Gov. Reynolds discloses number of ICU beds in Iowa as COVID-19 cases near 500

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An EKG machine in a hospital ICU room. — Anna Shvets

Another 19 Linn County residents have tested positive for COVID-19, the Iowa Department of Public Health announced on Tuesday. Linn now has 90 confirmed cases of the virus, the highest number for any county in Iowa.

At her Tuesday afternoon press conference on the state’s response to COVID-19, Gov. Reynolds provided some information about Linn County’s cases. According to the governor, 30 of the county’s 90 cases are directly related to an outbreak at Heritage Specialty Care, a nursing home in Cedar Rapids.

That’s an increase of nine infections related to that outbreak since the governor’s press conference on Monday.

The 19 new positives in Linn County were part of 73 more confirmed cases in Iowa that IDPH reported on Tuesday.

• Black Hawk County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)

• Cedar County, 1 middle age adult (41-60 years)

• Clay County, 1 adult (18-40 years)

• Clinton County, 2 middle-age adults (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)

• Dallas County, 4 adults (18-40 years)

• Harrison County, 1 middle age adult (41-60 years)

• Iowa County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)

• Jasper County, 1 elderly adult (81+)

• Johnson County, 2 adults (18-40 years), 1 middle-age (41-60 years)

• Jones County, 2 adults (18-40 years), 1 middle age (41-60 years)

• Keokuk County, 1 adult (18-40 years)

• Linn County, 3 adults (18-40 years), 7 middle age adults (41-60 years), 7 older adults (61-80 years), 2 elderly (81+)

• Marshall County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)

• Muscatine County, 2 middle-age (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)

• Polk County, 1 child (0-17), 5 adults (18-40 years), 3 middle age adults (41-60 years), 4 older adults (61-80 years), 2 elderly (81+)

• Pottawattamie County, 1 middle-age (41-60 years)

• Scott County, 2 middle-age (41-60 years)

• Sioux County, 1 middle age adult (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)

• Tama County, 1 adult (18-40 years)

• Warren County, 2 middle-age (41-60 years)

• Washington County, 3 adults (18-40 years), 2 older adults (61-80 years), 1 elderly (81+)

According to IDPH, there are now 497 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in the state, including three new cases in Johnson County.

Iowa Department of Public Health map of COVID-19 cases, March 31, 2020.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Johnson County had 73 residents who have tested positive. But Johnson, where the first cases of COVID-19 in Iowa were detected on March 8 and which had the most confirmed cases of any county until Linn County surpassed it on Monday, is now third among counties for residents testing positive for the virus. IDPH reported 15 new cases in Polk County on Tuesday, bringing that county’s total to 76.

Between third-place Johnson County and fourth-place Dallas County, there is a sharp drop-off in the number of confirmed cases. Dallas, which borders Polk County, has 25 confirmed cases.

Of the 57 counties with residents who have tested positive for COVID-19, only five boast case numbers in double digits. Four of those counties — Washington (24 cases), Dubuque (21), Scott (18) and Muscatine (16) — are in eastern Iowa. The fifth, Tama (11), is just over the dividing line between eastern and central Iowa.

At her press conference on Tuesday, Gov. Reynolds was asked if the state needed to take “additional protective measures” in eastern Iowa. The governor said she didn’t believe the data she currently has supports taking any new measure, but the situation is constantly under review.

There was some new information presented at the press conference: the number of ICU beds available in Iowa hospitals.

Last week, IDPH was telling reporters who inquired about the statewide number of ICU beds that the number was “confidential as part of emergency protocols.” At the governor’s March 24 press conference, IDPH Deputy Director Sarah Reisetter explained the number was not so much confidential as unknown.

“We are actively in the process of understanding what the bed availability is in the state,” Reisetter said.

On Tuesday, Reynolds said her administration had been working in conjunction with the Iowa Hospital Association to determine the capacity of the state’s hospitals.

“We have about 600 ICU beds,” Reynolds said. “And then there are some that are not adult beds that we could potentially utilize as well.”

The governor said that overall, the state has approximately 12,000 hospital beds, but hospitals currently only have enough to staff to cover about 9,000 of them.

Reynolds began her press conference by noting IDPH had reported another COVID-19 death on Tuesday. The deceased was resident of Muscatine County, between the ages of 41 and 60.

There have now been seven deaths from COVID-19 in Iowa. Six of the seven deceased were residents of eastern Iowa — two were from Linn County, the others lived in the Allamakee, Dubuque, Muscatine and Washington — and the seventh was from Poweshiek County. Two were over the age of 81, three were between 61 and 80, and two were between the ages of 41 and 60.

According to IDPH, 61 of the Iowans with COVID-19 are currently hospitalized. Eighty-five Iowans who have tested positive for the virus are now considered recovered.

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