CORONAVIRUS

Iowa's new virus tracking method sends new case counts skyrocketing

State reports 15 new, confirmed deaths

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

Iowa on Friday reported 27,398 new coronavirus cases and 15 new, confirmed deaths, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

The drastic uptick in test results Friday is due to changes in how public health officials are tracking tests and calculating the state’s positivity rate, the Iowa Department of Public Health confirmed in an email to The Gazette.

Starting this week, the state’s public health department began tracking COVID-19 testing by looking broadly at virus spread during the 14-day incubation period and started calculating Iowa’s positivity rate by dividing the number of positive tests over a two-week period with the total number of tests, both negative and positive, in that same time period.

This is the same method used by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to calculate percent positivity.

Before, Iowa’s 14-day positivity rates were computed by taking individuals who tested for the virus and dividing that number with the total number of people who received a COVID-19 test.

The change will likely result in a lower positivity rate overall for Iowa, Public Health Interim Director Kelly Garcia said Wednesday.

As of Friday, Iowa’s 14-day positivity rate was 4.5 percent, according to the Iowa Department of Public health. The CDC’s 14-day positivity rate for Iowa was not immediately available, but the CDC reported Iowa’s seven-day positivity rate was 7.6 percent.

NEW CASES

The new numbers bring the state’s totals to 358,467 cases and 5,336 deaths since March, according to data analyzed by The Gazette.

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The 27,398 new cases, reported between 11 a.m. Thursday and 11 a.m. Friday, come from 2,402,660 test results.

Under the new calculation, Linn County reported 1,219 new cases Friday, bringing the county’s total number of cases since March to 20,400. The county’s seven-day average of new cases is 197.

Johnson County reported 748 new cases, for a total of 13,634 since March. Johnson’s seven-day average of new cases is 122.

DEATHS

Of the 15 new, confirmed deaths reported Friday, seven were among individuals over the age of 80 and eight were adults between the ages of 61 and 80.

The deaths occurred between Jan. 16 and Feb. 16.

Black Hawk County reported four deaths, and Polk County reported two.

Counties reporting one death each were Butler, Clinton, Des Moines, Dubuque, Howard, Lucas, Pocahontas, Scott and Story.

Hospitalizations

The number of Iowans hospitalized with the virus dropped, from 252 to 241 in the 24-hour period ending at 11 a.m. Friday.

The number of patients in intensive care increased from 59 to 60, and the number of patients on ventilators increased from 24 to 26.

Long-term care

As of 11 a.m. Friday, 24 of Iowa’s long-term care facilities were experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks, according to public health data.

Within those facilities, 679 individuals have tested positive for the virus.

Since the start of the pandemic, 2,129 individuals within facilities have died due to the virus.

Vaccinations

As of Friday, Iowa had administered 553,428 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 531,970 doses going to Iowa residents.

Statewide, 278,658 individuals have had the first shot of the two-shot series, and 137,385 people have completed both shots.

In Linn County, 37,894 doses have been administered, and 9.784 people — 5.61 percent of the county’s adult population — have completed both shots.

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In Johnson County, 38,158 doses have been administered, with 11,842 people — 9.78 percent of the county’s population — having completed both shots.

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.

Iowans under 65 may qualify for a vaccine if they 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.

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

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

Stephen Colbert and John McGlothlen of The Gazette contributed.

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