CORONAVIRUS

Iowa COVID hospitalizations drop below 300 for first time in nearly 5 months

State adds 1,035 new cases, 29 deaths Wednesday

Medical staff conduct a COVID-19 test Nov. 19 at the Test Iowa site, 5755 Willow Creek Dr. SW, in Cedar Rapids.  (Jim Sl
Medical staff conduct a COVID-19 test Nov. 19 at the Test Iowa site, 5755 Willow Creek Dr. SW, in Cedar Rapids. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 in Iowa dropped below 300 for the first time since Sept. 22, according to data from the state health department Wednesday.

hospitalizations dipped from 327 to 292, according to health officials.

As of Tuesday, 21 Linn County and five Johnson County residents were hospitalized with the virus.

Patients in intensive care held steady at 67, and patients on ventilators dipped from 29 to 27.

New cases

The state reported 1,035 new COVID-19 cases and 29 new, confirmed deaths in the 24-hour period ending at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

The new numbers bring Iowa’s totals to 326,417 positives COVID-19 cases and 5,174 deaths since last March, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

The state’s seven-day average of new cases is 697, the lowest seven-day average seen since September.

The new cases come from 3,638 tests in the 24-hour period ending at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Linn County on Wednesday added 41 new virus cases, for a total of 18,955 since March. The county’s seven-day average is 43.

Johnson County reported 40 cases, bringing the county’s total to 12,739. The county’s seven-day average is 26.

Of the new cases reported Wednesday, 172 were youths up to age 17, bringing the total number of minors in Iowa infected with the virus to 36,182. To date, 7,718 education workers have also tested positive for the virus.

Virus prescautions relaxed

Wednesday’s numbers come just days after Gov. Kim Reynolds opted to relax statewide COVID-19 precautions, including Iowa’s partial face mask mandate, public health restrictions on businesses and limits on public gatherings — a decision public health officials said was made without their input.

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The decision to rescind mitigation strategies came at a time when COVID-19 numbers have been steadily decreasing in Iowa.

It also comes at the time when a new and more contagious strain of the virus has been detected here, the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution has been ranked among the slowest in the country and the state’s K-12 schools have been ordered to offer 100-percent, in-person instruction to students.

Deaths

The 29 deaths reported Wednesday happened between Dec. 12 and Feb. 7, according to public health data.

Twelve of the deaths reported were individuals over 80 years ol; 15 were people ages 61 to 80; and two were between 41 and 60.

Black Hawk and Scott counties each reported three new deaths. Two deaths each were reported in Linn, Muscatine and Pottawattamie counties.

Counties that reported one new death each were Appanoose, Bremer, Butler, Clarke, Hancock, Henry, Jasper, Johnson, Lucas, Madison, Marshall, Monroe, Montgomery, Plymouth, Pocahontas, Poweshiek, Warren and Woodbury.

One death in Dubuque County was reclassified, for a total of 29.

Long-term care facilities

As of Wednesday, 39 of Iowa’s long-term care facilities were experiencing virus outbreaks, an increase of four facilities from the previous 24-hour period.

Within those facilities, 1,059 people were positive with the virus. Since the start of the pandemic, 2,117 people within the facilities have died of COVID-19.

Vaccinations

As of Wednesday afternoon, 382,598 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Iowa, with 366,109 of the doses going to Iowa residents.

The number of people who had received the first dose was 182,642, and the number who have completed the two-dose vaccination series was 99,978.

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In Linn County, 27,452 doses have been given, and 7,098 people, or 3.13 percent of the population, have completed the two-shot regimen.

Linn County health officials announced Monday that the county is expected to receive triple its typical weekly COVID-19 vaccine allocation starting Feb. 15, bringing the county’s weekly allocation to 3,000 doses per week.

The increase, however, is dependent on local providers’ ability to meet metrics from the Iowa Department of Public Health, said Heather Meador, Linn County Public Health’s clinical branch supervisor — specifically that 80 percent of allocated COVID-19 shots are administered within one week of delivery.

In Johnson County, 28,644 doses have been given, and 9.302, or 6.15 percent, have completed the vaccine, as of Wednesday afternoon.

Who can get vaccine?

Front-line health care workers, residents and staff at long-term care facilities, and Iowans 65 and older are eligible to receive vaccines now.

For Iowans under age 65, you may qualify for a vaccine if you meet criteria in the groups below. The tiers of Phase 1B are ranked in order of vaccination priority:

• Tier 1: First responders such as firefighters, police officers and child welfare social workers; school staff and early childhood education and child care workers.

• Tier 2: Food, agriculture, distribution and manufacturing workers who work or live in congregate settings that don’t allow for social distancing; people with disabilities living in home settings and their caregivers.

• Tier 3: Staff and residents in congregate living settings that include shelters, behavioral health treatment centers, sober living homes and detention centers (but not college dorms); government officials and staff working at the Iowa Capitol during the legislative session.

• Tier 4: Inspectors responsible for hospital, long-term care and child safety.

• Tier 5: Correctional facility staff and incarcerated people in state and local facilities.

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Those who don’t meet these criteria will have to wait. The state will announce when other ages and occupational categories qualify.

Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

The Gazette’s John McGlothlen contributed to this report.

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