Iowa deaths from COVID-19 rise 78%

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By Perry Beeman, Iowa Capital Dispatch

Despite recording a single coronavirus-related death on Sunday, Iowa’s daily death totals from COVID-19 over the past two weeks have jumped 78%, the New York Times reported Monday.

After a roller-coaster week which saw the trend in new cases rise and fall, the Times on Monday reported a 32% drop in new Iowa cases the past 14 days. The number of people hospitalized with the illness fell 33%.

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By comparison, the number of new positive COVID-19 tests nationally rose 30% in the past week, while deaths increased by 67%. Hospitalizations across the country were up 19% in the same period, the Times reported.

Since the pandemic started, Iowa has recorded 256,249 cases and 3,209 deaths.

The drop in new cases in Iowa comes as the number of daily tests continues to fall. According to the Times’ database, Iowa was testing 8,715 people on Nov. 17 before the number dropped to 3,228 by Dec. 13. 

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Iowa recorded 1,240 new cases on Sunday, according to the Times’ database. The average for the past two weeks was 1,651 new cases a day.

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The hot spots in Iowa included Henry County, topping the list in new cases per capita were Henry, Ringgold, Ida, Kossuth, Emmet, Buena Vista, Davis, Montgomery and Cherokee counties, the Times reported. The state reported the highest test positivity rates over the past two weeks were in Ida, Kossuth, Montgomery, Cherokee and Henry counties.

The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Iowa stood at 764 on Monday, up from 749 on Sunday, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported. There were 160 coronavirus patients in intensive care Monday, down from 170 the day before. The 76 patients admitted to hospitals over the 24 hours leading into Monday morning compared with 95 the previous period.

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The state reported 144 current outbreaks at nursing homes as of Monday. Nursing homes have recorded 5,832 cases and 1,132 deaths during the pandemic. 

AARP released a report indicating the Iowa nursing home deaths related to COVID-19 more than doubled from Oct. 19 to Nov. 15 to 1.65 deaths per 100 residents from 0.7 per 100. New cases at nursing homes rose to 11.8 per 100 residents from 4.8 per 100 the previous four-week period. 

“With coronavirus surging across the country, nursing home residents remain in grave danger as the virus re-enters nursing homes and other facilities at an alarming pace,” AARP State Director Brad Anderson said in a statement. “Facilities continue to have shortages of the staff and PPE needed to keep residents and workers safe and stop the spread. Our state leaders must act now to save lives.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds last month allocated $14 million in federal funds to help nursing homes pay for needed staff and for added testing. Also in November, Reynolds  said every nursing home resident was getting tested for COVID-19 weekly, a claim the head of the industry group Iowa Health Care Association disputed, the Des Moines Register reported.

Last week, Reynolds reported coronavirus vaccinations would begin at nursing homes Dec. 28

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