CORONAVIRUS

Iowa's COVID-19 death toll surges to over 4,900

Over half the state's total came in just December and January

Medical staff take a nasopharyngeal sample for the novel coronavirus Covid-19 test at the Test Iowa site, 5755 Willow Cr
Medical staff take a nasopharyngeal sample for the novel coronavirus Covid-19 test at the Test Iowa site, 5755 Willow Creek Dr. SW, in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. The site provides protection from winter weather for medical staff and testing subjects. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Iowa’s COVID-19 death toll took its bleakest leap ever Sunday when public health officials reported they confirmed another 250 deaths from the disease — bringing the state’s total so far to 4,901.

Data released Sunday morning does not show over what length of time the newly confirmed COVID-19 deaths occurred, but the Associated Press reported the deaths included many from December and January.

Yet the new addition by itself is more than the total number of COVID-19 deaths recorded in Iowa in six of the roughly 10 months since the first one was reported here.

In fact, more than half of the 4,901 people known to have died in Iowa as a result of the disease since the first death was recorded March 24, 2020, were reported in December and January alone, reflecting a dramatic escalation in fatal cases in just a short time.

On Dec. 7, Iowa officials announced they were changing the way COVID-19 deaths were being recorded to come into alignment with many other states.

The state said it would now record COVID-19 deaths according to federal cause-of-death coding, which is based on the record completed by the health care provider.

Under the system previously used by the state, if an individual’s death was deemed COVID-19-related by a physician but the deceased did not have a positive test on file, the state did not record that as a virus-related death — thereby underreporting the number of people who actually died from it.

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With that change, the state the next day added 198 newly confirmed deaths — until now, the largest one-day increase.

Confirmed deaths

The COVID-19 deaths announced Sunday are attributed to 75 of Iowa’s 99 counties.

Polk County recorded 20 of the deaths for a total of 500. Four other counties also recorded double-digit COVID-19 deaths: Black Hawk (11); Woodbury (11); Dubuque (10); and Warren (10).

Linn County recorded nine for a total of 293 and Johnson County recorded five for a total of 62.

The newly reported deaths account for at least 20 percent of the total COVID-19 deaths of seven counties — Crawford, Boone, Monroe, Pocahontas, Clarke, Palo Alto and Decatur.

Of the 250 deaths, eight were in the 41-60 age range; 80 were people ages 61 to 80 and 162 were people over 80.

New cases

Iowa reported 753 new cases of COVID-19 within a 24-hour period that ended at 11 a.m. Sunday. That brings the state’s total so far to 319,200 cases.

However, state data shows that is based on 2,874 test results in the period — far less than Gov. Kim Reynolds’ goal of 5,000 tests a day and a continuation of a drop off in Iowans getting tested.

Of the new cases, Linn County added 64 for a total of 18,502 and Johnson County added 24 for a total of 12,461.

According to state calculations, only seven counties have 14-day average positivity rates of 15 percent or more.

Hospitalizations

The number of people being treated for the disease in Iowa hospitals continued its downward trend since hitting a peak in December.

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Hospitalizations in the 24-hour period were down from 376 to 358 — the lowest since 353 patients on Sept. 28.

The number of those patients in intensive care rose from 84 to 94, while those on ventilators declined from 31 to 29.

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