All counties in Iowa in ‘red zone’ for COVID-19 amid ‘unyielding’ spread, report says

Published: Nov. 17, 2020 at 5:18 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Federal officials described an out-of-control spread of the novel coronavirus in the state of Iowa in a new weekly report, with nearly all metrics worsening in the state compared to the previous week.

The document, issued to all 50 states by the White House Coronavirus Task Force on Sunday, November 15, and obtained by ABC News on Tuesday, described the spread of COVID-19 in Iowa as “exponential and unyielding." The only statistic tracked by the report that improved during the week of November 8 through November 14, compared to the previous week, was the number of tests conducted in the state.

The rate of new cases in Iowa places the state in the “red zone,” according to the task force, which is defined as a rate of new cases of at least 101 per 100,000 population during the week. Iowa’s rate was the third-highest in the country at 991 new cases per 100,000 population, showing an increase of 370 from the previous week’s rate. The national average was 294 per 100,000.

Polk County, Linn County, and Scott County were the top-three counties for the highest number of new cases, representing 26.7% of the state’s total 31,281 cases during the week. The total number of cases during the week was about 60% higher than the previous week. Iowa conducted more tests than the national average at 3,768 per 100,000 population, and the number of tests increased by 19% to 118,881. The national average for testing rate during the week was 2,676 per 100,000 people.

Officials said that 132 deaths took place in the state during the reporting period, 20% higher than the number in the previous weekly report. The death rate in Iowa, at 4.2 per 100,000 population, was 82% higher than the national average of 2.3 per 100,000 people for the week.

The test positivity rate for Iowa was 24.1% for the week, putting the state well beyond the threshold for the “red zone” for positivity. The task force defines the red zone in this metric as a positivity rate above 10%. The rate increased by 4.0% week-over-week and is the third-highest rate in the country, which averages 10.1%. Iowa ranked fourth 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 Nov. 8 through Nov. 14.(KCRG / via data obtained by ABC News)

The color categories for counties, as defined by the task force, are defined by both the rate of new cases and the positivity rate. All of Iowa’s 99 counties are in the “red zone” for both the number of new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people and the 10% “red zone” threshold for test positivity. This is the first time that the entire state fell into the red zone by county during the fall, according to the task force’s weekly reports.

Hospitalization increased by 37% week-to-week, with 196 patients with confirmed COVID-19 and 45 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 worsened compared to the previous week, according to the report. 20% of facilities had at least one new case among residents, 54% had at least one new case among staff, and 8% of long-term care facilities in the state had at least one new resident who died from the disease.

The task force recommended increasing mask usage to all public places, which Gov. Kim Reynolds announced on Monday evening in a new statewide rule that had several significant exceptions. Other recommendations included limiting restaurant capacity to 25%, which was not implemented by the governor’s office, and limiting bar hours, which was part of Monday’s proclamation.

The recommendations also included mask usage for students and teachers in K-12 schools and temporarily canceling extracurricular activities, which the governor’s office said was not part of Monday’s proclamation.

Individuals were recommended to take “basic actions” including zero gatherings with people outside of their household, always using a mask when out in public, and getting a flu shot. College students, which were described by the task force as “letting their guards down," were recommended to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for limiting the spread of the virus if they choose to go home for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Testing was encouraged by the task force among asymptomatic populations under 40 years old, including a suggestion for developing incentives for people under 40 who feel fine to get tested in communities with the highest rate of spread.

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