Common Good Iowa


April 19, 2021

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

Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have remained persistent in Iowa with deaths and total positive cases still rising, though at a pace slower than the peak in November as vaccines have arrived. Still, uncertainty remains about new strains of the virus in the state, with few social distancing or other state-ordered protections in place.

Just over one year since the first COVID-19 death was reported in Iowa (March 24, 2020), deaths stood at 5,881 and positive tests at 389,219. There are delays in reporting, but positive tests reported thus far for March and April are running around 500 or more per day, both well above the average for the first four months of the pandemic last year.

Governor Kim Reynolds has removed the limited mask and social distancing requirements that she had implemented in those early months.

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. However, data offered on the state's website do provide evidence of a spread that is continuing but may have peaked, if variants of the virus do not change the course.

Trouble continues, meanwhile, for Iowa workers and the Iowa economy. In the unemployment claims report issued Thursday (April 15) for the week ending April 10, Iowa Workforce Development reported initial claims of 5,279, pushing Iowa to 632,788 claims in the 63 weeks since the current, pandemic-driven recession started. (See the summary below.).

The COVID-19 health data below are from IDPH as of Sunday at 9 p.m. The counts for positive tests typically change as new information is gathered by the state, with updates to previously reported data. Death count updates now are usually provided once a day. The IDPH dashboard 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.

COVID cases statewide
The seven-day rolling average in daily positive tests, while far lower than the level of 1,000 or above per day from early October through late January, has held above the early months of the pandemic.

As with positive cases, the average daily death counts peaked in Iowa in November, reaching 1,510 and continuing to run strong in December, at 1,280, according to the latest state count updates. The totals are frequently revised especially for the most recent months, with those latest reports at 715 deaths in January and 277 for February. The typical lag in death reports may indicate the count is understated. For example, of the increase of 22 death reports since April 1, only two are reported to have occurred in the last week.

Ninety-four counties have reached double digits in deaths to COVID-19. Eight counties have had at least 100 deaths: Dubuque, Linn, Black Hawk, Scott, Woodbury, Pottawattamie, Wapello and Polk. Besides Polk, at 604 deaths, Linn County and Black Hawk are above 300 deaths, while Scott, Woodbury and Dubuque also have passed 200.


Economic Impacts
New unemployment claims show jobless Iowans still need greater protection

The state of Iowa saw another difficult week in initial unemployment claims for the week ending April 10. Iowa recorded 5,279 new claims, down from a revised 6,125 in new unemployment claims for the previous week, but now past 632,000 for the current recession.

Analysis throughout the pandemic has shown that through most of this recession, the initial claims number has been well above the level at similar points during the Great Recession. Recent weeks have reversed that trend, but the current numbers remain high compared to early and pre-recession levels. The magnitude of this recession can be understood by the observation that the average increase in initial claims has been 10,044 — compared to the average 5,539 for the same period in the era of the Great Recession (note the orange bars in the graph below, only seven rising above 10,000).

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