28 counties set new highs in 7-day case totals

After reaching a nadir earlier this month, the average number of new daily coronavirus cases in Iowa is gradually beginning to creep back up.

Across the state as a whole, the seven-day daily average of new reported cases in Iowa bottomed out earlier this month at an average of 266 new cases per day in the week preceding June 17. That number is back up to 383 in the seven days preceding Monday, according to data the Iowa Department of Public Health releases.

While Iowa conducted more tests in June than it had in previous months, the difference in testing between those two dates was negligible, and the average number of tests that came back positive has also been gradually increasing. That average positive rate is about one percentage point higher than earlier in the month.

In 64 of Iowa’s 99 counties, the number of new reported cases in the past week was higher than the week before. And in 28 counties, including several of the state’s most populous, the average number of daily cases reached a new high within the past week.

In some of those, like Fremont County, where only seven people have tested positive, the total number of cases may be too small to draw conclusions about whether there is an actual spike.

But in other counties, including some of Iowa’s largest, the new increases are following a distinctive upward trend from mid- to late-June. Four counties among Iowa’s ten largest — Dubuque, Johnson, Story and Scott — have set new highs in 7-day averages in the past week.

Two of those counties, Johnson and Story, are the state’s youngest by a wide margin. The growth in cases in the last two weeks across the state has included a surge among Iowa’s younger populations, and in those two counties, 69% and 77% of their total cases, respectively, are among people ages 18-40.

Other large counties in the state have also had recent upticks in average daily cases, but haven’t reached the heights of previous peaks.

Polk County continues to have the highest average of new daily cases, but that’s largely because more people live in Polk compared to other counties. About half a million Iowans live in Polk County, making it about twice as large as the next largest county. 

Counties like Woodbury or Black Hawk, two of the three counties with the most confirmed cases so far, have experienced huge surges after outbreaks at meatpacking plants in previous months. While their 7-day averages of new cases are not close to those prior peaks, they’ve shown a distinct upward trend over the past week.

The increase in new cases across the state comes even as hospitalizations and deaths due to coronavirus have dropped in recent weeks, prompting health experts to urge Iowans to continue to be cautious.

While health experts continue to learn more about the virus, much of the basic preventative advice has remained the same: thoroughly wash hands, maintain a safe distance from others and wear a mask or face cover.

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