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It was burdensome and unnecessary for hospitals to report the county of residence for Iowans receiving inpatient treatment for COVID-19, according to Sarah Ekstrand, a spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Public Health.
As such, the department is no longer requiring hospitals to report the information, which the state previously published online. A page on the state’s coronavirus website that contained the information was recently removed — a change first noted by the Iowa Falls Times Citizen.
“Iowa hospitals continue to be stressed for staffing, and any effort IDPH can do to reduce the burden on hospitals will provide much-needed relief,” Ekstrand told the Iowa Capital Dispatch.
It’s unclear how much time was required of hospitals to collect and submit the information.
Ekstrand said state health officials used it to track infection trends early in the pandemic, but they now rely on other “existing data collection.” She did not elaborate.
The change comes amid a three-week rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations, according to state data. There were 623 people receiving inpatient treatment on Wednesday — a 34 percent increase since Nov. 4 — and 146 had intensive care.
The state reports how many current hospitalizations there are in six regions that cover wide swaths of the state. One of the regions has more than 20 counties.
The state’s overall rate of infection has continued to rise all month leading to Thanksgiving, and airports were expected a significant number of holiday travelers approaching pre-pandemic numbers.
The state is averaging more than 1,500 new COVID-19 cases per day, up from about 1,100 at the start of November.
The populous counties with the largest number of average daily cases are Polk with about 200, Dubuque and Linn with about 100, and Johnson with 80.
Johnson County’s infection rate is its highest since late November. About a third of those infected in the past week were children.
There are pockets of virus hot spots in rural parts of the state. Ida County in Western Iowa and Jackson County along the Mississippi River have surging infection rates, and Decatur on the state’s southern border has its highest rate of the pandemic, with 114 cases in a recent two-week period.
In far northern Iowa, Cerro Gordo, Hancock and Winnebago counties are reporting their highest infections rates since November and December. Together, they accounted for about 900 cases in the past two weeks.
This article first appeared in the Iowa Capital Dispatch.