New COVID-19 cases plummet in Iowa

Mike Stucka
Registered Nurse Linda Hixson prepares to give Joe Knight his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, Jan. 12. Knight, a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars, is the first outpatient veteran to receive the new Moderna vaccine at the Joint Ambulatory Care Center in Pensacola, Florida.

Iowa reported far fewer coronavirus cases in the week ending Sunday, adding 8,469 new cases. That's down 29.2% from the previous week's toll of 11,967 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Iowa ranked No. 39 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 1,523,301 reported cases of coronavirus, a decrease of -11.1% from the week before. Across the country, 9 states had more cases in the latest week than they did in the week before.

Testing has changed around the holidays, making comparisons difficult. Labs and testing sites closed. People traveled or prepared for the holidays instead of getting tested. Some counties and states didn't report data as quickly.

Across Iowa, cases fell in 90 counties, with the best declines in Polk, Scott and Linn counties.

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The share of Iowa test results that came back positive was 33.7% in the latest week, compared with 42.8% in the week before, a USA TODAY Network analysis of COVID Tracking Project data shows. In the latest week, 18,402 tests were administered; a week earlier, that figure was 20,195. 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 Madison, Kossuth and Monroe ​counties​. Adding the most new cases overall were Polk County, with 1,553 cases; Scott County, with 422 cases; and Linn County, with 375. Weekly case counts rose in nine counties from the previous week. The worst increases from the prior week's pace were in Cedar, Fremont and Jasper counties.

In Iowa, 185 people were reported dead of COVID-19 in the week ending Sunday. In the week before that, 192 people were reported dead.

A total of 305,151 people in Iowa have tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic began, and 4,323 people have died from the disease, Johns Hopkins University data shows. In the United States 23,933,368 people have tested positive and 397,574 people have died.