Omicron variant identified in 10 Iowa counties

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By Jared Strong, Iowa Capital Dispatch

(Image by National Institute on Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

There have been 26 confirmed infections by the omicron variant of the coronavirus in 10 Iowa counties, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

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Those counties are, generally, among the most populous of the state. They include:

– Black Hawk

– Des Moines

– Dubuque

– Franklin

– Jefferson

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– Johnson

– Linn

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– Polk

– Scott

– Story

The State Hygienic Lab evaluates hundreds of samples of the virus each week to determine whether they are omicron or another variant. A week ago, the lab had confirmed a total of five omicron infections since the variant’s emergence in southern Africa in November, and Sarah Ekstrand, an IDPH spokesperson, said the delta variant was still the dominant strain in Iowa.

Elsewhere in the country, omicron has accounted for the bulk of new infections, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which said this week that about 73% of new coronavirus infections were omicron. In New York, where the infection rate has reached a new peak for the pandemic, it’s estimated that omicron accounts for 90% of cases.

In Iowa, coronavirus infections and hospitalizations have waned slightly in the past two weeks, according to state data. Still, the state has been averaging more than 1,500 new cases each day, a rate that is 20 times higher than it was in the summer.

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The number of infected people receiving inpatient treatment at an Iowa hospital declined about 11% since its recent peak last week. On Wednesday, there 747 receiving such treatment, and 158 were under intensive care.

However, 132 new coronavirus patients were admitted to hospitals in the past day, which was the largest daily number in nearly two weeks. The day before, 82 were admitted.

On Wednesday, the state recorded an additional 119 deaths in the past week.

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden said vaccines and booster shots are the best protection against severe symptoms of COVID-19 and that the federal government would start distributing free at-home rapid test kits in January.

About 59% of Iowa residents are fully vaccinated against the virus, according to CDC data. Of those who are fully vaccinated, less than half have had a booster shot.

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