Iowa tops NYT's national list of COVID-19 hot spots - Iowa Capital Dispatch

Iowa State University students were back on campus Aug. 22, 2020, with some wearing masks, and some not. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Iowa had the highest per capita rate of COVID-19 in the nation over the past seven days, the New York Times reported

The newspaper’s latest analysis showed Iowa with 220 cases per 100,000 people, well above North Dakota, Mississippi, Alabama and South Dakota among the hot spots.

Iowa was among 14 states that saw increases in their per capita COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks, the New York Times reported Friday.

Five of the states listed are in the Midwest: Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas and Minnesota. The others were Hawaii, North Carolina, Connecticut, Maine and Vermont.

Missouri, Oklahoma, Illinois and Indiana had steady per capita rates of COVID-19 the past 14 days. 

The Times reported that as of 11:39 a.m. Friday, Iowa had recorded 62,075 COVID-19 cases and 1,091 deaths since the pandemic started. 

On Thursday, Iowa had at least 14 coronavirus deaths and 2,620 new cases, the newspaper found. The state has averaged 993 new cases per day, several times higher than at many other stretches since spring. That’s an increase of 123% in the average from two weeks ago, the Times reported.

The Times reported sharp increases in cases in Story County, home of Iowa State University; Johnson County, where the University of Iowa is located; Webster County, where a prison in Fort Dodge has had outbreaks; Lee County in southeast Iowa; and Marion County, which includes Knoxville. 

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks at a news conference Aug. 4, 2020, at Iowa PBS in Johnston. (Screen shot from Iowa PBS livestream)

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds closed bars and similar facilities late Thursday in six counties — Black Hawk, Dallas, Johnson, Linn, Polk and Story — noting that university parties and other gatherings sans masks had been one factor in the spread of the virus. Her action brought immediate protests from owners of bars who said thousands of jobs could be lost, along with some businesses. 

At her news conference Thursday, Reynolds noted that she would take additional action if students merely move the parties to private locations, but she didn’t elaborate.

State epidemiologist Caitlin Pedati on Thursday said the state would begin disclosing positive and negative antigen tests for COVID-19, per U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations. 

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported 860 positive coronavirus tests on Thursday. The state’s numbers have regularly disagreed with the Times, which includes suspected cases in addition to lab results. 

As of 1 p.m. Friday, IDPH was reporting 62,233 positive cases since the pandemic started, with a 10.1% positivity rate. The largest segment of the population testing positive, those aged 18 to 40, accounted for 30,000 cases. 

The state had reported 1,091 deaths in the pandemic, through 1 p.m. Friday. The greatest share of deaths, 48%, has been among those over age 80. 

Iowa health officials reported two COVID-related deaths on Thursday.

At least 70% of Iowans who have died of the virus had pre-existing conditions, the state reported.

On Thursday, Reynolds noted that while COVID-19 symptoms can be lessened among the young, those people can spread the illness to more vulnerable Iowans.

Grade schools have also begun classes in some cases, while some are planning to start after Labor Day. Reynolds’ July proclamation ordering districts to hold in-person classes unless they get a state waiver has been challenged by Des Moines schools and other districts, and the Iowa State Education Association, the teachers union.

Nationally, the virus has claimed 181,050 lives, the Times reported, with 5.8 million cases recorded.