Iowa sees a record number of positive tests as White House Coronavirus Task Force warns of ‘unyielding COVID spread’

A face mask discarded in Coralville, Sept. 24, 2020. — Emma McClatchey/Little Village

Iowa set a record for new COVID-19 cases in a single day on Wednesday, as the Iowa Department of Public Health reported 4,764 more cases of the virus during the 24-hour period ending at 10 a.m. The previous record of 4,562 new cases in a single day was set last Thursday.

The new cases on Wednesday morning included 188 residents of Johnson County and 436 residents of Linn County. As of 10 a.m. on Wednesday, there had been 166,021 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Iowa since the first three cases were diagnosed in Johnson County on March 8.

The surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations also continued on Wednesday, with the state reporting 1,190 patients, the 13th time in the last two weeks hospitalizations have hit a new record high. The state recorded other new highs: 230 of those hospitalized COVID-19 patients were admitted in the previous 24 hours, and 210 of them were being treated in intensive care units. It was the first time the state has surpassed 200 patients in either of those categories.

The latest White House Coronavirus Task Force report on Iowa called the spike in hospitalizations evidence of the state’s “unyielding COVID spread.”

“The most recent trends, showing steep inclines across all indicators, need immediate action including mask requirements to decrease severity in morbidity and mortality among Iowans,” the report said.

The report, dated Nov. 8, was obtained and published by ABC News on Tuesday. But it was delivered to Gov. Reynolds’ office on Sunday, so the governor had access to it before she signed her new emergency health proclamation on Tuesday.

That mandate does require face masks to be worn, but only at “social, community, recreational, leisure or sporting gatherings with more than 25 people indoors or 100 people outdoors.”

According to the report, Iowa ranked fourth in the nation for the rate of new cases last week. In the previous report, the state ranked sixth in the rate of new cases. Iowa had 621 news cases per 100,000 residents, almost three times the national average of 209 per 100,000. That is also a 64 percent increase from the Iowa’s total of 380 new cases per 100,000 residents in the task force’s previous report.

“Effective practices to decrease transmission in public spaces include limiting restaurant indoor capacity to less than 50% and restricting hours until cases and test positivity decrease to the yellow zone,” the task force said.

None of Iowa’s counties are in the yellow zone, according to the new report.

To be in the yellow zone, a county would have to report fewer than 50 new cases per 100,000 residents during the week. Ninety-five counties, including Johnson and Linn, were in the red zone in the new report, meaning they had reported 100 or more new cases per 100,000 residents.

In her new health proclamation. Gov. Reynolds did not limit the capacity or operating hours of restaurants or bars, but did require them to limit the size of groups not from the same household to eight or fewer members. People will also be required to be seated to either eat or drink, according to the new regulation that will be in effect through Nov. 30.

According to the new report, Iowa saw a 25 percent increase in the number of COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 residents during the week of Nov. 1-7 compared to the week before that. The state reported 3.5 deaths per 100,000 residents last week. The national average was two deaths per 100,000 residents.

Between 10 a.m. on Tuesday and 10 a.m. on Wednesday, IDPH reported another 26 deaths from the virus. The deceased included a resident of Johnson County and a resident of Linn County. As of Wednesday morning, 1,898 Iowans had died from COVID-19.

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