The state listed an additional three COVID-19 deaths in Pottawattamie County on Thursday, as the number of deaths from the disease in the county continues to rise. County Public Health said all three were Council Bluffs residents who died this week. Two were women between 61 and 80 years old, while one was a man in that age range.
The state has confirmed 17 COVID-19 deaths during November, with the number rising from 45 on Nov. 1 to 62 on Thursday.
Pottawattamie County had 146 new cases over 24 hours, according to coronavirus.iowa.gov. There were 337 new tests, and the county saw its 14-day positivity rate again decrease slightly, down to 22.2%. There have been 5,294 cases out of 31,891 tests, with 3,224 recoveries.
Harrison County’s cases load increased by 18, with the county now at 963 cases out of 4,369 tests, with 618 recoveries and 26 deaths. The 14-day rate dipped slightly to 22.6%.
Mills County had 24 new cases, with their totals at 898 cases out of 5,478 tests, with 364 recoveries and six deaths. The 14-day rate remained the same, 25%.
Statewide, there were 40 new deaths and 4,122 new cases. There have been 199,664 cases out of 1,136,400 tests, with 112,778 recoveries and 2,106 deaths.
The state’s 14-day rate has decreased the last three days and was at 22.1% Thursday afternoon. The seven-day positivity rate, from researchers at Johns Hopkins University, was at 50.1%.
Johns Hopkins’ seven-day average for new cases per 100,000 people showed Pottawattamie County at 142.4, Mills County at 193.9 and Harrison County at 102.
Risen Son Christian Christian Village said during its current outbreak there have been 52 cases among residents, with seven deaths.
There have 34 recoveries amid the outbreak, which included cases in the facility’s assisted living, residential care, skilled nursing and independent living sections.
At Midlands Living Center in Council Bluffs there have been 25 cases, according to Pottawattamie County Public Health. Steve Chamley, owner and administrator of the long-term care facility, said Thursday there have been no COVID-19 deaths.
Chamley said the facility is working with the Iowa Department of Public Health and county, while also following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines — including setting up a “red zone” for caring for coronavirus patients — as it works to help its residents.
“It’s doing what everybody else is doing, trying to keep everyone as safe as you possibly can,” Chamley said of the efforts.
Neither outbreak is listed by the Iowa Department of Public Health COVID-19 website. Pottawattamie County Public Health Director Matt Wyant said last week he didn’t believe the Risen Son outbreak fell under the state’s classification for “long-term care.” The state also didn’t list the May outbreak at Country House, a memory care facility in Council Bluffs.
On Wednesday, the Iowa Department of Public Health would not confirm the Midlands outbreak, though county public health and the facility have, with the state saying it could only confirm what’s on the state website, coronavirus.iowa.gov. After agreeing to, the department as of Thursday evening had also not sent its definition of what’s classified as a long-term care facility.
Household gatherings focus of state’s COVID-19 tracing work
With COVID-19 spreading through Iowa at record levels, state public health officials are focusing their work to identify the virus’ spread through household gatherings.
Gov. Kim Reynolds and Dr. Caitlin Pedati, the state epidemiologist, said Thursday that as the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Iowa have exploded over the past month, their case investigations and contact tracing — efforts to determine how the virus is spreading from person to person throughout the state — has become focused on whether Iowans are taking appropriate precautions around each other.
Iowa’s COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all at record highs for the pandemic, far outpacing the previous surge this summer.
“As numbers have increased, we’ve increasingly focused on high-risk situations, which includes households. We know that households are a place where all kinds of illnesses can spread quickly,” Pedati said Thursday during a news conference at Iowa PBS studios in Johnston. “When we live together, there are more chances for a virus that moves from one person to the other to move between us. So we want to help do what we can to protect other people who may have been exposed and are at higher risk for becoming sick.”
Pedati restated public health’s guidance to help slow the virus’ spread — persistent hand-washing, wearing face masks in public when around others, and staying at least six feet away from others when in public.
And at the eight-month mark of a global pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 2,100 Iowans and more than 250,000 Americans, Pedati was compelled to remind Iowans about the most basic public health guidance.
“We want to just make sure that people understand it’s still important to keep yourself away from others if you have COVID, and to keep yourself away from others if you’ve had a COVID exposure. Because that really does help limit that spread,” Pedati said.
Pedati and Reynolds both said they understand some people may be feeling exhausted by having to deal with COVID-19 over the past eight months, and both urged Iowans to remain vigilant in their efforts to help slow the virus’ spread.
To that end, Reynolds unveiled a TV advertisement that is part of a public information campaign launched by the governor’s office encouraging Iowans to take proper mitigation steps. The TV ads feature former governor and U.S. agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack, legendary college wrestling coach Dan Gable, Test Iowa nurse Katie Witt, University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics CEO Suresh Gunasekaran and Carson King, an Iowa man who became an internet celebrity and eventually raised $3 million for the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital.
Similar ads will also appear on radio and in newspapers across the state. The governor’s office worked with the Iowa Broadcasters Association and Iowa Newspaper Association on the campaign.
“Though you may have grown tired of hearing it, it’s even more important now to blanket every corner of the state with this message so that we can help stop the spread of the virus,” Reynolds said.
— Erin Murphy of the Lee Des Moines Bureau contributed to this report.