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Iowans need to “act now” to reduce uncontrolled COVID-19 spread, report says

Published: Nov. 4, 2020 at 9:57 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - White House Coronavirus Task Force officials used urgent wording in guidance issued to state officials in Iowa as the spread of the virus continues to worsen, according to a new weekly report.

The document, which was released to all 50 states on Sunday, November 1, and obtained by ABC News, painted a bleak picture as key metrics such as newly-detected cases, test positivity rate, and the number of tests conducted continued to trend in the wrong direction during the week of October 24 to October 31.

The task force specifically asked state officials to issue clear messages to Iowans, including no contact without a mask with anybody who does not live in your household, 100% mask usage in public places, and no gatherings beyond the people in your own house until test positivity and case rates decrease.

The rate of new cases places Iowa in the “red zone," according to the task force, which indicates a rate of new cases of at least 101 per 100,000 population during the week. Iowa’s rate was the sixth-highest in the country at 380 new cases per 100,000 population, showing an increase of 126 from the previous week’s rate. The national average was 165 per 100,000.

Polk County, Dubuque County, and Linn County were the top-three counties for the highest number of new cases, representing 22.8% of the state’s 11,979 cases analyzed last week. The total number of cases during the week was about 50% higher than the previous week. While Iowa still conducted more tests compared to the national average at a rate of 2,508 per 100,000 population, the total number of tests decreased 2% to 79,119 compared to the previous week. The national average was 2,264 per 100,000 people.

Officials said that 88 deaths took place in the state during the reporting period, an 8% decrease from the previous weekly report. The death rate in Iowa, at 2.8 per 100,000 population, was 65% higher than the national average of 1.7 per 100,000 people for the week.

The test positivity rate for Iowa was 14.4% for the week, placing the state firmly into the “red zone" as well, which is defined by a positivity rate above 10%. The positivity metric showed a 4% increase week-to-week and is the fifth-highest rate in the country. The state ranked 11th during the previous week.

Counties in Iowa highlighted as "yellow zone," "orange zone," or "red zone," as defined by the...
Counties in Iowa highlighted as "yellow zone," "orange zone," or "red zone," as defined by the White House Coronavirus Task Force weekly report obtained by ABC News. Yellow Zone counties indicate a moderate rate of COVID-19 transmission, while Red Zone counties indicate high rates of transmission. Orange Zone counties fall between those two classifications. The color-coding is determined by the rate of new cases along with test positivity. Data is for Oct. 24 through Oct. 31.(KCRG / via data obtained by ABC News)

The color categories, as defined by the task force, are defined by both the rate of new cases and the positivity rate. 98 of Iowa’s 99 counties are in the “red zone” for the number of new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people, and 81 counties met the 10% “red zone” threshold for test positivity. Thus, 81% of the state’s counties fall into the overall “red zone” classification. This includes metropolitan areas like Cedar Rapids, Dubuque, Waterloo/Cedar Falls, Muscatine, and Marshalltown, among other cities in the state. A net total of 26 counties were added to the “red zone” category in this week’s report.

Hospitalization increased by 14.5% week-to-week, with 94 patients with confirmed COVID-19 and 32 with suspected COVID-19 admitted to hospitals in the state each day. More than 95% of the state’s hospitals admitted at least one patient with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 each day.

The spread of the novel coronavirus at long-term care facilities stayed relatively steady at fairly high levels, according to the report. 12% of facilities had at least one new case among residents, 33% had at least one new case among staff, and 5% of long-term care facilities in the state had at least one new resident who died from the disease.

The task force said that it saw some signs of a possible increasing lack of adherence to behaviors that limit the spread of the virus in university towns, with those areas in the state showing worsening metrics. The guidance recommended that all students at those institutions get tested weekly.

Recommended usage of the Abbot BinaxNOW rapid tests was emphasized by the task force in the report, saying that it should be used for healthcare workers, K-12 teachers, prison staff, and first responders. Officials said those tests could also be used to identify asymptomatic cases among those younger than 40. The task force said that the share of asymptomatic cases detected by testing in the state had decreased, which could be contributing to undetected spread of COVID-19.

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