116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
COVID-19 activity is ramping up in Iowa, resulting in an increase in hospitalizations and prompting health care systems to implement stricter coronavirus mitigation policies.
On Wednesday, Iowa reported 3,847 new coronavirus cases in the past seven days, continuing the weekslong trend of increasing case counts statewide, according to new data from the Iowa Department of Public Health.
Last week, the state reported 3,172 new cases. Four weeks ago, the state added 1,063 new cases in a seven-day period.
In total, Iowa has reported 772,205 cases of the coronavirus since the pandemic began two years ago.
Johnson County has the highest seven-day positivity rate in the state for the fourth week in a row. As of Wednesday, the county had 480 positive tests per 100,000 residents.
Last week, Johnson County had 375 positive tests per 100,000 residents.
Johnson County reported 633 new COVID-19 cases in the past week, an increase from the 502 new cases last week and the 367 cases the week before. In total, the county has reported 36,174 coronavirus cases since March 2020.
The positivity rate for Linn County was 212 per 100,000 residents.
Linn County added 399 new cases this week, another increase from the past two weeks. The county added 350 new cases last week and 258 cases two weeks ago.
In total, the county has reported 53,524 COVID-19 cases in the past two years.
The upturn in new cases is driven by the highly contagious omicron subvariant, BA. 2, which has become the dominant coronavirus strain in the Midwest and the rest of the country.
As of May 16, 17 counties in Iowa — including Linn, Johnson, Benton and Cedar counties — were classified as “high” transmission areas for COVID-19 community transmission levels, as measured by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Eight counties were classified as having “low” COVID-19 transmission. All other counties were classified as having “substantial” or “moderate“ transmission levels.
Cedar Rapids hospitals require universal masking
After scaling back some requirements a month ago, both Cedar Rapids hospitals have recently implemented universal masking rules within its facilities as COVID-19 activity continues to increase locally.
Starting last week, UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids required masks in all areas for all patients, visitors and staff “due to increases in COVID-19 positivity rates, confirmed cases and high community transmission levels.”
Last month, certain mask policies had been relaxed at hospitals and clinics within certain UnityPoint Health systems in Eastern Iowa, including Cedar Rapids’.
“As we shared previously, this is likely going to be our new normal where we ask visitors and guests to our facilities to mask during times when we see higher COVID tests and hospitalizations, and periods when the numbers are low that masking can be relaxed,” UnityPoint Health officials said in a statement.
Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids also announced this week that its hospital and clinics returned to universal masking precautions as a result of “increased incidence of COVID-19 in the community.”
“Mercy has temporarily returned to these precautions for the safety of hospitalized patients and the community,” officials said in a statement. “The changes will remain in place as we continue to monitor local rates of infection.”
Statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations increased for the fourth week in a row.
On Wednesday, 145 individuals were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Iowa.
That compares to the 124 hospitalized patients last week and the 86 the week before, according to federal health officials. Four weeks ago, there were 63 infected patients in hospitals across the state.
Though increasing, hospitalization totals still remain far below the 991 patients hospitalized the week of Jan. 19 at the height of the omicron surge.
COVID-19 patients in intensive care increased for the fifth week in a row, reaching 19 as of Wednesday. That compares to 13 patients last week.
Five weeks ago, there were just two intensive care patients with COVID-19 in Iowa, an all-time low throughout the two-year pandemic.
On Wednesday, the state public health department confirmed another 18 deaths in Iowa as a result of the coronavirus. In total, 9,572 Iowans have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began in March 2020.
Linn County reported two coronavirus fatalities in the past week, bringing the COVID-19 death toll to 585.
Johnson County reported no deaths in the past seven days. To date, 153 residents have died as a result of the coronavirus.
As of May 3, the total number of fully vaccinated Iowans and non-Iowans reached 1,922,920. The state public health department is now updating vaccination data once a month.
According to the CDC, 62.1 percent of the state’s total population and 66.2 percent of Iowans aged 5 and older are fully vaccinated.
The total number of fully vaccinated and boosted individuals in Iowa reached 1,034,082 as of this month.
Johnson County remains the only county in Iowa that has topped the 70 percent vaccine threshold.
As of Wednesday, 72.9 percent of the total county population and 77.4 percent of those aged 5 and older were fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
Linn County reported 66.9 percent of the total county population and 71.4 percent of residents aged 5 and older were fully vaccinated as of this week, per the CDC.
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John McGlothlen of The Gazette contributed to this report.