Over the last seven days, Iowa hit new highs for the year in the number of newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and the number of patients hospitalized with the virus, according to the latest weekly update from the Iowa Department of Public Health.
IDPH reported 13,039 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, a significant jump from the
9,489 new cases in last week’s update. The total in the previous update may have underreported the extent of virus spread, because of the sharp decline in the number of tests performed during the week of Thanksgiving.
Last week’s update also included what was the highest number of COVID-19 patients in state hospitals this year, with 721 patients testing positive. That total was exceeded this week, with 777 hospitalized COVID-19 patients being reported. According to IDPH, 74 percent of those patients are not fully vaccinated against the virus.
In its update on Wednesday, the department disclosed another 105 deaths from COVID-19, bringing the state’s official death toll to 7,550.
The department’s latest update came one day after Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a written statement celebrating a federal judge in Georgia blocking the Biden administration’s requirement that employees of federal contractors be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“I applaud the Court’s decision on the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors, which is an attack on individual liberties,” the governor said in her statement.
Judge R. Stan Baker issued a preliminary injunction that is effective nationwide on Tuesday, saying he found it likely the president had exceeded his well-established authority to set requirements for federal contractors because mandating vaccinations “goes beyond the administration and management of procurement and contracting” and “operates as a regulation of public health.”
Iowa joined nine other Republican-led states in a separate lawsuit seeking to overturn the vaccination requirement for federal contractors, which is still pending in a federal court in Missouri. That lawsuit was filed on Oct. 29. In its update that week, IDPH reported 52.5 percent of all Iowans were fully vaccinated against COVID-19. According to the latest numbers from the department, 54.4 percent of all Iowans are now fully vaccinated.
While the state is fighting federal vaccination mandates in court, Johnson County has moved forward to create its own requirements for county employees.
During its formal meeting last week, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors voted to have everyone employed by the county submit proof of vaccination by Dec. 30 or undergo weekly testing for COVID-19 at their own expense.
The policy does contain exemptions for those with medical conditions that would prevent them from complying, and for those who refuse to be vaccinated based on a “sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance.” Anyone granted an exemption from vaccination based religion will still be required to undergo weekly testing.
Supervisors Rod Sullivan and Jon Green both argued against the inclusion of the religious exemption, on the grounds that it could be abused by those without genuine religion-based objections and on the ground that the county should not be in the position of judging the sincerity of a person’s religious beliefs. Green proposed an amendment removing the religious exemption, which was supported by Sullivan, but was voted down by the three other supervisors, Pat Heiden, Lisa Green-Douglass and Royceann Porter.
The final version of the policy passed 3-2, with Green and Sullivan voting against it because of the religious exemption provision.
Details regarding implementation of the policy are still being worked on.