

Hospitalizations rising across the state

The change comes amid a three-week rise in COVID hospitalizations, according to state data. There were 623 people receiving in-patient treatment on Wednesday — a 34% increase since Nov. 4 — and 146 had intensive care.

The state reports how many current hospitalizations there are in six regions that cover wide swaths of the state. One of the regions has more than 20 counties.

The state’s overall rate of infection has continued to rise all month ahead of Thanksgiving. Airports expect a significant number of travelers that will approach pre-pandemic numbers.

The state is averaging more than 1,500 new COVID-19 cases per day, up from about 1,100 at the start of November.

The populous counties with the largest number of average daily cases are Polk with about 200, Dubuque and Linn with about 100, and Johnson with 80.

Johnson County’s infection rate is its highest since late November. About a third of those infected in the past week were children.

There are pockets of virus hot spots in rural parts of the state. Ida County in western Iowa and Jackson County on the Mississippi River have surging infection rates, and Decatur on the state’s southern border has its highest rate of the pandemic, with 114 cases in a recent two-week period.

In far northern Iowa, Cerro Gordo, Hancock and Winnebago counties are reporting their highest infections rates since November and December. Together, they accounted for about 900 cases in the past two weeks.

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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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