The failure to control community spread of COVID-19 in Iowa has caused “many preventable deaths,” according to the latest report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force. The new report, delivered to the state on Sunday, was released to reporters on Thursday morning.
“Iowa is in the red zone for cases, indicating 101 or more new cases per 100,000 population last week, with the 6th highest rate in the country,” the report’s summary begins. It goes on to note, “Iowa had 200 new cases per 100,000 population in the last week, compared to a national average of 90 per 100,000.”
The continued high rate of new cases in the state, now driven by community spread, has had fatal consequences, according to the task force.
“Community transmission has remained high across the state for the past month, with many preventable deaths.”
Gov. Kim Reynolds acknowledged the problem of community spread, especially in northwestern Iowa and other rural areas, during her news conference on Wednesday. (The Iowa Department of Public Health typically waits until after the governor has held a news conference to release the weekly White House Coronavirus Task Force report.)
Reynolds, however, made it clear she is not preparing to take any new actions to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Iowa.
“What are you going to do to bring down community spread?” the governor was asked.
She began her reply, “Well, it’s the same things we’ve been talking about since the very beginning.” The governor went on to list the standard precautions regarding the virus, such as engaging in social distancing, handwashing, cleaning often-touched surfaces, staying home and wearing face coverings if unable to socially distance.
But Reynolds said again she won’t mandate face coverings in public.
“We’ve taken the virus seriously since the first day it came to Iowa,” Reynolds said Wednesday, immediately after suggesting that even the best measures to avoid contracting the virus are of limited effectiveness, pointing to President Trump’s recent infection and saying, “none of us lives in a bubble, not even the president of the United States.”
The governor went on to explain that she believes Trump has the right attitude towards handling COVID-19.
“We can’t let COVID-19 dominate our lives,” Reynolds said, echoing a recent statement by the president. “And that’s exactly why we’ve taken the steps we have these last seven months to balance both the lives and livelihoods of Iowans.”
At 10 a.m. on Thursday, IDPH reported another 1,515 Iowans had tested positive for COVID-19 during the previous 24 hours, including 45 residents of Johnson County and 42 residents of Linn County. Those newly reported cases brought the total number of Iowans who have been confirmed as having the virus to 95,857.
The department also reported another five deaths during the 24 hour-period ending at 10 a.m. on Thursday, increase the state’s COVID-19 death toll to 1,419.
On Tuesday, a new high in the number of Iowans hospitalized with COVID-19 was recorded: 444 people. The previous high had been set in May.
Reynolds said at her news conference on Wednesday that although the number of people hospitalized was high, “we’ve not approached the peak of hospital capacity.” Since the beginning of the pandemic in Iowa on March 8, the primary focus of the governor and IDPH has been on maintaining hospital readiness.
A reporter asked the governor if she expected “things to get worse before they get better” regarding the increase in hospitalizations.
“Well, you know, I hope not,” Reynolds replied.
On Thursday, the record for the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized set on Tuesday was broken. There were 449 people with confirmed cases of the virus hospitalized as of 10 a.m., according to IDPH.