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COVID-19 cases rise as new subvariant worries hospital officials
Statewide hospitalizations, deaths also increase from last week
New coronavirus data from state and federal health officials Wednesday paints a grim picture in Iowa as new COVID-19 case counts, hospitalizations and deaths have risen in the past week.
After reporting a significant spike in case counts last week, Iowa reported new COVID-19 infections statewide reached 5,301 cases in the past seven days.
Last week, the state reported 5,187 new cases — a 30 percent jump from the 3,980 cases reported the week before. The spike came after infections remained in the 3,900 range for a month.
To date, Iowa has had 810,664 coronavirus cases in the past two years — though the actual total is likely higher, given the availability of at-home test kits.
Linn and Johnson counties, however, have avoided an increase in case counts from the past seven days, state public health data shows.
This week, Linn County reported 485 new weekly cases. That’s a decrease from the 498 cases reported last week, when the county reported a 39 percent increase compared with the week before. Linn County has tallied 57,003 cases since March 2020, when the pandemic reached Iowa.
Johnson County reported 343 new cases in the past seven days. That’s a decrease from the 366 reported last week, but an increase from the 338 cases reported two weeks ago. To date, Johnson County has reported 39,397 cases since the pandemic began.
Cedar Rapids hospitals urge COVID-19 precautions
A new coronavirus subvariant — BA.5 — that has an increased level of transmissibility has become the dominant variant in the United States. As case counts and hospitalizations increase statewide and nationally, local public health and health care experts are urging residents to use increase caution.
That includes recommitting to mitigation measures, such as wearing masks in indoor public settings, social distancing and practicing good hand hygiene.
Cedar Rapids hospitals stated the new subvariant appears to be “partially immune-evasive,” meaning even those who have had immunity from vaccines or prior infection may not be fully protected against mild or asymptomatic infection.
“Most patients being admitted to local hospitals are older and have other conditions that put them at higher risk. Please take particular care to protect these groups of people and help educate your loved ones who may fit this profile on what they can do to lessen their risk,” Mercy Medical Center and UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids said in a joint statement this week.
However, hospital officials emphasize vaccination does protect against serious illness, and encourages all eligible individuals to receive the vaccines and booster shots.
COVID-19 community transmission levels are much higher this week compared with last week, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show.
More counties have been classified as having the highest level of virus transmission statewide, rising from “substantial” and “moderate” classifications measured by federal health officials. No county has reached the “low” category in weeks.
The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the past week reached 256 statewide. That’s an increase from the 229 patients reported last week and the 190 patients the week before.
The number of intensive care patients with COVID-19 was 23 as of Wednesday, the same as last week.
The state public health department has confirmed 41 more Iowans have died as a result of the coronavirus in the past week. Last week, the state had confirmed 15 deaths.
With this week’s confirmed fatalities, the total number of COVID-19 deaths in Iowa has reached 9,759 since March 2020.
Linn County reported four coronavirus deaths, bringing the two-year total to 599.
Johnson County reported no fatalities this week. To date, 155 county residents have died as a result of the virus.
Polk County continues to have the highest countywide death toll in Iowa, with 1,126 fatalities as of Wednesday.
Iowa’s latest COVID-19 vaccination data is from July 5, since state now updates vaccination totals on the first Tuesday of the month.
As of this month, 62.4 percent of all Iowans are fully vaccinated, a slight increase from the 62.3 percent reported June 8, according to the CDC.
The vaccination rate for Iowans 5 and older is 66.6 percent as of this month, an increase from the 66.4 percent reported last month.
An additional 7,418 Iowans and non-Iowans completed their vaccine series between June and July, bringing the total fully vaccinated population to 1,940,421.
The number of fully vaccinated and boosted individuals in Iowa reached 1,069,826 this month, an increase of 17,280 from last month.
In Linn County, 67.2 percent of the total county population and 71.7 percent of those 5 and older were fully vaccinated.
Johnson County reported 73.3 percent of its total population and 77.8 percent of its population 5 and older were fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
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John McGlothlen of The Gazette contributed to this report.