Common Good Iowa


Nov. 30, 2022

An eye on the data: Key numbers during the COVID-19 crisis in Iowa

Death reports for recent weeks from COVID-19 in Iowa have kept climbing well past the grim milestone of 10,000 total deaths since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, positive COVID-19 test reports passed the 1 million mark but are rising at a much slower pace than the strong spread at the end of 2021 and early 2022.

COVID-19 deaths in Iowa have reached 10,294 since the state’s first pandemic death was reported (March 24, 2020).

The 18 new death reports in the latest report include none since Nov. 20, and positive tests rising 3,693 (higher than the previous nine weeks), to 1,006,632 as of Nov. 29, 2022. Those latest numbers are likely to be conservative due to delays in reports to, and by, the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), and may not reflect all cases for Iowans who tested positive at home.

Governor Kim Reynolds signed legislation to ban COVID-19 vaccine requirements in public and private schools including universities and colleges, preventing public initiatives to protect the public from impacts of the spread of the virus.

The Governor rejected and blocked new public policy initiatives even as infections picked up in 2021, particularly among unvaccinated Iowans. The Legislature passed and the Governor signed, on the final day and night of the 2021 regular legislative session, a ban on any locally ordered vaccine or mask mandates in local schools or by cities and counties on local businesses. Besides rejecting vaccine or masking mandates, she supported court action to block federal policy moves designed to thwart the spread of the virus and its variants.

Over the many months of the pandemic, delays in death and positive case reports — as well as recent changes in the number used to report individual positive tests — have hindered a consistently clear look at the pace of COVID-19 in Iowa. The state also scaled back its reporting with the Governor's directive ending the emergency declaration as of Feb. 16 of this year.

The COVID-19 health data below reflect reports compiled by IDPH as of Tuesday, Nov. 29, unless noted. The IDPH dashboard now is found here.

The dark line in the next graph shows fluctuations in the daily number of new positive tests, while the shaded area shows the one-week rolling daily average throughout the pandemic in Iowa. The high averages through the fall of 2021 and into 2022 illustrate how the virus quickly spread.

COVID positives in Iowa, day by day with rolling 7-day average

Death counts peaked in Iowa in November 2020, reaching 1,511 for that month, but after dropping off through the spring and summer of 2021, they were near or above 400 a month from September through February 2022, reaching above 600 in December and January. The typical lag of a week or more in death reports suggests the recent counts are understated. The latest report shows an increase of 18 death reports compared with the previous week's report, but none of those in the previous nine days.

Iowa COVID deaths by month

Every county in the state has felt the impact of the pandemic, with all 99 counties reaching double digits in deaths, and 21 now at 100 or above. Polk County has had 1,181 deaths, with Linn County next at 637 and Black Hawk at 510. Scott County has reached 428, with Woodbury, Pottawattamie and Dubuque counties above 300.

The pace of vaccinations has clearly stalled among working-age Iowans, with the percentage in each age group changing little from December 2021 through late July, other than in the age 5-11 category. As vaccinations have become available since April last year, middle-age and senior Iowans took more opportunities to be vaccinated. However, fewer than 60 percent of Iowans are fully vaccinated, according to the latest data from IDPH.

The green-shaded areas of the bars below show the change in the share vaccinated since Dec. 1, when the virus was on the rise with the omicron variant, peaking in January.

COVID vaccinations by age group, Iowa

Note: The state has adjusted its vaccination reporting so that further direct comparisons to Dec. 1, 2021, levels are no longer possible. This is one of the state's periodic reporting changes that have made it more difficult for the public to track trends during the pandemic.

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