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COVID-19 surge continues downward, as Iowa limits what’s reported
New cases drop, but trend in hospitalizations, long-term care outbreaks unknown
The latest COVID-19 surge in Iowa is continuing its downward trend as state officials transition to a new phase of reporting pandemic numbers.
The new coronavirus data released this week by the Iowa Department of Public Health is more limited compared to previous weekly totals.
On Tuesday night, state officials shut down its online coronavirus dashboard, coronavirus.iowa.gov. Coronavirus data has shifted to a Department of Public Health website, idph.iowa.gov/emerging-health-issues/novel-coronavirus/COVID-19-reporting.
The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations is no longer reported, and the number of long-term care facilities with outbreaks — three or more cases among staff and residents — is no longer reported.
Also, seven-day positivity rates for the state and counties are no longer reported.
Iowa reported 7,863 new infections of the novel coronavirus in the past week, a decrease from the 12,833 reported the previous week.
To date, the state has reported 743,285 COVID-19 cases since the virus arrived in Iowa in March 2020.
Linn County reported 640 new COVID-19 cases this week. That’s a continued decline from the 910 cases reported last week and the 1,725 the week before.
This week, Johnson County reported 449 new cases. That’s down from the 735 cases reported last week and the 1,449 cases reported the week before..
State public health officials say they are no longer requiring health care facilities, labs and other testing entities to report negative COVID-19 test results due to the growth of home testing and the frequency of tests occurring.
Because of this trend, this data “is no longer as meaningful as it once was,” officials said in a statement.
Omicron, a highly transmissible variant of the coronavirus, remains the dominant strain in Iowa. So far in February, the variant was detected in 99.2 percent of positive tests, according to state public health officials.
Per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all 99 Iowa counties continue to have the highest rates of community transmission of the virus.
The Department of Public Health no longer requires long-term care facilities to report coronavirus outbreaks.
Instead, that data will be available on the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services website. However, the most recent data available on that website is from Jan. 30.
Earlier this month, the number of long-term care facilities reporting outbreaks had increased to reach totals not seen since December 2020.
This past week, that total stood at 114 long-term care facilities — or roughly a quarter of Iowa’s 445 nursing homes.
In dropping its report on the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations. the state said that data instead will be reported to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.
The federal HHS website’s hospital utilization data page, however, does not appear to report COVID-19 data, but instead reports the number of hospital beds available.
At the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, the state’s largest hospital, 192 of the hospital’s 218 inpatient intensive care beds were occupied as of Feb. 3. That means about 12 percent of the ICU beds were available.
UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids reported 30 of its 46 ICU beds were occupied, meaning 34.8 percent of ICU beds were available.
Also in Cedar Rapids, Mercy Medical Center reported 13 of its 23 ICU beds were occupied as of Feb. 3, leaving 43.5 percent of its ICU beds available.
Mercy Hospital in Iowa City reported 8 of 12 ICU beds were occupied, which puts ICU bed availability at 33.3 percent.
Last week, state public health officials reported 617 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 across the state, with 96 of the patients in intensive care and 42 on ventilators.
On Wednesday, the state public health department confirmed 119 new deaths as a result of COVID-19 in the past seven days. That’s a decrease from the 172 deaths reported the previous week.
In total, 8,948 Iowans have died as a result of the coronavirus since March 2020.
Linn County confirmed 10 deaths in the past week, which brings the countywide death toll to 548.
Five deaths were reported in Johnson County this week, bringing the county’s death toll to 137.
Polk County remains the only Iowa county with more than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths since March 2020. As of Wednesday, 1,020 residents have died as a result of the virus.
Another 6,274 individuals (which includes non-Iowans) became fully vaccinated against the coronavirus as of Wednesday, bringing the statewide total to 1,887,583.
According to the CDC, 60.8 percent of all Iowans and 64.9 percent of eligible residents aged 5 and older are fully vaccinated.
The total number of fully vaccinated individuals receiving a booster shot stood at 979,935 as of Wednesday. That’s an additional 10,411 individuals from the previous week.
In Linn County, 65.7 percent of the total county population and 70 percent of residents aged 5 and older were fully vaccinated as of Wednesday,
Johnson County remains the county with the highest vaccination rate in the state, with 71.5 percent of the total county population and 75.9 of those aged 5 and older fully vaccinated.
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John McGlothlen of The Gazette contributed to this report.