Iowa has the highest number of COVID-19 cases per capita in the Midwest

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Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

Five months after the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the state, Iowa has the highest number of cases per capita of any Midwestern state, according to data compiled by the CDC. Ohio, where the first cases of the virus were confirmed one day after Iowa’s first cases, has the lowest number per capita in the region.

In Iowa, three people who recently returned from Egypt after a Nile cruise tested positive on March 8. In Ohio, three people who recently returned from Egypt after a Nile cruise tested positive on March 9. According to the CDC, Iowa had 1,517 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents as of Aug. 8. Ohio had 814 cases per 100,000 residents.

Like Gov. Kim Reynolds, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is a Republican. But DeWine has taken a more active approach to countering COVID-19 than Reynolds has, and Ohio implemented mitigation efforts Iowa hasn’t.

Ohio had a stay-at-home order that began on March 22 and lasted until May 29. Iowa never had a stay-at-home order, although Reynolds has claimed some of the measures she ordered were the functional equivalent of such an order.

Ohio has a face covering mandate. Iowa is one of two states that does not have a statewide mandate or state-sanctioned local mandates.

Ohio is leaving most of its decisions regarding school reopenings to school districts, including whether to use in-person or online instruction. Iowa is requiring schools to provide at least 50 percent in-person instruction, unless the Iowa Department of Education (DOE) gives the district a waiver to move to fewer in-person classes or all online instruction for two weeks.

On Saturday, Irving Elementary School in Indianola sent parents an email informing them the school had confirmed a case of COVID-19. Classes at Irving had begun earlier in the week.

The email did not identify whether the infected individual person was a student, teacher or other member of the school staff, but did say one first grade class will have to undergo quarantine for two weeks. The approximately 24 students in that class will have online instruction starting Monday.

Warren County, where Indianola is located, has a 14-day average positivity rate for its COVID-19 tests of 7 percent, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

DOE standards state a school district should not apply for a waiver to move to less than 50 percent in-person instruction or all online classes until the county where it is located has a 14-day average positivity rate of 15 percent and schools have an absentee rate of 10 percent.

Schools are permitted to switch to all online instruction for a class, if that class has a confirmed case of COVID-19.

Most public health experts recommend using all online instruction if a community’s average positivity rate is higher than 5 percent.

On Sunday, IDPH reported another 620 Iowans were confirmed as having COVID-19 during the 24-hour period ending at 10 a.m. The newly cases bring the total number of Iowans who have tested positive to 48,732.


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IDPH also reported another five deaths from the virus, including a death in Linn County. The state’s COVID-19 death toll now stands at 930. A total of 88 Linn County residents have died from the virus so far, as have 19 residents of Johnson County.

According to IDPH, seven new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Johnson County on Saturday, and 29 new cases were confirmed in Linn County. Johnson County’s daily positivity rate on Saturday was 3.5 percent, and Linn County’s was 6.8 percent.

The IDPH page for 14-day average positivity rates by county lists Johnson County as having a 14-day average of 8 percent. Linn County’s 14-day average is 9 percent, according to the department.

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