Coronavirus cases surge in Iowa

Mike Stucka
Brian Gill administers a coronavirus test Oct. 16, 2020, at the University of Texas at El Paso campus. With a spike in cases in El Paso, more people are flocking to testing centers.

New coronavirus cases leaped in Iowa in the week ending Saturday, rising 68% as 13,674 cases were reported. The previous week had 8,138 new cases.

Iowa ranked No. 5 among the states where coronavirus was spreading the fastest, a USA TODAY Network analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. In the latest week the United States added 548,664 reported cases of coronavirus, an increase of 17% from the week before. Across the country, 41 states had more cases in the latest week than they did in the week before.

Within Iowa, the worst weekly outbreaks on a per-person basis were in O'Brien, Audubon and Adair counties. Adding the most new cases overall were Polk County, with 1,607 cases; Linn County, with 1,075 cases; and Black Hawk County, with 817. Weekly case counts rose in 86 counties from the previous week. The worst increases from the prior week's pace were in Polk, Linn and Black Hawk counties.

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The share of Iowa test results that came back positive was 36.2% in the latest week, compared with 23.5% in the week before, a USA TODAY Network analysis of COVID Tracking Project data shows. In the latest week, 31,013 tests were administered; a week earlier, that figure was 31,535.Experts say it is important to look at the share of tests that come back positive, not just case counts, to get a better idea of whether the rate of new infections is changing or if differences in testing are playing a role.

The World Health Organization says places should be conducting enough tests to have fewer than 5% coming back positive. Places where the percentage is higher could struggle to complete contact tracing soon enough to prevent spread of the virus.

Across Iowa, cases fell in 13 counties, with the best declines in Clarke, Harrison and Page counties.

In the state, 82 people died in the latest week. In the previous week, 106 people died.

A total of 128,510 people in Iowa have tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic began, and 1,716 people have died from the disease, Johns Hopkins University data shows. In the United States 9,125,482 people have tested positive and 230,548 people have died.