Iowa COVID deaths to date this year exceed 2021

The total number of deaths has surpassed 10,000 since the start of the pandemic

By: - September 21, 2022 3:23 pm

An illustration of the COVID-19 virus. (Image by Fotograzia/Getty Images)

The number of Iowans infected with COVID-19 who have died since the start of the pandemic has exceeded 10,000, and the death rate so far this year is greater than in 2021, according to state data.

As of the end of August, 1,697 infected people have died since the start of the year. That compares with 1,659 people who died in 2021 during the same time frame, and death reports are often delayed by weeks or months, so this year’s figure is likely to increase.

“Overall, it’s a lot of Iowans that we lost,” said Eli Perencevich, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Iowa. “Early on, they weren’t preventable. We didn’t have a vaccine. We didn’t exactly know how to prevent the spread. But now, most deaths are preventable, so each death is pretty sad.”

Vaccines against COVID-19 were first available to those at higher risk for severe symptoms and death in December 2020, and all adults were eligible for the vaccines in April 2021. To date, about 63% of all Iowans are fully vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 55% of those have received a booster dose.

Public health precautions have become increasingly lax since infection rates peaked last winter. In February, Gov. Kim Reynolds reduced the public reporting of infection data and said it wasn’t necessary to “treat COVID-19 as a public health emergency.”

The state is not reporting reinfections of people — who test positive again more than 90 days after their first confirmed infection — to the CDC, which could lead the federal agency to underestimate the threat of infection in Iowa counties.

COVID-19 was the third-highest cause of death in Iowa in 2020 behind heart disease and cancer, according to the most recent data available from the CDC.

The state reported 4,742 deaths in 2020 among people infected by the coronavirus. That number dropped to 3,567 in 2021, and more than half of those happened in the final four months of the year. Reported cases and hospitalizations are currently waning.

In its weekly update on Wednesday, the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services reported 57 new deaths among those who were infected by the coronavirus, for a total of 10,051.

That new report of deaths was more than double what the state has reported in recent weeks, but 22 of the death reports were delayed for technical reasons, said Sarah Ekstrand, an HHS spokesperson. The deaths occurred in July, August and September.

The state also reported 2,908 new infections among previously uninfected people, which was 29% less than last week’s report. However, up to 3,743 new infections might have occurred, based on state testing data. HHS does not distinguish in the testing data how many first-time infections and reinfections occurred in the past week.

There were 219 people with COVID-19 receiving inpatient care at Iowa hospitals on Wednesday, down from 232 the previous week. Of those, 19 were under intensive care, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data.

The areas of the state with the highest risk for infection include far northern Iowa and southeast Iowa, according to a recent CDC report.

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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.