Iowa shattered its record for most COVID-19 deaths reported in a 24-hour period at 10 a.m. on Thursday, as the Iowa Department of Public Health disclosed another 70 Iowans have died from the virus. The previous one-day high for reported deaths came eight days earlier on Nov. 25, when IDPH reported 47 deaths.
IDPH has not reported fewer than 10 deaths in a 24-hour period since Nov. 16. The 70 deaths disclosed on Thursday pushed the state’s COVID-19 death toll to 2,519.
“Unfortunately, what we’ve seen throughout the pandemic is the cycle,” Gov. Reynolds said at her 11 a.m. news conference on Thursday. “So, as the cases go up, about two weeks out, if you look at the hospitalizations you’ll tend to see those go up. And if you look out another two weeks after the hospitalizations you’ll start to see, you know, unfortunately, the number of deaths increase, too.”
“So, that’s why we’re asking Iowans not to let up at this point. To continue to do everything that they can to prevent another surge.”
The governor was asked if she planned to extend the mitigation measures since introduced on Nov. 17, in response to the surge in new cases that began in September.
“No,” Reynolds said. “We’re looking at it daily, and we said that this week and the first part of next week would be critical because we would start to see, especially after the holidays. And then we had to get the testing back up and start to look at some of those numbers, because we have a lag over the weekend, so we’re just going to continue to monitor those and see what we’re seeing, and we’ll address that later on.”
Those new mitigation measures are set to expire on Dec. 10.
The governor said she thought most measures of COVID-19 activity in Iowa were headed in the right direction. She also devoted much of the news conference to the state’s plans for distributing the vaccines it anticipates receiving later this month.
At 10 a.m. on Thursday, IDPH reported another 2,986 Iowans, including 76 residents of Johnson County and 148 residents of Linn County, had tested positive for the virus during the preceding 24 hours. That brings the total number of COVID-19 cases confirmed in Iowa to 236,792.
IDPH also reported on Thursday morning 1,124 patients with confirmed cases of the virus in Iowa’s hospitals. One hundred and thirty-six of those patients had been admitted during the previous 24 hours, and 224 were being treated in intensive care units.
The number of COVID-19 outbreaks at long-term care facilities reached another new high on Thursday, with IDPH reporting outbreaks at 169 facilities. The governor said during her news conference that IDPH anticipates removing 30 of the facilities from the outbreak list in the next week, as they are approaching the 28-day period with no new reported cases needed in order to be considered “recovered.”
If all 30 are removed, and no new facilities are designated as having an outbreak, more than 30 percent of Iowa’s long-term care facilities will still be experiencing outbreaks. And according to the latest report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, virus spread is wider than the IDPH’s statistics indicate, because last week, 70 percent of long-term care facilities in Iowa had at least one worker with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
IDPH does not count staff infections when determining whether to declare an outbreak at a long-term care facility. IDPH only declares an outbreak if three or more residents test positive during a 14-day period.
Long-term care facility residents and the staff directly caring for them will be among the first to receive COVID-19 vaccines when the state begins its vaccination program.