Common Good Iowa


May 4, 2022

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

The spread of the COVID-19 virus and its variants has declined from its strong levels at the end of 2021 and early 2022, was at its strongest levels early in the year. The pace of positive COVID-19 tests showed an uptick from March to April, rising from 5,095 to 6,886 for those months.

They are still far lower than peak levels in January, when positives averaged over 5,600 a day in January. The count of deaths has passed 9,500 in little over two years.

Since the state’s first COVID-19 death was reported (March 24, 2020), deaths stood at 9,533and positive tests at 862,640 with the latest reports as of May 4, 2022. Those latest numbers are likely to be conservative due to delays in reports to, and by, the state.

Even before recent new cutbacks in state reporting on the virus, data updates of COVID cases and deaths from the Iowa Department of Public Health have been provided only once a week for several months.

The latest reports show daily average positive tests in November (1,547)  and December (2,106) were many times those in July (256). The daily average reached 5,615 through January, breaking the previous daily average peak month, November 2020 (3,706).

Governor Kim Reynolds rejected and blocked new public policy initiatives even as infections picked up in 2021, particularly among unvaccinated Iowans. 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. 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.

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 has recently scaled back its reporting with the Governor's directive ending the emergency declaration as of Feb. 16.

The COVID-19 health data below are from IDPH as of Wednesday, May 4, 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 was spreading.

Death counts peaked in Iowa in November 2020, reaching 1,511 for that month, but after dropping off through the spring and summer, they were near or above 400 a month from September through February. The typical lag in death reports may indicate the counts for March and April are understated.

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 1,102 deaths, with Linn County next at 581 and Black Hawk at 479. Scott County, Woodbury County and now Pottawattamie are above 300, while Dubuque is near it.

The pace of vaccinations has clearly stalled among working-age Iowans. As vaccinations have become available since April last year, middle-age and senior Iowans took more opportunities to be vaccinated. However, fewer two-thirds of Iowans under age 50 have received one of the COVID-19 vaccines, according to the latest data from IDPH.

What is especially notable about the percentages in the graph below is that, in other than the age 5-11 category, there has been very little movement in the share vaccinated in all age groups since what was reported in the previous two months. The green-shaded area 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.

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