With Iowa breaking records for the number of COVID-19 patients being treated in hospitals time after time after time this week, federal coronavirus experts are admonishing state officials to take more aggressive steps to fight the disease’s spread, including advising that public and private gatherings in 68 counties “be as small as possible and optimally, not extend beyond immediate family.”
The latest White House Coronavirus Task Force report, released Friday by state officials in response to an inquiry, said that 49 Iowa counties are in the worst “red zone” — an increase of 11 counties since the week before — and that another 19 counties are in a slightly less volatile “orange zone” — an increase of four counties.
Another 21 counties are in the “yellow” zone — which dropped by seven counties from the week before. That leaves only 10 of Iowa’s 99 counties not in any hot zone.
“Ninety percent of all counties in Iowa have moderate or high levels of community transmission (yellow, orange, or red zones), with 49 percent having high levels of community transmission (red zone),” the report said. Iowa recorded 238 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 population in the week ending Oct. 17 — far worse than the national average of 117.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who has issued emergency health orders that do not include a face mask mandate nor a limit on group sizes, has not scheduled a televised news conference in over a week. On Thursday, while campaigning for U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, Reynolds was asked about the worsening virus situation in Iowa.
“Right now, I think we’re gonna continue to remind Iowans what they need to be doing, work with our hospitals to make sure they’re doing OK and continue to learn to live with it,” she told the Sioux City Journal. “Right now, I don’t anticipate doing anything, but it’s not to say that I wouldn’t in the future if I needed to. It just would be very, very targeted and mitigated, because we know how to do that with the data that we have.”
Iowa public health data shows hospitalizations because of the virus continue to soar.
The state reported 536 people were hospitalized due to COVID-19 in a 24-hour period ending at 11 a.m. Friday. That set a record for the third time this week for the number of people being treated for the disease in hospitals. However, the number of patients in intensive care (134) and on ventilators to help breathe (49) inched down during the period.
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Iowa reported 1,587 new COVID-19 cases during the 24-hour period — the second-highest number of new cases in a similar period since the pandemic began. Linn County added 92 of those cases — a new high.
A total of 104 new cases were reported among education employees as of 11 a.m. Friday, while 168 cases were recorded among school-age children up to 17 — the highest number recorded among young people in a 24-hour period since The Gazette started tracking that data Sept. 16.
That brings the state’s total to 112,622 confirmed cases of the infection.
Twenty new COVID-19 deaths during the period were spread among 15 counties, with Cerro Gordo, Crawford, Delaware, Polk and Sioux counties each reporting two deaths. That brings the state’s total COVID-19 death toll to 1,617.
Outbreaks in long-term care facilities in Iowa continue to be a significant problem.
In the Corridor, Hiawatha Care Center reported seven new cases; and Willow Gardens Care Center in Marion added five cases.
According to the White House task force report, for the week of Oct. 5-11, 11 percent of nursing homes in the state had at least one new resident case; 26 percent had at least one new staff case; and 4 percent had at least one new resident COVID-19 death.
The task force rates counties according to the number of new cases and the rate of coronavirus tests that prove positive.
The 68 Iowa counties where it advised the size of groups be sharply limited are:
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“Red zone” counties: Woodbury, Dubuque, Pottawattamie, Sioux, Black Hawk, Plymouth, Des Moines, Carroll, Harrison, Delaware, Crawford, Buena Vista, O’Brien, Lyon, Mahaska, Tama, Benton, Jackson, Dickinson, Iowa, Clay, Marion, Emmet, Hardin, Jones, Guthrie, Cherokee, Bremer, Cass, Hamilton, Winnebago, Wright, Palo Alto, Taylor, Humboldt, Osceola, Union, Monroe, Shelby, Fremont, Appanoose, Montgomery, Grundy, Adair, Howard, Audubon, Clarke, Ringgold and Lucas.
“Orange zone” counties: Scott, Dallas, Henry, Clinton, Jasper, Warren, Kossuth, Boone, Wapello, Mills, Buchanan, Fayette, Sac, Winneshiek, Chickasaw, Butler, Jefferson, Davis and Wayne.
Additionally, the task force lists these “yellow zone” counties where is said the disease spread had been moderate: Polk, Linn, Webster, Story, Lee, Muscatine, Washington, Marshall, Madison, Clayton, Cedar, Hancock, Monona, Calhoun, Floyd, Ida, Allamakee, Decatur, Louisa, Van Buren and Mitchell.
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