One day after Iowa surpassed 2,000 COVID-19 deaths, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported its highest one-day number of new deaths from the virus. IDPH reported another 40 deaths from the virus fatalities during the 24-hour period ending at 10 a.m.
Those deaths brought the total number of COVID-19 fatalities IDPH has reported since the virus was confirmed in Iowa in March to 2,604. The deceased include 35 residents of Johnson County and 150 residents of Linn County.
The surge in new cases continued on Wednesday, with IDPH reporting another 3,896 Iowans had tested positive for the virus between 10 a.m. on Tuesday and 10 a.m. on Wednesday, including 125 residents of Johnson County and 335 residents of Linn County.
The number of COVID-19 patients in Iowa hospitals continued to increase, with IDPH reporting 1,527 patients on Wednesday morning, 283 of whom were in intensive care units. Both of those numbers set new records.
Late on Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a new emergency health proclamation that relaxed one of the COVID-19 restrictions contained in the emergency health proclamation Reynolds issued on Monday.
Among the minor new restrictions the governor unveiled during a televised speech was a ban on many “sporting or recreational gatherings.”
According to the Monday proclamation, “Except for high school, collegiate or professional sporting or recreational gatherings, all sporting or recreational gatherings of any size are prohibited..”
In the latest proclamation, that prohibition has been lifted and replaced with certain restrictions on the gatherings.
“Except for high school, collegiate or professional gatherings, all sporting or recreational gatherings of any size are prohibited unless the gathering organizer and all participants comply with the following requirements,” Wednesday’s proclamation says.
Those requirements include maintaining six feet of distance between participants. “Activities where closer contact is required or reasonably unavoidable, such as a wrestling meet or basketball game, are prohibited,” according to the new proclamation.
As is the case with high school athletics, only two spectators per athlete will be allowed to attend the gatherings.
The final restriction is a requirement that everyone over the age of 2 wear a face covering, except for participants during the times they are engaging in the sport or recreational activity.
In a news release, the governor’s office said Reynolds had issued the new proclamation less than 48 hours after the previous one “to provide clarity and simplify the measures applicable to recreational activities and fitness centers.”
Infectious disease experts said the new restrictions imposed this week by the governor were too weak to have a significant impact on the uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 in the state, and those assessments were made before Reynolds removed the prohibition on those sports and recreational activities.
In its latest report on Iowa, the White House Coronavirus Task Force said the communities in Iowa should prohibit “gatherings beyond immediate household until cases and positivity rates are in the yellow zone.”
According to that report, which was sent to the governor’s office on Sunday, all of Iowa’s 99 counties are in the red zone, with more than 101 new cases per 100,000 residents last week. It was the first time the state has no counties in either the orange zone (51 to 100 new cases per 100,000 residents) or the yellow zone (50 or fewer new cases per 100,000 residents).
In the report, the task force described the increase of COVID-19 cases in Iowa as “exponential and unyielding,” and warned “Current mitigation efforts are inadequate and must be expanded.”