Feds don’t expect tremendous COVID spike this winter

By: - November 23, 2022 12:41 pm

About 64% of all Iowans are vaccinated against the virus, and of those, about 57% have received at least one booster dose. (Image by Andriy Onufriyenko/Getty Images)

The number of new weekly COVID-19 infections in Iowa increased about 16% last week — and hospitalizations are up 25% from a week ago — but federal health officials don’t anticipate a repeat of last winter’s coronavirus surge.

“We’re hoping that a combination of people who’ve been infected and boosted and vaccinated, or people who’ve been vaccinated and boosted and not infected, that there’s enough community protection that we’re not going to see a repeat of what we saw last year at this time,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Tuesday during a press briefing.

The omicron variant upended the world last winter with a tremendous surge in infections. Iowa was averaging more than 5,000 new documented infections each day in January 2022, whereas the state has fewer than 300 each day right now.

“The real danger is in the people who have not been vaccinated,” Fauci said. “So, that’s where we expect — if we’re going to see a problem this winter, it’s going to be among those people.”

About 64% of all Iowans are vaccinated against the virus, and of those, about 57% have received at least one booster dose, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday reported 2,302 new infections in the past week among those who were not previously infected — a 16% increase from a week ago.

The state reported a total of 2,936 positive tests for the past week — a 15% increase. Those test results include confirmed reinfections, which the state does not report to federal health officials.

On Wednesday there were 172 infected people receiving inpatient treatment at Iowa hospitals, an increase of 25% from the week prior. Of those hospitalized, 19 were under intensive care, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The state also reported 23 new deaths associated with the virus for a total of 10,276 since the start of the pandemic.

There is a low risk of infection in most of Iowa, according to a CDC analysis of infection and hospitalization rates. Counties with higher risk are mostly in far northern Iowa.

Fauci said vaccination is the best way to prevent serious illness this winter. He cited research that shows vaccinated people are 14 times less likely to die from the virus than unvaccinated people, and that they have a three times lower risk of testing positive.

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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.