Iowa’s COVID infection rate hits all-time high

By: - January 12, 2022 5:37 pm

COVID-19 cell graphic. (Image via National Foundation for Infectious Diseases)

The rate of new confirmed coronavirus infections in Iowa recently surpassed the state’s previous peak in November 2020, according to newly released state data.

On Sunday, the state’s one-week total for COVID-19 cases was nearly 38,000. The previous peak in 2020 was about 34,000.

That means an average of more than 5,400 people have been testing positive for the virus each day.

The state’s one-week COVID-19 infection rate (light blue line) set a new high mark recently, and its two-week rate (dark blue line) is close. The lines’ downward turns typically represent a lack of recent data. (Graphic courtesy of Iowa Department of of Public Health)

Nine of the state’s 10 most-populous counties reached new infection-rate peaks recently. The outlier was Dubuque County, which is approaching a new peak.

The spike in infection rates is most pronounced in Polk County, where a recent one-week total was 70% higher than the previous peak in 2020, and in Johnson County, where it is more than double.

The national infection rate is currently triple its 2020 peak, according to the New York Times, largely due to the omicron variant. In Iowa, the State Hygienic Lab has confirmed the variant’s presence in 44 counties, said Sarah Ekstrand, a spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Public Health.

The counties include: Allamakee, Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Buena Vista, Carroll, Cass, Cedar, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Clay, Dallas, Decatur, Delaware, Des Moines, Dickinson, Dubuque, Fayette, Franklin, Hancock, Jasper, Jefferson, Johnson, Lee, Linn, Madison, Marshall, Mitchell, Monona, Montgomery, Page, Palo Alto, Plymouth, Polk, Pottawattamie, Ringgold, Scott, Story, Wapello, Washington, Webster, Winnebago, Winneshiek and Woodbury.

Ekstrand said 62% of the coronavirus samples evaluated by the lab in the past two weeks were omicron.

The number of infected people who are receiving inpatient treatment at hospitals also reached a new recent high of 923 on Tuesday, and 22 were children. That total is still considerably lower than the 2020 peak of more than 1,500.

In response, the state has extended its contract with a Kansas company to place 100 additional out-of-state nurses at the larger hospitals in the state, Ekstrand said. The state had planned to have the nurses for six weeks starting in early December, but now nurses will remain until Feb. 11.

The original agreement was expected to cost more than $9 million, at a rate of more than $15,000 per week per nurse.

The state is also seeking to create a hotline that can facilitate patient transfers for hospitals.

“The goal is to establish a call center to help relieve pressure on hospital staff in order for them to be able to spend more time caring for ill patients,” Ekstrand said.

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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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