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New COVID-19 cases skyrocket in Iowa
Linn, Johnson counties seeing positivity rates above 20 percent
Linn and Johnson counties are seeing record and near-record numbers of new COVID-19 cases, with both counties reporting seven-day positivity rates above 20 percent in the past week.
The totals, released Wednesday by the Iowa Department of Public Health, came with the news that Iowa has surpassed 8,000 COVID-19 deaths since March 2020.
Linn County reported an additional 2,095 cases this past week, almost double the 1,186 cases reported the week before.
The total is the highest seen since 2,102 cases were reported for a seven-day period Nov. 19, 2020.
Linn County’s seven-day positivity rate spiked from 16.1 percent to 24 percent this week, according to state figures. However, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts Linn County’s positivity rate at 27 percent.
Johnson County reported 1,612 new infections in the past week — a record — up from the previous week’s 744 cases. Previously, the highest seven-day record of 1,344 new cases was reported Sept. 2, 2020.
Johnson County’s seven-day positivity rate jumped to 21.7 percent, compared to 12.3 percent last week.
Statewide, 20,075 new COVID-19 cases were reported in the past week, almost doubling the 11,234 new cases reported the week before.
The record for the most new cases reported in one week in Iowa — 29,895 — came Nov. 11, 2020.
The seven-day positivity rate reached 18 percent statewide in the past week, a leap from the 11.6 percent reported the week before.
The new surge in infections is driven by omicron, the highly transmissible coronavirus variant that has become the most predominant strain in the four-state region that includes Iowa, according to a CDC report.
As of the week ending Jan. 1, the highly transmissible variant made up 77.4 percent of sequenced tests in the region, the CDC report stated. The week before, which ended Dec. 25, omicron accounted for 34.6 percent of sequenced tests.
At-home rapid tests, which are widely available across Iowa, are a complicating factor in public health’s ability to monitor the spread of the virus, Iowa Public Health Association Executive Director Lina Tucker Reinders told The Gazette.
Those who test positive for COVID-19 using at-home rapid tests are not included in official case counts, unless that individual followed up with a laboratory-confirmed PCR test.
Because some Iowans likely are not verifying their infections, it’s likely Iowa is underreporting the number of new coronavirus cases, Tucker Reinders said.
Public health agencies nationwide are facing this challenge. Some reports indicate at-home testing has surpassed PCR tests, but health officials have no way knowing how many results they may be missing in official tallies, according to PBS News Hour.
This also comes as some local public health departments — including those in Linn and Johnson counties — are scaling back contact tracing efforts.
“Contact tracing is really meant to prevent further spread of disease in a specific region,” Eric Bradley, deputy director of Linn County Public Health, told The Gazette. “Whether or not we continue to do contact tracing, it will still spread.”
Tucker Reinders recommended anyone who tests positive using an at-home rapid test to follow up with a PCR test, such as the free testing kits that are available through Test Iowa through public health offices.
The statewide COVID-19 death toll is now 8,019, with 161 deaths confirmed in the past week, compared to the 59 deaths reported last week and the 119 reported the week before that.
Of the 161 deaths reported this past week, 146 took place in December, 13 in November and 2 in October. The confirmed death toll in the past week by age group was:
- 18 to 40 — 5
- 41 to 60 — 32
- 61 to 80 — 85
- 80 and older — 39
Nine deaths were confirmed in Linn County, and Johnson County had two confirmed deaths in the past week.
Polk County reported 15 deaths, the most in the state, with Scott County following with 12 deaths and Black Hawk County with 7.
An additional 9,109 individuals in the state completed their coronavirus vaccine series, bringing the total number of fully vaccinated Iowans to 1,770,889.
That’s 56.13 percent of the state’s entire population and 59.84 percent of those aged 5 and older.
An additional 36,754 booster shots were administered, bringing the statewide total to 846,729.
An additional 722 Linn County residents became fully vaccinated, for a total of 142,369. That’s 62.8 percent of the total county population and 66.96 percent of its aged 5 and older population.
An additional 374 Johnson County residents completed a COVID-19 vaccine series, for a total of 102,187. That’s 67.61 percent of the county’s total population and 71.74 percent of its eligible population aged 5 and older.
The number of people admitted to Iowa hospitals for COVID-19 spiked this week, rising to 792, up from 711 last week.
The number of patients in intensive care dropped slightly, from 165 to 161. The number of patients on ventilators increased slightly, from 97 to 99 this week.
According to state data, 157 COVID-19 patients were admitted to a hospital in the past 24 hours. Those aged 17 and younger represented 6 percent of new hospital admissions (compared to 4 percent last week) and those in the 18 to 29 age group represented 12 percent (compared to 7 percent last week).
The number of children hospitalized with COVID-19 increased to 25 patients this week, compared to the 16 reported last week. Three of the 25 children hospitalized were fully vaccinated.
Among all those hospitalized for COVID-19, 75.9 percent were not fully vaccinated. Of those in intensive care, those not fully vaccinated account for 82 percent of patients.
As of Wednesday, COVID-19 outbreaks were reported at 25 long-term care facilities across Iowa, up from last week’s 23 facilities.
Three weeks ago, that total stood at 16.
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.