116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The ongoing spread of omicron has driven new COVID-19 cases to record and near-record levels for the second week in a row in Linn and Johnson counties, reflecting the current surge of infections seen statewide.
New infection rates, reported Wednesday by the Iowa Department of Public Health, came as hospital officials are reporting the highest COVID-19 patient counts seen since late 2020.
For the second week in a row, Johnson County reported a record for new infections in the past week — 2,308 as of Wednesday, compared to the 1,612 cases last week. The county’s seven-day positivity rate jumped from 21.7 to 28.8 percent this week.
Linn County’s seven-day positivity rate soared to 28.8 percent this week, up from 21.7 last week. New cases in the past week reached 2,884.
The last time case counts reached those levels was Nov. 14, 2020, when Linn County had 2,930 cases.
In total, Iowa reported 31,748 new COVID-19 cases in the past seven days — an average of over 4,535 new cases a day. New statewide seven-day case counts nearly reached record levels, falling just short of the record of 31,898 cases on Nov. 15, 2020.
The statewide seven-day positivity rate reached 23.8 percent in the past week, compared to 18 percent the week before.
All 99 counties in Iowa remain in the “red zone,” the maximum level of community transmission of the virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Case surge could strain testing capacity
The fast-spreading omicron variant has also driven up the demand for testing. Though test supplies still remain available at this time, the current surge “could affect Test Iowa kit availability for brief periods of time,” said Iowa Department of Public Health spokeswoman Sarah Ekstrand.
The recent increase in use of Test Iowa, the state’s free COVID-19 testing program, has slowed down the State Hygienic Lab’s turnaround on results. Typically, results are sent within 24 hours after the laboratory receives the sample. As of Monday, the average time was about 30 hours, Ekstrand said.
Linn County Public Health has noted similar increase in use at its Test Iowa drop-off and pickup site, said Heather Meador, the agency’s clinical branch supervisor. As a result, the county has had to impose a six-kits-per-person limit.
Public health officials have urged Iowans not collect and store multiple test kits, but to use what they have on hand before ordering additional kits.
“It should not be used as regular testing option,” Meador said.
The PCR coronavirus tests used through the Test Iowa program should not be used to confirm an individual’s recovery from the virus. Meador said infected individuals will continue to shed viral material for days, and sometimes weeks, meaning further PCR testing will show positive results.
Instead, Meador said, individuals should use a symptom-based strategy for ending isolation that’s recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The recommendations include:
- Infected individuals who are asymptomatic can end isolation 10 days after the first positive test.
- Adults and children with COVID-19 symptoms can end isolation after 10 days and 24 hours after their last fever, if other symptoms have improved.
- Those who are severely ill or are immunocompromised should extend their isolation up to 20 days after symptom onset.
COVID-19 patients in Iowa hospitals reached 923 as of Wednesday, the highest total admissions for the virus since the 960 patients reported in early December 2020.
It also represents an addition of more than 100 infected patients when compared with the week before, when the state reported 792 COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Patients in intensive care reached 178 this week, an increase from the 165 reported last week. The number of patients on ventilators dropped to 86 from 99 last week.
Twenty-two children were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Wednesday, and only two were fully vaccinated.
Of all patients hospitalized for COVID-19, 72.6 percent were not fully vaccinated. Among those in intensive care, unvaccinated patients account for 78.9 percent.
With an additional 10,021 individuals in the state completing the coronavirus vaccine series, the total number of fully vaccinated Iowans stands at 1,780,910 as of Wednesday. That’s 56.45 percent of the entire state population, and 60.18 percent of those aged 5 and older.
Iowans continue to receive their booster shots with 37,814 people in the last week — bringing the number of fully vaccinated and boosted Iowans to 884,543.
An additional 929 Linn County residents received the coronavirus vaccine, bringing the total number of fully immunized residents to 143,298. That’s 63.21 percent of the total county population and 67.4 percent of residents aged 5 and older.
Johnson County reported an additional 384 residents became fully vaccinated. That brings the countywide total to 102,571, which is 67.86 of the total population and 72.01 percent of those aged 5 and older.
The statewide COVID-19 death toll is now 8,201.
In the past week, the state public health department confirmed 182 additional fatalities from the virus, compared to the 161 deaths counted the week before.
Of the 182 additional deaths reported this past week, 40 took place in January, 134 in December, five in November and three in October. The death toll announced Wednesday is:
- 18 to 40 — 5
- 41 to 60 — 43
- 61 to 80 — 84
- 80 and older — 50
Linn County confirmed 31 deaths as a result of COVID-19, the highest of any county. Polk County followed with 30 reported deaths. Johnson County reported one COVID-19 death in the past week.
COVID-19 outbreaks at long-term care facilities increased for the fourth week in a row, spiking to 41 total outbreaks this week. That’s compared to the 25 reported last week, and the 16 reported a month ago.
An outbreak is defined as three or more coronavirus cases among staff and residents.
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John McGlothlen of The Gazette contributed to this report.