OTTUMWA — As the state continues to shift its vaccination strategy and the country faces supply shortages, Iowa added another 1,319 cases of the coronavirus on Friday.
There were another 33 deaths reported on Friday by the Iowa Department of Public Health, raising the state’s death toll to 4,478. The deaths were backdated as far back as Nov. 28, as the state takes days, weeks and sometimes months before reporting deaths after they occur.
One of the new deaths was reported in Van Buren County, a 60-69 year old with pre-existing conditions. It’s the county’s 15th death, according to state numbers.
Wapello County added seven cases on Friday, while Appanoose added six, Davis three, Jefferson three, Van Buren two, and Monroe one.
There were 450 hospitalized around Iowa, down from the prior day. The state has improved substantially since hospitalizations peaked at more than 1,500 in mid-November. However, the number remains higher than what was seen in July, when the state averaged about 220 hospitalizations per day.
Positivity rates continue to fall around the state and in the area. Monroe County remains the highest in the Courier’s coverage area at 15.5% over the last two weeks. The statewide average rate is 11.1%.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization recommend 5% or less as the level to deem safe in a community.
Across the U.S., the CDC reports that 37.9 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been distributed as of Thursday morning. There are 2.3 million Americans that have been fully vaccinated with both required shots, and 15 million that have received the first dose.
Iowa is expected to update its vaccination numbers on Friday, but hadn’t yet done so as of this report.
Iowa will open up vaccinations to a broader group of citizens on a faster timeline, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Thursday.
Her announcement comes as there were 1,709 new cases of the coronavirus confirmed in Iowa residents, according to state data as of Thursday morning. Of those, 25 were Wapello County residents.
Earlier this month, officials with the Iowa Department of Public Health said that by Feb. 1, individuals over the age of 75 years old would become eligible for vaccinations. Reynolds said those guidelines will now change, and individuals over the age of 65 will begin being vaccinated next month.
Reynolds said the new guidelines begin Feb. 1 and allow those 65 years old or older, law enforcement, first responders, and pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers and staff to be vaccinated. The guidelines changed, Reynolds said, because she wanted to make sure Iowa was getting the vaccine to at-risk populations as quickly as possible.
The state is communicating with local public health departments to ramp up information to the public and also allowing flexibility to ensure that no dose of the vaccine is wasted.
“While we’re excited to begin vaccinating a broader population of Iowans, we again need to emphasize that the demand for the vaccine will vastly exceed our supply,” Reynolds cautioned.
She said while the state is in the top-15 for inoculations per capita, it’s one of the lowest states in terms of doses received. Allocations of the COVID-19 vaccines to Iowa from the federal government have been under what was originally projected.
Iowa receives about 19,500 doses per week, she said. Reynolds said Iowa officials believe they will begin receiving more in their weekly allocation beginning Feb. 1.
Vaccinations at long-term care facilities around the state are being controlled by the federal government, but Reynolds said the state has been assured that first doses will be completed statewide by the end of January.
With President Joe Biden now in office, Reynolds said her team has regular calls with his transition team, and now his administration. She said plans could change from what was projected by the Trump administration.
A Washington Post analysis shows Iowa’s testing levels are the lowest of any state in the country, per capita. The state has only tested more in the last week than Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa.
The state said it tested another 4,161 individuals between Wednesday and Thursday.
Reynolds said she wasn’t familiar with the analysis when asked about it at a press conference Thursday, but said the state believes hospitalizations are a better marker for where the state is at in the pandemic.