Gazette Daily News Podcast, Oct. 30

Medical assistant Alex Abodeely holds a swab taken from a patient for a coronavirus test as she places it in a container
Medical assistant Alex Abodeely holds a swab taken from a patient for a coronavirus test as she places it in a container toe be transported for analysis at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Family Medicine Clinic in Iowa City on Monday, April 20, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

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Today is partly sunny, with a high near 46. Friday night will be mostly clear, with a low around 35.

A quick reminder: The time changes this weekend as daylight saving time ends. Remember to set your clocks back an hour Sunday morning.

The number of people being treated for COVID-19 in Iowa hospitals set another record Thursday for the fourth day in a row as federal public health officials again urged the state to more aggressively respond to the worsening threat.

By Thursday morning, 605 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 — more than at any time since the disease was confirmed in the state in March.

A White House task force report said that 97 percent of Iowa is now in a hot zone, measured by the number of cases per capita and the percentage of tests that confirm the infection.

The task force said that as of Sunday, 56 of Iowa’s 99 counties were in the worst “red zone” of danger.

The state Thursday also reported another 2,468 new COVID-19 cases bringing Iowa’s total cases to nearly 122,000. Of those, Linn County reported 193 — a record high for the county by far. 

The situation in Iowa is critical, said epidemiologist Dr. Jorge Salinas. He’s a leading infection control specialist at  University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. It’s likely the state’s hospitals will be overrun with sick patients “very soon,” he said in a Facebook Live video Thursday. 

Both Cedar Rapids hospitals have reported an unusually large number of admissions over the past few days but emphasized that hospitals are still equipped to handle other patient care.

Iowa’s top elections official wants Iowans to feel confident in their ability to vote safely and securely in this election.

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate delivered that message of reassurance to Iowa voters at a Thursday news conference at the State Emergency Operations Center at Camp Dodge along with state and federal law enforcement and emergency management leaders.

Pate said his office is working with state and federal partners to strengthen Iowa’s election security and infrastructure, and prepare for any kind of situation that might arise on Election Day. 

With early voting underway and Tuesday’s election less than a week away, election-related concerns include hacking attempts, disinformation campaigns by hostile foreign countries, and the avalanche of absentee ballots cast before Election Day.

Pate said his office has been working with multiple state and federal officials, as well as the auditors in Iowa’s 99 counties to ensure a safe and secure election.

Iowa City leaders worry a population undercount in the U.S. Census will slash federal funding to the growing community.

When counting for the 2020 census wrapped up earlier this month, just over 68 percent of Iowa City’s estimated population had responded to the national head count, well below the nearly 76 percent response rate in the 2010 census, the U.S. Census Bureau reported.

Iowa’s other state college towns also were below expected counts.

Ames, home to Iowa State University, had a self-response rate of 68 percent, compared with nearly 78 percent in 2010, and Cedar Falls, home to the University of Northern Iowa, had a nearly 74 percent self-response rate compared with 79 percent in 2010.

The April 1 start date for the 2020 census was less than a month after COVID-19 first was detected in Iowa and the University of Iowa suspended in-person classes

Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague said losses in federal funding could be significant and that one missed resident could mean a loss of $28,000.

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