In little more than a week, Louisa County has gone from a single confirmed case of COVID-19 to the worst-hit county in Iowa in per-capita cases. Another update from their county public health department today confirmed 73 new cases, nearly doubling their current numbers, taking them to 152 overall. Only a handful of counties in Iowa, all with far larger populations, have more cases.
Louisa County has just 11,387 residents, meaning that 1.3% of all people in the county has now tested positive for the virus. When you extend that out to a cases per 100,000 people calculation, it puts Louisa County ahead of even New York State, home to the United State’s largest outbreak, for infection rate. According to the latest data on the New York Times’ tracker, New York State has 994 positive cases per 100,000 people. Louisa County has an equivalent of 1,135 per 100,000.
Making matters worse, Louisa County does not have a hospital, one of a handful of counties in the state without one. According to the Burlington Hawk Eye in October, Louisa County also did not have a single resident practicing physician.
The drastic spike in the Southeast Iowa county, home to towns like Columbus Junction and Wapello, began a little over a week ago when over two dozen employees at the local Tyson meat packing plant became sick and tested positive. In the days afterward, cases skyrocketed faster than almost any other county in the state. Louisa County already topped Iowa’s per-capita rating for counties before the new 73 cases. Those have yet to be reported in the statewide report released by IDPH.
The county health department implied in their latest post that new testing, which has been incredibly scarce and rationed in Iowa and across the country, provided to the county led to the jump in numbers.
“Due to increased testing efforts in Louisa County, we currently have 73 new cases of COVID19. This puts our total number of positive cases to 152,” the health department reported. “Please keep in mind that the data released by IDPH is delayed to allow counties time to notify their local partners and begin the disease investigation. Our county’s data should be made available by IDPH on 4/14/20.”
If you are a resident of Louisa County, Starting Line would like to speak with you about what you’re seeing locally. Email us at IowaStartingLine@gmail.com.
by Pat Rynard