Iowa’s COVID-19 cases have begun to creep back up, and spring break travel along with an increase in the virus’ variants may be the cause, said Iowa Department of Public Health interim Director Kelli Garcia on Wednesday.
“We must still recognize that the virus is circulating in our state, and we’re seeing that in the numbers. A part of the increase in positive cases that we’re seeing has to do with spring break travel and an increasing number of variants that are circulating in Iowa and across the nation, and they are more contagious,” Garcia said.
Garcia joined Gov. Kim Reynolds at her weekly press conference to deliver the news, also urging Iowans to maintain COVID-19 mitigation tactics, even as all of the state older than 16 becomes eligible for the vaccine on Monday.
On Wednesday, New York Times data showed Iowa’s 14-day change of positive coronavirus cases is up 27%, with hospitalizations trending upward by 13%.
“We also know that fewer people in Iowa are being tested and those that are doing so are because they are symptomatic,” Garcia said. “It remains critically important to follow all of the mitigation measures that we’ve taken over the past year. Stay home when you are sick, socially distance in public when you can’t wear a mask. It is especially important that everyone get vaccinated as soon as possible and take any vaccine that’s made available to them.”
Around one third of those positive cases is within 18-29-year-olds, IDPH data reports. Their positivity rates linger around 26%, more than 10% higher than any other age group.
Garcia noted that she’s had recent conversations with 18-29-year-old Iowans who have expressed vaccine hesitancy.
“I’ve recently had a few conversations with young, healthy individuals in that age group who questioned, why should I get vaccinated? And my answer to them is emphatically, yes, you should. While you may be healthy and less likely to have a really bad outcome yourself if you get the virus, think about your older loved ones in your life, think about those you work with, think about young people in your life … you don’t want to be the person who spreads this virus,” she said.
Northwest Iowa is seeing the sharpest increases in COVID cases—the New York Times coronavirus dashboard recorded neighboring Dickinson, Clay and Emmet counties as having the highest case counts per-capita.
The Western part of the state, near Sioux City, has also seen an uptick in cases. Neighboring Omaha, Nebraska has dealt with recent diagnoses of COVID-19 linked to the U.K. variant.
Reynolds said at the press conference that the recent uptick in Iowa’s positive cases is being monitored, however, with little reason for concern.
“While we have monitored a slight uptick in positivity rate, we’ve not seen evidence to suggest it’s leading down a concerning path,” Reynolds said.
by Isabella Murray
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