Iowa’s Total COVID Cases Is Higher Than These Countries

Countries with fewer total COVID cases than Iowa

Glance at any color-coded COVID-19 data map of the United States and you’ll often easily be able to spot an outline of Iowa in the Midwest, signifying its high per-capita positive cases.

Iowa has long struggled to contain the virus’ spread, and infection rates here have soared higher than most of its neighbors — data this weekend shows Iowa as the 18th-worst state on a per-capita case rate. That makes Iowa and Illinois (essentially tied with Iowa at the moment) the only Midwestern states to break into the top 20 of states with most cases per 100,000 residents.

But zooming out to a more global scale, Iowa’s coronavirus outbreak looks even more stunning. Were Iowa its own country, it would be the 47th worst-hit nation in the world, despite having a population of just 3.2 million (136 countries have a higher population).

On a per-capita basis, though, only ten countries currently rate higher than Iowa, and among those are a few tiny nations, like Vatican City, San Marino and French Guiana, where a seemingly small number of cases can quickly boost the per-capita rate.

As of Sunday, the Iowa Department of Public Health is reporting 45,493 Iowans with confirmed positive cases of COVID-19. Per the New York Times tracker, Iowa has a rate of about 1,436 cases per 100,000 residents, placing the state above nearly all of the countries in the world.

On a raw total count, Iowa is higher than the countries on this map:

Countries with fewer total COVID cases than Iowa

And it gives Iowa a per-capita infection rate higher than all of these nations:

Countries with lower COVID per-capita rates than Iowa

These are the specific countries with higher per-capita counts. The United States nationwide is currently just slightly above Iowa. See this worldwide tracker for the numbers.

Rank Country Total Cases per 1/M
1 Qatar 111,107 39,571
2 French Guiana 7,857 26,253
3 Bahrain 41,190 24,146
4 San Marino 699 20,597
5 Chile 359,731 18,804
6 Kuwait 67,911 15,883
7 Oman 79,159 15,471
8 Panama 66,383 15,365
9 Vatican City 12 14,981
10 USA 4,790,879 14,466

Internationally, Iowa’s population is most comparable to the populations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mongolia and Uruguay, which are respectively near Italy, China and Brazil—all nations that are current or former global hotspots for the virus. They, however, have been able to keep case numbers relatively low.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has 12,296 confirmed cases. Mongolia, a vast nation above China (which recorded the first coronavirus cases) has 293 confirmed cases.

And Uruguay, a South American country bordering Brazil, the nation with the world’s second-highest COVID total cases after the U.S., has 1,278 confirmed cases.

Globally, the United States has 4,790,879 confirmed cases, which is more than Brazil and India—the other top countries with confirmed COVID-19 cases—combined.

Compared to international numbers, Iowa has more confirmed cases than countries more than 40 to 60 times its size by population. Japan, with a population of about 126.5 million, only has 35,836 confirmed cases, and Nigeria, with a population of around 206 million, has around 43,537 cases.

Iowa’s case numbers are most similar to that of Poland, a nation of about 37.9 million. In Polk County alone, there are 9,659 cases, which is similar to the case counts in countries like Norway, Madagascar and Malaysia.


by Isabella Murray
Posted 8/2/20

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4 Comments on "Iowa’s Total COVID Cases Is Higher Than These Countries"

  • Wesley, you are so right. I’m glowing with Iowa pride. To think that Iowa has more cases than Japan even though Japan has thirty times as many people! My relatives who live near Tokyo tell me they feel pretty safe shopping for groceries and doing errands, what with everyone wearing masks everywhere. My Japan relatives will never know the special thrill of being someone with covid risk factors and wondering if a trip to the supermarket will ultimately lead to death. Who says living in Iowa isn’t exciting?

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