CORONAVIRUS

Spike in coronavirus deaths reverses downward trend in Iowa

Tyson says it will restart its Storm Lake pork plant

Gov. Kim Reynolds leaves a news conference Tuesday after updating the state's response to the coronavirus outbreak at th
Gov. Kim Reynolds leaves a news conference Tuesday after updating the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak at the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines. (Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press)

DES MOINES — A day after Iowa matched one of the lowest daily coronavirus death tallies since the early days of the pandemic here, the state Tuesday matched the second-highest single-day total with 21 virus-related deaths in a 24-hour period.

The new deaths recorded Tuesday were more than the previous three days’ totals combined, at least temporarily halting what had been a downward trend in new daily deaths.

By Tuesday afternoon, the state also surpassed 20,000 total confirmed cases since the virus was first detected March 8 in Iowa, according to state public health data.

Tyson Foods idled its pork processing plant in Storm Lake following an outbreak there. Tuesday, the company said that over a quarter of the workforce at the plant — 591 out of a total 2,303 — tested positive for the virus, most of whom showed no symptoms.

Tyson said the plant would restart Wednesday but with limited production. It was not clear what days those positive cases were reflected in the state’s data.

The state finally surpassed 5,000 tests processed in a single day, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Tuesday during a news conference at the Iowa State Capitol.

Reynolds said that on Saturday the state hygienic lab processed 5,223 tests, finally hitting the goal that was established April 21 when the state entered into a $26 million contract with a Utah-based private health care company to boost testing.

Reynolds said the state surpassed 5,000 tests again Monday.

She also said 1 in 19 Iowans now has been tested at least once, and that state public health data shows the rate of positive cases decreasing.

“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Reynolds said. “But the pandemic is not over and there remains much work to do.”

The previous three days brought a total of 19 virus-related deaths in Iowa, including just four confirmed Monday. That brought the seven-day average to its lowest point in nearly two weeks. But that average increased with Tuesday’s 21 deaths, Iowa’s second-highest single-day total behind only the 26 confirmed May 23.

Virus-related hospitalizations, on the other hand, continued downward trends that are approaching a month long.

The 327 hospitalizations recorded Tuesday are the fewest since late April, and the seven-day average of 360 is the lowest since early May and continues a downward trajectory that started with a peak on May 11.

The 12 new virus-related hospital admissions recorded Tuesday is the fewest since mid-April, and the seven-day average of 26.9 is the lowest since late April.

Guard Ready if Needed

Reynolds said she has not activated the Iowa National Guard to assist local law enforcement departments at protests taking place across the state, but that the Guard stands ready if called.

Members of the Guard currently are assisting at drive-through coronavirus testing sites at several locations including in Cedar Rapids.

Two people were killed and a police officer and another person were injured in protests over the weekend in Davenport. Officers have on multiple occasions used tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets to disperse protests in Des Moines over the past week.

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“(The Guard) is a resource I can call up if needed,” Reynolds said Tuesday. “At this point we have not needed that, but they are ready at a moment’s notice.”

Protesters are calling attention to George Floyd, a Minnesota black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

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Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

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