COVID-19 activity drops slightly just before Thanksgiving

Travis Fischer

After weeks of continually accelerating growth, the amount of COVID-19 activity in Iowa has partially stabilized in some metrics.

As of Sunday, November 22, there have been 211,657 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, increasing the 185,185 total from the week prior by 26,472 cases. Astoundingly, with only 3,700 new cases a day, this actually represents a decrease in the number of new cases from the previous week.

In total, approximately 10,583 elderly adults (age 80+); 35,982 older adults (60-79); 59,264 middle aged adults (40-59); 86,779 young adults (18-39); and 22,166 children have tested positive for the disease. These estimates are based on a percentage-based breakdown of the state’s reported positive cases.

With 116,306 cases considered recovered, that leaves roughly 93,159 Iowans currently known to be fighting the disease. While this is still an increase of 17,846 from the previous week, it does mean the rate growth in active cases is slightly slowing.

Likewise, after weeks of record-breaking climbs, the number of Iowans hospitalized with COVID-19 has started to turn in the right direction. The previous Sunday saw a record 1,392 hospitalized Iowans, which peaked on Tuesday with 1,527 before starting to decline. With 1,333 hospitalized patients on Sunday, November 22, including 273 in an ICU, this is the first time in several weeks that the number of hospitalized patients has been lower than the previous week, if only slightly.

The state is now reporting a total of 3,170 inpatient beds available, of which 62% are in use.

The slight drop in hospitalizations is a welcome change in a trend that has threatened to overwhelm the state’s healthcare system in recent weeks. With COVID-19 related hospitalizations more than doubling since the start of November, the amount of medical resources being dedicated to treating COVID patients could impact the ability to respond to other health emergencies.

“Over the last two weeks, hospitalizations have climbed daily, and at times the increases have been significant,” said Governor Kim Reynolds on Tuesday, November 17. “At the start of the month, 14 percent of Iowans in the hospital had the virus. Today it’s 28 percent.”

Last week Governor Reynolds issued a conditional mask mandate across the state. From now until December 10, masks must be worn in public when you are indoors and unable to social distance from people for more than 15 minutes.

In addition, all indoor recreational or social gatherings are limited to 15 people, while outdoor events are limited to 30 people.

All organized youth and adult sports have been suspended, and while high school sports are still on, spectators are limited to two people per participant and must be masked.

Meanwhile, restaurants and bars must close by 10:00 p.m., and both staff and customers must be masked when not seated.

“The measures are targeted towards activities and environments where they have the potential to make a significant amount of impact in a short amount of time,” said Reynolds. “And they’re necessary if we want to do everything we can to keep our businesses open, our kids in school, and our healthcare system stable.”

In the meantime, testing sites in Iowa continue to adjust to the impending winter weather along with mid-week holidays.

1,167,333 individuals have been tested for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, including 1,039,048 PCR tests and 128,273 antigen tests. An average of 6,700 PCR tests per day were counted over the last week along with a total of 17,678 new antigen tests. Though, without the number of repeat tests on individuals, it’s unknown exactly how many tests the state has performed.

Current testing shows that roughly 41% of positive cases result in symptoms while 8% have been asymptomatic, with the remaining cases pending or unknown.

In addition, 73,717 Iowans have undergone serology testing for coronavirus antibodies, which would indicate that they have had the virus. Of that number, 4,562, about 6%, have tested positive for antibodies.

Unfortunately, one coronavirus metric that hasn’t gone down are the number of deaths. With 217 new deaths reported last week, Iowa crossed a milestone as the state total now sits at 2,202 dead due to the disease.

In total, approximately 1,149 elderly (52.18%), 873 older adults (39.65%), 149 middle aged adults (6.81%), 29 young adults (1.32%), and at least one child (.05%) have died from the virus since the pandemic began.

Of the new deaths, 70 have been attributed to outbreaks in long term care facilities, bringing the number of deaths in these facilities to 1,004.

Another 22 long care facilities reported an outbreak this week, bringing the total to 122 outbreaks consisting of 4,469 positive individuals with 1,918 recovered.

This spike in outbreaks emphasizes the need for Iowans to keep vigilant, particularly as the lure of holiday gatherings threatens to give the spread of the virus a major boost across the county.

“As we approach the holiday season, and even small gatherings occur among family members, we need to be mindful of how our behaviors affect others,” said Reynolds. “Though you may have grown tired of hearing it, it’s even more important now to blanket every corner of the state with this message.”



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