DES MOINES — Iowa surpassed a bleak milestone Wednesday, recording more than 1,000 deaths in less than five months because of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
Since the first reported death of the disease in late March in Iowa, the state has averaged 6.7 new deaths reported per day, according to state public health data.
A record 25 deaths from the virus were reported in the 24-hour period ending at 11 a.m. May 22, a daily analysis by The Gazette showed.
In the latest 24-hour period ending at 11 a.m. Wednesday, the state added 16 more COVID-19-related deaths across 15 counties, bringing the state’s total to 1,003.
The latest deaths marked the first in Adair, Hardin and Winnebago counties — meaning that 81 of Iowa’s 99 counties now have reported at least one COVID-19 death.
Of the newest reported deaths, two also were reported in Dubuque County; and Cerro Gordo, Dickinson, Franklin, Jasper, Johnson, Marshall, O‘Brien, Polk, Scott, Story and Wapello counties each reported one.
Iowa’s COVID-19 related deaths, hospitalizations and new cases all peaked in May then dropped through late June. But all of those trend lines have been steadily increasing in the two months since.
New cases and hospital admissions have surged to near their previous peaks.
In the latest 24-hour period, Iowa added 614 new confirmed cases, bringing the total so far to 53,538. For the 5,578 tests run, 11.01 percent were positive.
Hospitalizations because of the virus in the period lept from 287 to 299 — the highest since June 4. Patients in intensive care rose from 86 to 90, but those on ventilators to breathe inched down from 35 to 33.
Political leaders from the state expressed opposing views of what those numbers mean.
Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Mark Smith issued a statement Wednesday rebuking Republican leaders’ management of the pandemic nationally and in Iowa.
“This morning, we woke up to a state where over 1,000 of our neighbors and fellow Iowans have died from COVID-19. Every single person that passed away left behind loved ones, family members, and a community that will never be the same,” Smith said.
“It didn’t have to be this bad, but our leaders failed us on every level imaginable. (Republican President) Donald Trump refused to take coronavirus seriously, offer resources to states, or follow (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidance while (Gov.) Kim Reynolds blindly followed in lock-step with his chaotic mishandling and refused to stand up for Iowans. While other countries have COVID-19 under control, the U.S. still has surging cases across the country because of Trump and the GOP’s failed leadership. Iowans are tough, and we’ll get through the coronavirus pandemic together, but we deserve better from our leaders.”
Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann responded by accusing Democrats of using the pandemic and the deaths of Iowans to make political gains.
Kaufmann praised the testing program established by the state — in a $26 million no-bid contract with a Utah health care company — and federal assistance in the form of medical equipment and financial aid for public health and business recovery.
“This attempt by the Iowa Democratic Party to score political points by using tragic deaths from this unprecedented pandemic is absolutely disgusting,” Kaufmann said. “President Trump and Gov. Reynolds have been steadfast in their commitment to keeping Iowans safe and healthy from Day 1 — acting quickly and decisively to save lives. … (They) have done an outstanding job getting necessary resources and leading Iowa through this crisis.”
John McGlothlen of The Gazette contributed to this report.
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