An eye on the data: Key numbers during the COVID-19 crisis in Iowa
Iowa COVID-19 death count over 4,200, with 85 of 99 counties in double digits
Total positive cases pass 300,000

Updated Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021

Iowa opened the new year with more than 4,000 deaths due to COVID-19, with new positive cases as of Thursday now past 300,000 and continuing to rise at a significant pace.

The COVID-19 death count hit 4,251 as of Sunday, according to the latest reports Thursday from the Iowa Department of Public Health. No deaths have yet been reported for succeeding days. Delays are typical in reports of deaths and positive cases, with updates provided by the state affecting counts previously reported days and even weeks back.

As an example of delays, on New Year's Day the 4,000 death mark still had not been passed, according to state reports at the time. It turns out, however, from updates in the state data, that Iowa had hit the 4,000 mark more than two weeks earlier on December 13.

Individual positive cases for the pandemic have grown by 11,000 in 10 days, from 290,343 on January 4 to 301,831 by Thursday evening, with new numbers still coming in.

Using a seven-day rolling average, both deaths and cases have been rising rapidly. Deaths have risen at a double-digit daily pace from Sept. 27 through Dec. 24. For positive cases, the daily average of 3,479 in November was 2 1/2 times the average of 1,359 per day in October. The December average slowed to 1,541 per day. Reports for January — while incomplete due to reporting delays — are averaging 1,294 a day.

Governor Kim Reynolds loosened previous limits on gatherings in bars and restaurants and sports events as Iowans approached the holidays, and in recent days she has removed the already limited state rules on crowds at high-school sports events. All of the governor's orders have kept Iowa far short of a general mask mandate, let alone shelter-in-place orders implemented in some states.

Trouble continues, meanwhile, for Iowa workers and the Iowa economy. In the unemployment claims report issued Thursday (Jan. 14) for the week ending Jan. 9, Iowa Workforce Development reported initial claims of 7,638, the fourth week in a row over 7,000. (See the summary below.).

The COVID-19 health data below are from IDPH, most reflecting data released by 8 p.m. Thursday. The counts for positive cases typically change around the clock as new information is gathered, with updates to previously reported data. Death count updates now are usually provided once a day, in the morning. The IDPH dashboard is found here.

The dark line in the next graph shows fluctuations in the daily number of new cases, while the shaded area shows the one-week rolling average throughout the pandemic in Iowa.

COVID cases statewide
The daily average in positive tests has risen steadily in Iowa to a persistently high level well above those for the early months of the pandemic, as shown in the graph below. Continuing updates and revisions, which may be made over several days, weeks or even months to previously reported data, have shown the November average to be the highest. The December average is lower than November, but ran at a pace higher than for any other month during the pandemic. Continuing updates in December and January numbers may raise those averages in the coming days and weeks.

COVID cases statewide
It is unclear whether the few reports over the last week will remain few and keep the December numbers down. Only two of the 19 deaths added to the total count on Thursday occurred in January. As of Thursday, only nine deaths were reported for the previous 10 full days, far under the December daily average of 26. The state will continue to update these numbers.

Eighty-five counties have had 10 deaths or more during the pandemic. Seven counties have had over 100 deaths — Dubuque, Linn, Black Hawk, Scott, Woodbury, Pottawattamie and Polk. Besides Polk, at 436, both Linn and Black Hawk have passed the 200 mark.


Economic Impacts
New unemployment claims show jobless Iowans need greater protection

The state of Iowa saw another difficult week in initial unemployment claims for the week ending Jan. 9. Iowa recorded 7,638 new claims, down from a revised 7,855 in new unemployment claims for the previous week but the fourth straight week over 7,000. Initial claims are climbing in recent weeks, as shown in the graph below.

Analysis throughout the pandemic has shown that through most of this recession, the initial claims number has been well above the level at similar points during the Great Recession. In the last 43 weeks, claims have been 545,063 — or 97 percent — of the total of 562,068 over the 50 weeks of this recession. The magnitude of this recession can be understood by the observation that the average increase in initial claims has been 11,241 — higher than for every week but one during the same 50 weeks of the Great Recession (graph below).

Common Good Iowa is a nonpartisan, nonprofit public policy research and analysis organization with offices in Des Moines and Iowa City. It was created by the recent merger of the Child and Family Policy Center in Des Moines and the Iowa Policy Project in Iowa City..