Reynolds adjusts quarantine guidance for mask wearers

Travis Fischer

Governor Kim Reynolds announced a new change to student quarantine guidelines last week as cases of COVID-19 spike in rural Iowa.

Northwest Iowa in particular has seen a rapid increase in cases among all demographics, with Sioux County recently reaching a 28% positivity rate in new cases.

“What we’re seeing in rural counties is different than what more populous counties have experienced,” said Reynolds. “Rather than new positivity cases being driven by young adults, those under the age of 40, new COVID cases in Northwest Iowa and other small counties are more evenly distributed across age groups.”

This spike has not yet resulted in any executive actions from Reynolds, but she did reiterate the importance of Iowans taking responsible preventive measures, such as social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands, disinfecting surfaces, and staying home when not well.

“Our best defense against the virus continues to be what it has been from the very beginning,” said Reynolds.

At the same time, the state is changing their recommended guidance in how schools set their quarantine policies for students and staff that have been in contact with somebody that has tested positive for COVID-19.

According to the new guidance, those that have consistently worn masks, even when coming into contact with somebody that has tested positive, should not necessarily need to quarantine themselves for 14-days as a precaution.

“We were able to compare a district that was using face coverings to three districts that were not,” said State Medical Director and Epidemiologist Dr. Caitlin Pedati. “The three districts that did not make use of those face coverings actually saw a 30-130% higher rate of new COVID cases.”

This new guidance is not a mandate for Iowa schools, but instead a recommendation. Schools are still free to set their own quarantine policies as they feel is necessary.

Likewise, though the state has studied the significant impact of wearing masks, the governor is still not moving forward with a state-wide mask mandate, with Reynolds saying that the benefit of wearing a mask should be apparent enough for Iowans to do so without being told.

“This is an incentive to get them to do it,” said Reynolds. “I believe in Iowans. I believe they do the right thing. Over 75% are doing the right thing.”

As of Sunday, October 4, there have been 92,599 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, increasing the 86,540 total from the week prior by 6,059 cases, a slight decrease from the previous week.

In total, approximately 3,704 elderly adults (age 80+); 12,038 older adults (61-80); 25,002 middle aged adults (41-60); 43,522 young adults (18-40); and 7,408 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 920 cases.

With 71,599 cases considered recovered, that leaves roughly 19,619 Iowans currently known to be fighting the disease, an increase of 272 from the previous week.

821,943 individuals have been tested since the start of the pandemic, including 787,130 PCR tests and 34,813 by antigen tests. An average of 4,400 PCR tests per day were counted over the last week along with a total of 6,825 new antigen tests.

Current testing shows that roughly 61% of positive cases result in symptoms while 13% have been asymptomatic, with the remaining cases pending or unknown.

In addition, 60,347 Iowans have undergone serology testing for coronavirus antibodies, which would indicate that they have had the virus. Of that number, 3,488, about 6%, have tested positive for antibodies.

Hospitalizations spiked again this week, with the number of hospitalized Iowans increasing to 392, with 104 patients in an ICU.

Another 66 deaths attributed to COVID-19 were reported last week, bringing the total death count of the disease in Iowa to 1,381. In total, approximately 675 elderly (49%), 552 older adults (40%), 124 middle aged adults (9%), 28 young adults (2%), and one child (.1%) have died from the virus since the pandemic began.

Of those deaths, 24 have been attributed to outbreaks in long term care facilities, bringing the total deaths in long term care facilities to 709.

The number of long term care facilities reporting outbreaks increased by two this week, with 52 now reporting outbreaks consisting of 1,141 positive individuals with 680 considered recovered.



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