Gov. Reynolds advises Iowans to reconsider holiday plans as COVID-19 spread grows

By: 
Travis Fischer

The spread of COVID-19 across the state of Iowa continues to accelerate at an alarming rate, reaching new highs in the number of active cases and hospitalizations once again this week.

Governor Kim Reynolds, holding her first COVID-related news conference in several weeks on Thursday, November 5, stressed the seriousness that the unchecked spread of the virus is having, particularly on the hospital system. According to Reynolds, the month of October began with 393 COVID hospitalizations, which ballooned over the month to 676 hospitalizations by Halloween.

That number has continued to reach new highs, with 1,034 hospitalized patients on Sunday, including 184 in an ICU. Iowa has approximately 2,800 inpatient beds available across the state. Of those beds, 65% are currently in use.

“We all know this trend cannot continue,” said Reynolds.

Reynolds announced earlier in the week that she is allocating $28 million in direct relief to Iowa hospitals and county health departments to help manage their increased needs as cases continue to rise. This money, coming from Iowa’s $1.25 billion CARES Act allotment, is intended to help hospitals maintain support staff as workloads increase.

The state is also continuing to run testing clinics, with several drive-thru sites being moved or modified to accommodate the impending change in weather.

However, Reynolds says she does not believe mandated business and event closures, such as those that were implemented earlier in the year, will be necessary. Instead, she reiterated that Iowans will need to be responsible for the health and safety of each other in these times.

“Government solutions alone can’t stop this virus,” said Reynolds. “It’s up to every single one of us, and there are simple things that each of us can do in our daily lives that we know will make a difference. Wear a mask. Social distance. Wash your hands often. Stay at home if you’re sick. Get tested. Follow your quarantine if you have the virus. And I would add, get a flu shot.”

Reynolds advised Iowans to heavily consider the risks of large gatherings, particularly as the winter holiday months approach.

“As the weather changes and more of our activities move indoors, I’m asking you to take additional precautions and carefully consider whether certain events are worth the risk that they could present for you or someone you love,” said Reynolds. “We also need to be thinking about upcoming holiday gatherings, even with our own families, and make a plan on how you can celebrate together safely and responsibly.”

As of Sunday, November 8, there have been 152,804 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, increasing the 130,696 total from the week before by 22,108 cases, dwarfing the increase from the previous week (14,854 cases) which in itself was a near exponential increase from weeks prior.

In total, approximately 6,112 elderly adults (age 80+); 22,921 older adults (61-80); 42,785 middle aged adults (41-60); 67,234 young adults (18-40); and 13,752 children have tested positive for the disease. These estimates are based on a percentage-based breakdown of the state’s reported positive cases. As the total number of cases increase, the less accurate these estimates will become. A single percentage point difference can change an estimate by more than 1,500 cases.

With 100,748 cases considered recovered, that leaves roughly 50,214 Iowans currently known to be fighting the disease, an increase of 14,792 from the previous week. This marks a 41% increase in active cases over the last seven days.

1,031,475 individuals have been tested for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, including 937,545 PCR tests and 93,928 by antigen tests. An average of 5,300 PCR tests per day were counted over the last week along with a total of 11,874 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 55% of positive cases result in symptoms while 11% have been asymptomatic, with the remaining cases pending or unknown.

In addition, 69,197 Iowans have undergone serology testing for coronavirus antibodies, which would indicate that they have had the virus. Of that number, 4,027, about 6%, have tested positive for antibodies.

After a brief drop last week, COVID related deaths are again on the rise, with 125 reporting bringing the state total to 1,842.

In total, approximately 910 elderly (49.4%), 746 older adults (40.13%), 157 middle aged adults (8.56%), 28 young adults (1.46%), and one child (.05%) have died from the virus since the pandemic began.

Of the new deaths, 50 have been attributed to outbreaks in long term care facilities, bringing the number of deaths in long term care facilities to 890.

The number of long term care facilities reporting outbreaks continues to rise, with an increase of 11 bringing the total to 92 facilities with outbreaks consisting of 2,850 positive individuals and 1,195 considered recovered.

To encourage people to take mitigation measures seriously, the Governor will be launching an awareness campaign, urging Iowans to follow public health guidelines, such as avoiding large gatherings and wearing a mask whenever in public.

“I understand that people are tired of living differently because of COVID-19, but in the big picture these are really small sacrifices, and they will help us manage the virus while living life, but I need your help to make that happen.”

 

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