Ames, Iowa City COVID Outbreaks Are Worst In The World

Iowa’s exploding COVID-19 outbreaks at state universities in Ames and Iowa City are now disasters that can only be fully measured on a global scale. Ames holds the distinction this morning as the worst coronavirus outbreak in the entire United States, while Iowa City is at third on the list [Update: on Monday, Iowa City climbed to the number two spot in the list, while Ames remained at the top]. The per capita rates are worse than any individual country in the world, and appear to surpass any state in some of the other currently hardest-hit countries.

According to the New York Times COVID-19 tracker, Ames has had 956 new cases in the past two weeks, while Iowa City has counted 1,489. In the past seven days, Story County’s per capita infection rate is 797 per 100,000 people, with Johnson County coming in at 787 per 100,000.

Those represent some of the worst, if not the absolute worst, local spread in the world. It is far more than any individual country’s current per capita spread. Some tiny nations, like Aruba (417 cases per 100,000 population in last week) and the Turks and Caicos (284 per 100,000) currently sit at the top of the world’s nation per capita rates, though that’s in part due to their small size. Peru and Colombia have 157 and 150 per 100,000 recent spread, respectively.

Not many tracker sites break out other countries by metro area, but we can compare Ames and Iowa City to individual states in other countries where the pandemic is spreading fast. Brazil’s worst states are Tocatins (440 per 100,000 in past week) and Distrito Federal (420 per 100,000). India’s worst states are also not as bad as Iowa’s two major college cities — Puducherry has a 276 per 100,000 rate, while Gao is at 189 per 100,000.

But the worst may be yet to come. The New York Times also places both Ames and Iowa City as first and third on their list of “Where there may be bad news ahead.”

Many of America’s colleges and universities have proven to be fully unprepared for students’ return, choosing to offer vague assurances over the summer to get students and, importantly, their tuition and residence money back on campus. The second-worst city is Auburn, Alabama, where Auburn University has seen a swift outbreak.

But the incompetence of Gov. Kim Reynolds and leaders at Iowa’s two largest universities, as well as the reckless irresponsibility of many of their returning students who have packed bars and house parties, represent a global embarrassment.

On Friday, the University of Iowa reported 500 new positive COVID-19 cases from students. Johnson County’s positivity rate on Friday was a disastrous 55.5%, while Story County’s Friday positivity rate was even worse at 65.5%. That means that well over half of the people who take a test are testing positive. Gov. Kim Reynolds has received significant criticism for setting a 15% positivity rate as the metric for deciding whether local K-12 schools can go online-only for a time.

After scenes of massive student parties the week prior, Reynolds ordered the closure of bars and nightclubs in Story, Johnson, Black Hawk, Polk, Dallas and Linn counties. But the damage had already been done.

The University of Iowa warned late this past week of possible discipline measures for students found at this point to attend a gathering of more than ten people off campus. They also began offering testing for students after initially not doing so to start the semester, believing a negative test would give a student a false sense of security. That did not seem to stop over 600 students from contracting the virus as of the end of this week — and that’s just the number who have self-reported.


by Pat Rynard
Posted 8/30/20

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64 Comments on "Ames, Iowa City COVID Outbreaks Are Worst In The World"

  • The irresponsibility of adults choosing to exercise their freedoms? They are GUIDELINES not LAWS. It’s unethical for someone to tell me how to live my life if my way of living doesn’t do harm to others. This whole “harm to others” is complete bullshit! If the person getting mad was wearing an N95 I’d at least take them a bit more seriously.. The mandates are unjustifiable by science and unethical in nature. As a student at one of these “hot spots” I have one thing to say to the haters: stay home, you have the option! Don’t ruin the fun for everyone else! (..what little remains allowed anyways..)

  • Calling the leaders incompetent because of positive tests is ridiculous and irresponsible. There are that many positive cases because the students are being told they have to get tested. Positivity rates are high everywhere just not being reported because people don’t want to get tested when they have a small temperature. Iowa has a lot of testing sites and also a reason we have high numbers. They are getting immunity and may be better for it in the long run. The media won’t ever go there because they are promoting the unnecessary fear of this virus. Shame on you!

  • Lol here we go, don’t ruin the fun for everyone. You live your entire life being able to do what ever you want, and this one short period of your life where they ask you to wear a mask or stay home and you act like its the end of the world. Talk about privilege, you see every other country in the world and their citizens complying. Keep doing you though, until one of your close ones get the virus and get extremely sick from it, you won’t believe it.

  • I am amazed at how people think they have the right to do whatever they please even if it causes the death and injury to others. The standard response by most societies when someone does something that results in the death of others is to put them into prison in order to protect society from them. Stop inventing non existant constitutional rights. You do not have the right to have fun at the expense of others lives. Your actions reflect on you.

  • If the two commenters at the top are typical of the Iowa population, I’m sure as hell glad I don’t live in that state!

  • Steph, the leaders are incompetent because they allowed this to happen. You can reasonably expect a demographic known for poor decision making to make poor decisions, just like you’d expect a bear to bite you if you kick it. The university and state leadership knew what would happen and turned a blind eye for the sake of $$$. What is happening was preventable by taking reasonable measures and having plan in place way, way earlier.

    We are not being forced to be tested. The university just made testing more available to help track spread.

    There is evidence of reinfection, so getting it once isn’t a guarantee of immunity. Also, more importantly, even a mild case can lead to *permanent* damage to the lungs (lung tissue scarring), heart (damage to the muscle), and brain (increased risk of stroke and other issues). Chronic fatigue is also being reported in former patients. This is only some of what the leadership is risking by abdicating their duties to the people. I don’t want my peers to be hurt any more than I want to be stuck inside but in terms of severity, it is much worse to let this thing keep going unchecked.

  • If our governor- Kim Reynolds- was competent and did her job, Iowa would not be in this spot. Sadly, many Iowans think this is a democratic hoax and is just like getting a cold or flu at the worst. It is a sad mix of ignorance and defiance. It is really a shameful time to be an Iowan.

    Wear a mask, social distance, and let’s protect each other so we can get back to life safely. Not listening to the science is not helpful. Wake up Iowans.

  • Hey John Doe…why not give your real name when you make these comments? You’re a Trump sheep hiding behind a fake name too scared to reveal your true identity. Stay classy!

  • As a local resident who lives about 8 miles outside Ames, both Iowa and Ames are great places. That said ISU and the U of IA both have had issues in the past with excessive partying by students. Who recalls the riots that shut down Veshia? That was just a few years ago. There is a whole campus town bar seen right across the street from ISU. And with the mixed messages from leaders, some are gonna partake. The real issue here is a governor and leadership (federal leaders too) that are wholly unprepared to have students go back to school. People act like republicans are gonna protect their “liberties” and they are basically one step closer to Jesus, when in fact they don’t really care about you at all. Kim Reynolds needs to go back to bagging groceries at HyVee. The Ames school district had a plan to reopen gradually and keep a lot of students off site initially. Noo…. Not in Kim Reynolds state… Let’s get all the kids physically back in school now. She is forcing it. Why would you force a school who’s already made arrangements to keep our kids safer to hold physical classes? I can’t wrap my head around it.

    And for those who think God or Jesus is gonna protect you and yours…. It’s kinda a shame, Jesus suffered terribly and died for you… And for EVERY single one of us. You can suffer with wearing a mask a bit to potentially save others?

    Don’t get me wrong Sherry. Iowa really is a great state, despite a few knuckleheads. We have great people, albiet some are just being mislead. Thank God they shut down the Iowa State Fair this year. It literally attracts millions of visitors. We’d be as bad as the gathering in Sturgis SD. Maybe in a couple weeks they’ll have the new high score in cases there.

  • Man, reading the comments from some of the “natives”, no surprise Iowa is leading the pack. From weird convolution of “rights and freedumbs” to “have fun and party” self serving attitudes, Iowa’s Governor definitely isn’t the ONLY issue there.

  • What a silly and naive approach. you are a literary disgrace thinking you can scribe that rubbish and nobody would react. “Ruin the fun for everyone” suggests that you have your head wedged firmly where the sun doesn’t shine. People need to be responsible and here we have ignorant and simply stupid statements being made. Turn the laptop off and do the world and Iowa a favour by keeping your crap thoughts to yourself.

  • Steph says “Positivity rates are high everywhere just not being reported because people don’t want to get tested when they have a small temperature.” My institution, Calvin University in Michigan, just reported a positivity rate of 0.5%, lower by more than a factor of 100, after testing everyone. So no, positivity rates are not high everywhere.

  • Taiwan with a weekly mask ration had 10 deaths, despite direct flights from Wuhan. Everyone wears a mask. Love your elders, wear a mask.

  • I would ask you not to base your opinions of Iowans on a few comments made in this forum. I took my freshman back to campus is Ames today and remarked at how impressed I was that nearly every student I saw was wearing a mask and and taking visible precautions. I live in the Des Moines area and can say that based on my observations, most people do take this situation seriously. Just wanted to add my 2 cents.

  • Exactly!!! Everyone needs to wear masks when they go out – and for critical activities only, stay home otherwise, and a lockdown with some real teeth (jail time!!!) needs to be put in place until we can all be safe when we go out again! No vaccine, no end to the lockdown! And, once a vaccine is available, it needs to be MANDATORY!

  • Dear Iowa Friends,
    It should be clear by now that your Governor follows the model of the POTUS. Spin that color wheel in November to BLUE. PLEASE!

  • Wow, I was a little worried after the first two comments….thought they were actually from Michigan. I’m actually from Iowa, but have been working in CA a couple of years, in a hospital..recently on patients with covid. I follow the BS from Iowa, and from other states, including CA. But this little foopah with the universities ranks right up there with the good old boys from GA.
    Look, the understanding of covid has improved over the past few months and the treatments and interventions are more on point. We have fewer deaths and a plan. When dimwits think they can just go party and survive,….they probably will. Its the seniors who suffer, and they die quickly. Oh I know the seniors aren’t at the parties, or the large gatherings, but it doesn’t take long to wipe out a whole nursing home or assisted living complex. Nurses and Docs, who normally don’t mind taking care of mindless fools who smoke and chew, suck up some meth, coke or whatever they decide to swallow these days….are tired of risking their lives for those mindless fools. I have family in their 80’s in Ames, and I know they aren’t in large gatherings or the bars in campus town…they are just trying to enjoy what life they have left.
    It really has nothing to do with your rights or your freedoms…
    Most of our covid patients are in the hospital for weeks after they have gotten sick staying at home. Not a 3 day visit,….weeks trying to breathe.

  • Good to see the Cyclones finally beating the Hawks at something even though the Lefty that wrote the article has been drinking too much of the Biden/Harris purple kool-aid.

  • This article is an excellent example of innumeracy. You neither define a “case” nor place the “cases” into demographics context. If these cases put Ames and Iowa City as the worst in the world, please tell us what percentage of hospital beds these two city have, and what portion of those beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients. More importantly, why are you not focusing on the critical number: the infection fatality rate of the Ames and Iowa City population, rather than the temporary case fatality rate. You wrote this article to cause outrange and bring attention to your publication.

  • I don’t understand how finger pointing helps, especially from a “progressive” website.

    The lockdowns have gone on long enough, and our social institutions and schools need to return.

  • Most of the comments which follow this article should go on their authors’ tombstones, which may well be sooner rather than later.

  • Hey students, you are in Iowa City and Ames to study and learn something. Bars and parties are not on the syllabus and truly not essential for a college experience. I am an alum, class of 76, had a fine time in college without bars and parties. And now I am just trying to stay alive through this. Please take advantage of the taxpayer supported education on offer without imperiling those who came before you.

  • After years of enjoying freedom, citizens of the United States are too stupid, mature, self-absorbed, narrow minded, and irresponsible to know that with freedom come accountability and responsibility. Go ahead and exercise your freedom. I would respect you inbred Americans more if you kept to yourselves rather than burden the healthcare system, especially since my wife works and teaches in the health care field. If you kept to yourselves after getting ill I would respect you more. Your lives mean absolutely nothing to me, absolutely nothing. In fact your greatest contribution to society would be to become ill and die, leaving the world with at least one fewer human refuse. I shall watch as America drowns in its miscarriage of “freedom.” May it be very swift and catastrophic! You people don’t deserve to be free. You Americans are too stupid as you have always been, a stupidity that is descending downwards to new lows.

  • This comments section demonstrates exactly why our country is failing: pure idiocy.

    John Doe writes, “They are GUIDELINES not LAWS. It’s unethical for someone to tell me how to live my life if my way of living doesn’t do harm to others.” — John, ignoring the reality of a pandemic is literally killing others. What are you talking about?

    Steph says “There are that many positive cases because the students are being told they have to get tested. Positivity rates are high everywhere just not being reported because people don’t want to get tested when they have a small temperature.” Steph, you clearly don’t understand what a positivity rate is. Its the percentage of tests that come back positive. If If you test 10 people and 1 is positive, your rate would be HIGHER (10%) than if you tested 20 people and only one is positive (5%). More testing doesn’t cause higher positivity rates. Only positive cases cause higher positivity rates.

  • Positivity rate amongst the least susceptible demographics is simply *not a big deal.* In fact, it may be better for these students, 99.9999% of which will not be hospitalized, let alone die to burn through the virus so that the rest of the communities will have less to worry about. Even the NYT agrees that most of the positive tests are probably of non-infectious people anyway.

    “The science” is turning in the favor of the “keep things open” crowd (as if it were ever REALLY in favor of the “shut everything down” crowd.)

  • To the person self-called A Stupid Iowan: Ummmm, all those young souls come down with Covid can infect all others who are more susceptible. So, yes, please, by all means, learn some actual “science” before going out wandering around with your foot(shoe) jammed in your mouth.

  • The headline says “Ames, Iowa City COVID Outbreaks Are Worst In The World.” And the comments demonstrate why. Fortunately for my peace of mind, my most vulnerable relatives don’t live in Iowa.

  • I hope this wave burns through with a mostly mild cases, but it is alarming. However, it is utterly meaningless it is to compare the per capita infection rate of Story and Johnson counties to that of nation-states. Please edit you article and save face.

  • What kind of testing was use? How many cycles to get the positive result? Are the tests from when the students and staff first came to campus and are just now being reported or are these people that previously tested negative, but now have symptoms, went back to the doctor and now test positive? All relevant facts we need to know in order to properly evaluate this article and the issue.

  • Has anyone been hospitalized or died from the new infections? If a million people test positive for COVID-19 but don’t have any symptoms, there is no problem. If 200 people test positive and need to be treated in the ICU, there is a problem. Let’s find out what is going on before people start arguing.

  • In Mississippi, we have rates up in the 700s per TEN thousand people in many of our counties. You guys need to check your stats a lot more closely. My county currently has 342.5 cases per 10,000 residents. That would be 3,425 per 100,000. I think the reporter needs to check to see whether the per capita numbers are actually per TEN thousand residents in each county and not ONE HUNDRED thousand.

  • “…as the reckless irresponsibility of many of their returning students who have packed bars and house parties, represent a global embarrassment.” What?? Are they dancing in the street naked? Writing hate mail to foreign countries? I can think of 1000 things that would “represent a global embarrassment.” This isn’t one of them. Drama does not equal good news reporting.

    Also and this is for everyone here, including this author, how do you think covid is going to go away? Waving at it? Having it over for coffee and a reasonable diplomatic discussion? We may not like it but it is not going anywhere. Check the death rate against the infection rate. Meanwhile, when 90% of Iowa is inoculated, the rest of us “NON global embarrassment” Americans will still be trying to manage Covid.

    I will never agree that condescending, name calling journalistic pieces qualifies at journalism. You know what I mean? Basically 10 year old behavior on the part of supposed adults. Grow up.

  • I live in the far west Chicago suburbs but was born and raised in Bettendorf. We are required to wear masks. Our area has few cases but central and southern IL are exploding because they haven’t been as stringent. I fear what will happen in several weeks after Labor Day. Our IA family/friends are “meh” about masks and are surprised we will not go out to eat or attend any large functions unmasked. Our Swedish family texted today….numbers are high there and Finland and Denmark have opened borders and numbers are expected to rise there as well. Spain and Italy are already seeing a second surge.

  • This is absolutely a direct result of Kim Reynolds, Joni Ernst, and Chuck Grassley kissing presidential butt!
    By ignoring scientifically recommended measures and repeating his lies, they are responsible. As for the true numbers, who the hell knows? Reynolds has been shady about them, hiding them, and downplaying this ordeal from day 1.
    They have all thrown Iowans under the bus to suck up to our Dictator- in-Chief. How’d that work out for them?
    As for having “fun” as the person above was whining about, a LOT of people would settle for a paycheck and be able to feed their kids. Are they worried about “fun”? I’m guessing no. Your comments make you sound like a stereotypical, entitled, whiney jerk.

  • Sadly, Win Bass appears to be absolutely correct about a frighteningly large proportion of Americans. BTW, I’m sure he meant to write “immature,” not “mature,” in his first sentence.

  • You all need to stop blaming individuals, educate yourselves on the basics of how a virus spreads, wash your hands, put proper masks on your faces, and stay home. let me guess, next you’ll decide to send the students back to there respective homes so they can spread the virus to the communities from which the mistakenly came. Imbeciles!! To my long forsaken, estranged, horribly misguided and only sister/family i have left, please—for the first time in at least two decades, get your head out of…. the clouds.

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