This story was originally published by the Iowa Capital Dispatch and can be be viewed on their site here.

The coronavirus’ grip on Iowa loosened across the board the past two weeks, but the state’s vaccinations continue to slow.

The number of new daily cases averaged 96 in the past week, down 49% in two weeks, the New York Times reported. Deaths were down 41% and hospitalizations fell 9%. The number of tests fell 32%.

Many Iowans who have been vaccinated have returned, mask-free, to bars, restaurants, grocery stores and events, bolstered by new federal recommendations loosening restrictions.

The number of vaccinations in Iowa has dropped by about one-third in each of the past two weeks, the Washington Post reported. The percentage of Iowans who are fully vaccinated stands at 44.6%, a gain of less than one percentage point in a week. Just under half of Iowans, 49.8%, have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

A month ago, 36% of Iowans were fully vaccinated.

Though state officials are pushing for more people to get vaccinated, key statistics continue to improve.

Sixteen of Iowa’s 99 counties have reported no recent cases of COVID-19. Only three counties were averaging the equivalent of more than a dozen cases per 100,000 people, the Times reported. The others were far below that.

Polk County, home to the state capital of Des Moines, has seen the risk drop from high levels to moderate, the second-lowest level, the Times reported. “Vaccinated people are at minimal risk” in the county, the newspaper added.

Since the pandemic began, Iowa has recorded 402,542 cases and 6,073 deaths related to the coronavirus, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported.

Gov. Kim Reynolds, who spent part of last week fending off criticism from the state auditor, a potential Democratic election opponent, about spending on a public information campaign, has said she isn’t interested in state-sponsored incentives to encourage people to get their vaccinations. She has welcomed efforts by sports teams, farmers markets and other events offering incentives on their own.

The Iowa Capital Dispatch is a nonprofit organization and part of the States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. To see more stories or to donate, visit www.iowacapitaldispatch.com.

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