DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa will provide more COVID-19 data and update the state’s COVID-19 website more frequently in response to public calls for more information.
During her press conference on Thursday morning, Gov. Kim Reynolds noted the Delta variant accounts for 99 percent of the new cases of COVID-19 in the state.
“Over 18 months, Iowans have come to understand that this is a long game. We know that virus activity can and does fluctuate. We’ve shown we can respond and adapt without abandoning the reasonable and balanced approach that has proven effective, especially with vaccines widely available. The rise we’re currently experiencing isn’t cause for panic, far from it, but it is a good reason to consider what you can do to help,” Reynolds said.
The Iowa Department of Public Health currently reports 524 Iowans hospitalized for COVID-19, which has increased. Reynolds pointed out that in November, hospitalizations resulting from COVID-19 reached a daily high of 1527 Iowans.
“We don’t want to relive that experience, and thankfully it’s unlikely that we will. The situation is different now, most notably because we have a vaccine. Iowa is in a strong position,” she said.
Reynolds noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 61 percent of Iowans 12-years-of-age or older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 91 percent of Iowans age 65 and older have received at least one dose.
She noted that unvaccinated patients have made up many of the hospitalizations, with 79 percent of all the hospitalizations being infected before being vaccinated and 90 percent of those in ICU were infected before being vaccinated.
“The data reflects, I think, as you’ve heard for months now that COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalizations, and deaths, which ensures that more beds are available for other purposes. Because, as you also know, it’s not just patients with COVID who are being hospitalized. Hospitals are also treating patients with other illnesses, injuries, and emergent needs. Plus, we’ve seen an unusually high number of children with RSV. resources in some Iowa hospitals are being stretched,” Reynolds stated.
She added that hospital resources being stretched have at times been due to limited bed capacity and, at other times, workforce shortages.
“So we want to do our part to ensure that Iowans who need care under any circumstances can get it. And getting vaccinated is the most effective tool that we have in making that happen. It’s the best way to protect yourself and those around you. And this is especially important as we start to roll into flu season,” Reynolds said.
With school back in session, she pointed out that only two percent of the current hospitalizations are children under 18.
“It’s important to understand; I think all of us understand, that now that COVID isn’t going away. And practically speaking, what began as a pandemic will become endemic. The virus is here to stay, which means we have to find a way to live with it in a responsible, balanced and sustainable way. As always, that includes keeping kids home when they’re sick, parents talking to their doctors about vaccinations, not only COVID vaccines, but also those for flu and any others necessary to keep their children healthy,” Reynolds stated.
She also pointed out that the state still offers free testing and that antibody treatments such as Regeneron are available and highly effective at preventing severe illnesses and hospitalizations if given soon after testing positive.
Kelly Garcia, the interim director for the Iowa Department of Public Health, announced that it was time to make another shift in how the state reports data after previously shifting from daily to weekly in July.
“We owe it to you to share and ensure that you have access to clear information. And I want you to hear it from me that every day all along internally, we are looking at critical data points. We’re working closely with hospitals and in fact, we’ve developed new technology to ensure that they have the data they need to adjust operations. Today, ID,” she said.
Garcia announced they are reformatting the state’s COVID-19 website to make hospitalization and vaccination data more prominent. They are also going to provide the associated vaccination data of those who are hospitalized.
She said that the “deeper, more comprehensive” data will still be updated weekly, but the dashboards with basic statistics will be updated on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
“It is our goal to highlight the critical information Iowans want more frequently, but this approach and frequency also allows time for our data team to ensure the accurate accuracy of that deeper level information,” Garcia stated.
The changes in the website will be visible starting Friday.
Reynolds said she wanted the state to provide information for Iowans to make informed decisions.
“I believe the government’s role in a public health crisis is to provide the public reliable information so that they can make their own informed decisions. I also believe this approach is more effective than mandates that attempt to dictate other people’s behavior. Iowans care about the common good. They’re capable of making their own informed decisions about their health, and they deserve the respect from their leaders to allow them to do,” she said.
Readers can watch the press conference here and listen to it below: