By Jared Strong, Iowa Capital Dispatch
The state’s rate of new coronavirus infections continues to recede from its peak in January, but the number of infected people receiving inpatient treatment at Iowa hospitals increased slightly from a week ago, according to state and federal public health data.
On Wednesday, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported 478 new confirmed cases for the past week — an average of about 68 per day. That’s down from more than 5,000 per day in January.
Yet hospitalizations have risen slightly since last week to 74, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That’s an increase of seven.
There are also more infected people receiving intensive care: 15 on Wednesday compared with 11 a week ago.
Still, those numbers are comparatively low. Hospitalizations briefly eclipsed 1,000 during the omicron surge.
The state also reported 43 new deaths among infected people, for a pandemic total of 9,445. The deaths were reported Wednesday, but it’s unclear when they happened. Death reports by the state are often delayed for more than a month.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week authorized an extra booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccines for people ages 50 and older and for those with diminished immune systems.
Research has shown that the vaccines’ protection against the disease can wane and that an additional dose helps to prevent serious illness. Those who are eligible for the extra booster can get one as early as four months after their last shot.
That announcement came amid the rise of a new omicron subvariant — dubbed BA.2 — that is estimated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be the new dominant coronavirus strain in the country. However, those estimates show that it is not yet the leading cause of COVID infections in many Midwestern states.
The new subvariant is more transmissible than the previously dominant version of omicron, according to the World Health Organization, but the difference is less pronounced than the change from the delta variant to omicron.