116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
It’s time for a pandemic reality check in Iowa.
Positive tests and hospitalizations for COVID-19 have been trending upward the past few months and are at or near their highest levels since the big coronavirus peak subsided in early 2021. The omicron variant that now accounts for most infections is thought to cause less severe symptoms but also to be more transmissible.
Nearly than 8,000 Iowans’ deaths have been attributed to COVID-19. Nationally, the disease has killed more people in 2021 than in 2020 and yet people seem to be taking the pandemic less seriously than we did last year.
The state needs a renewed emphasis on encouraging vaccination and making testing ready accessible.
The latest rise in COVID-19 cases coincides with several concerning situations in Iowa that could further exacerbate the crisis.
Unusually warm December weather has allowed some people to extend their outdoor activities later into the year but that’s unlikely to last. When people are pushed indoors, the virus spreads more easily.
When primary and secondary school classes resume next week, more students will be maskless than when they went home for winter break. Several local school districts set midyear as the expiration date for their mask mandates, accounting for the availability of vaccines for children. But we know many students still are not vaccinated and breakthrough cases persist.
University students also will soon return for the new semester. Iowa City and Ames could become hotbeds for a virus brought in by students from their hometowns.
The portion of fully vaccinated Iowa adults seems to have topped out below 75 percent and fewer than half of fully vaccinated Iowans have received the booster shots that are now recommended by federal health officials.
The state’s testing capacity is being stressed by the influx of infections. Many Iowans report not being able to find testing locations or waiting days to receive results. The official Test Iowa system lends itself to delays because it’s conducted by mail.
The Biden Administration’s recent announcement of 500 million free at-home tests to begin distribution next month is a welcome development but won’t meaningfully address the testing shortage. To be most effective, those tests need to be repeated regularly by each person.
The state needs a renewed emphasis on encouraging vaccination and making testing ready accessible. Without swift action, Iowa is doomed to suffer another deadly year.
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