New coronavirus cases plummet in Iowa

Mike Stucka
Nurses help each other put on their personal protective equipment before entering a patient's room in the COVID-19 unit in the Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System in Salinas, Calif., on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020.

Iowa reported far fewer coronavirus cases in the week ending Saturday, adding 11,624 new cases. That's down 28.3% from the previous week's toll of 16,206 new cases.

Iowa ranked No. 38 among the states where coronavirus was spreading the fastest on a per-person basis, a USA TODAY Network analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. In the latest week the United States added 1,480,981 reported cases of coronavirus, an increase of 10.8% from the week before. Across the country, 31 states had more cases in the latest week than they did in the week before.

Across Iowa, cases fell in 89 counties, with the best declines in Polk, Pottawattamie and Linn counties.

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The share of Iowa test results that came back positive was 37.3% in the latest week, compared with 39.6% in the week before, a USA TODAY Network analysis of COVID Tracking Project data shows. In the latest week, 24,853 tests were administered; a week earlier, that figure was 30,821. 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.

Within Iowa, the worst weekly outbreaks on a per-person basis were in Henry, Ringgold and Kossuth counties. Adding the most new cases overall were Polk County, with 1,632 cases; Scott County, with 718 cases; and Woodbury County, with 439. Weekly case counts rose in 10 counties from the previous week. The worst increases from the prior week's pace were in Henry, Emmet and Davis counties.

In the state, 526 people died in the latest week. In the previous week, 307 people died.

A total of 255,009 people in Iowa have tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic began, and 3,208 people have died from the disease, Johns Hopkins University data shows. In the United States 16,062,299 people have tested positive and 297,818 people have died.