Common Good Iowa


March 22, 2023

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

Three years after the first COVID-19 case was reported in Iowa, deaths and positive tests still are rising, though at a much slower pace than Iowa has seen during the pandemic.

COVID-19 deaths in Iowa reached 83 in February in the latest reports, with 35 reports for March bringing the total to 10,769 since the state’s first pandemic death was reported (March 24, 2020). Counts are regularly updated due to delays in reports.

Positive test counts have risen to 1,055,997 as of March 21, three years after the first reported cases in Iowa. These counts also are subject to reporting delays, and are likely understated as well as many home tests not being reported at all.

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 last year.

The COVID-19 health data below reflect reports compiled by HHS as of Tuesday, March 21, unless noted. The HHS 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 before it slowed to lower levels through most of 2022 and into 2023.

daily reported COVID positives and 7-day rolling average, Iowa

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. A regular lag of a week or more in death reports suggests the most recent counts are understated, but lower in general than a year before. The latest report shows an increase of 83 death reports in February, with 35 deaths reported to have occurred in March.

Iowa reported 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 26 now at 100 or above. Polk County has had 1,232 deaths, with Linn County next at 668 and Black Hawk at 531. Scott County has reached 450, with Woodbury, Pottawattamie and Dubuque counties above 300.

Iowa COVID deaths, by county (map)

The pace of vaccinations stalled among working-age Iowans by early, with the percentage in each age group changing little from December 2021 through late July of 2022, other than in the age 5-11 category. As vaccinations became available in April 2021, middle-age and senior Iowans took more opportunities to be vaccinated. However, fewer than 60 percent of Iowans were fully vaccinated by the middle of 2022, according to the latest data from IDPH. Due to changes in reporting by the state, vaccination data is less available.

© 2023 Common Good Iowa. All rights reserved.