Virus Outbreak Iowa

In this file photo from March 3, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds takes questions after getting the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine during a news conference.

DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds said the state believes by April 5, all Iowans will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine provided supply increases as federal partners have promised.

The Food and Drug Administration has signed off on vaccines made by Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson for those above 16 years old on an emergency authorization basis. Trials are underway for younger children, but the vaccine is not yet authorized for that age group.

On March 8, Iowa opened vaccine access to those age 64 and younger, provided they have one of several pre-existing conditions that puts them more at risk for COVID-19. Those conditions include obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, asthma and others.

The supply of vaccines from federal sources is expected to increase significantly in the next two weeks. The last week of March, the federal government is expecting to ship out 20 million doses nationwide, including 6 million of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. In April, weekly allocations could surpass 22 million nationwide. Reynolds said Iowa receives about 1% of the country's vaccine allocations each week.

"More vaccines means opportunities to vaccinate even more Iowans," Reynolds said. "Communities across the state are partnering to make that possible now and preparing to serve even more people as more doses become available."

Reynolds said there won't be additional avenues to schedule a vaccine, citing that challenges currently are tied to supply and not scheduling appointments. The state's 211 call center has been assisting those without Internet access to schedule appointments.

"We're getting the vaccine out, " Reynolds said. "Numbers are really reflective of whatever comes in we're getting it out."

Reynolds said by the end of March, every long-term care facility in the state will have finished vaccination programs. The effects of that are already clear, she said Wednesday.

As of her news conference, Vista Woods Care Center in Ottumwa was the only active long-term care facility outbreak reported by the state. It has gone nearly a month since its last case, however, and 11 of the 13 identified cases have recovered.

"The vaccine is working, and life is getting back to normal," Reynolds said.

Provided the trend continues, Iowa could soon be outbreak-free this month for the first time in nearly a year.

Many long-term care facilities are beginning to reopen as vaccination regimes are completed. This has reunited families with loved ones.

"While we've celebrated some important milestones in our COVID-19 recovery over the last few weeks, I can't think of a single one that's brought more joy than this one," Reynolds said.

To date, 2,223 long-term care residents have died from the pandemic — nearly 40% of the state's total coronavirus deaths.

New state data on Wednesday showed another 564 individuals were positive for the coronavirus.

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported another 15 deaths caused by the virus. The state regularly reports deaths on a delay, taking days and weeks to add deaths publicly after a verification process. To date, there have been 5,657 deaths reported in Iowa.

Jefferson and Davis counties each had one new death reported Wednesday.

There were five new cases in Wapello County reported. Updated data also included five new cases in Appanoose, two in Davis and two in Jefferson.

Iowa has now given 1,096,699 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to Iowa residents, which is 25,789 more than the prior day. As of Wednesday, the state has given one dose of the vaccine to roughly 10.2% of its population. About 13.5% have received both doses.

Wapello County has completed vaccination series for 11.1% of its residents as of Wednesday, or a total of 3,870. Another 3,223 have received their first dose.

The number of residents receiving both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine in area counties include 1,548 in Jefferson, 1,237 in Appanoose, 899 in Monroe, 873 in Davis and 436 in Van Buren.

The number of Iowans hospitalized with COVID-19 decreased to 161 as of Wednesday morning. There were 41 in an intensive care unit.

Out of Courier area counties, the 14-day test positivity rate was highest in Wapello County at 6.7%. It was lowest in Van Buren County at 0.3%.

Kyle Ocker is the editor of the Ottumwa Courier and the Oskaloosa Herald. He can be reached at kocker@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.

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Kyle Ocker is a Centerville native and award-winning multimedia journalist. Kyle is currently the president of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and vice president of the Iowa Print Sports Writers Association.

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