COVID-19 Crisis in Iowa
An eye on the data: Key numbers during crisis
• Iowa COVID-19 death count mounting toward 2,400, mainly with reports from past two weeks
• Total positive cases nearly 224,000 at average increase over 3,600 per day


Updated Friday, Nov. 27, 2020

IOWA CITY, Iowa (Nov. 27, 2020) — Nearly 224,000 Iowans have been confirmed with the coronavirus in the COVID-19 pandemic, which is claiming both lives and livelihoods at a rapid pace in Iowa.

Along with the daunting health damage, including total deaths approaching 2,400, a half-million Iowans have now claimed unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 recession.

The unprecedented pace of the spread of the virus in Iowa — which caused Governor Kim Reynolds to step up some mitigation measures a week ago — is over 3,600 per day in November. In fact, the latest state reports show Iowa hit a record 7,288 cases in one day (Nov. 9), one of six days at or above the 5,000 mark.

As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, the death count stood at 2,271, and positive cases at 218,942 with reports still coming in.

The new numbers from one day to the next actually reflect very little about change in the most recent 24 hours. That is because information about new cases and deaths are gathered and confirmed by the state over several days. Most of the increases in the total count show changes from previous days, sometimes from weeks past.

For example, from midnight Monday to midnight Tuesday, the official total death count for the pandemic rose by 49. However, only seven of those deaths were reported to have occurred in the last three days. Looking at trends over several days give a better picture of the pace of the virus and of deaths, than does the total change over 24 hours.

Still, the trends are daunting. Deaths have risen each day since Oct. 7 at a double-digit pace, using a seven-day rolling average. And positive cases continue to post big increases. The average of 3,694 cases a day in November is far higher than the previous high of 1,354 per day in October.

Contrary to national media reports, increased policy steps announced last week by the governor still are short of a general mask mandate, let alone shelter-in-place orders implemented in some states. The governor ordered that masks must be required in certain indoor settings, prohibiting some social gatherings of more than 15 people inside and 30 people outside. She also limited hours for bars and restaurants and prohibited youth sports activities, but not high school, college or professional sports events.

Trouble continues, meanwhile, for Iowa workers and the Iowa economy. In the latest unemployment claims report issued last Thursday by Iowa Workforce Development and the U.S. Department of Labor, claims were 6,312 for the week ending Nov. 14. (See the summary below.)

The COVID-19 health data below are from IDPH, most reflecting data released by midnight Tuesday. The counts typically change around the clock as new information is gathered, with updates to previously reported data. The IDPH dashboard is found here.

The red 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. That seven-day rolling average of positive tests was above 2,000 for 27 straight days through Wednesday.

COVID cases statewide
The daily average in positive tests has risen steadily in Iowa to a persistently high level between 3,500 and 3,700. The latest levels, as shown in the graph below, are well above those for the earlier months of the pandemic. In cact, the November average is likely much higher than shown because, at recent trends, data reported so far for some recent days are likely understated.

COVID cases statewide
The daily average in deaths also has jumped in November, routinely over 20 per day, compared with the previous high of 13 in October.


Four Iowa counties have had over 100 deaths during the pandemic, with Polk County the highest at 331. All but three of Iowa’s 99 counties have had at least one death attributed to COVID-19. Fifty-eight counties are in double digits. Counties with the latest updates in the map below have total death counts in gold.


Economic Impacts
New unemployment claims show jobless Iowans need greater protection

While Iowans thrown out of work wait for Congress to address unemployment insurance during the current emergency, the state recorded 6,312 new unemployment claims in the week ending Nov. 7. The latest report included a downward revision for the previous week, from 5,576 to 5,217.

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 35 weeks, claims have been 484,553 — or 97 percent — of the total of 501,558 over the 42 weeks of this recession. The magnitude of this recession can be understood by the observation that the average increase in initial claims has been 11,942 — higher on average than for all but one week during the same 42 weeks of the Great Recession.

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..

Worker safety in COVID:
Who gets protection?
State policy is failing workers
Public policies should be assessed on whom they put at risk and whom they reward. The blanket business immunity in SF2338 during COVID-19 comes with a failed record of protecting Iowa workers.
Iowa Policy Points post by Colin Gordon June 16, 2020

Threat to critical state, local Iowa services
State fiscal relief must do more than meet emergency services
Congress must provide more to states and local governments — for the duration of the economic crisis — to avoid drastic cuts in education and other crucial public services.
Iowa Fiscal Partnership brief by Peter Fisher UPDATED May 23, 2020

More IPP, IFP research and perspectives

Understanding the data
• Key Iowa counties to watch. See the latest analysis, through last week, of what data indicate are potential trouble spots in the COVID-19 crisis.
• Why there's trouble ahead for rural areas — faster pace of infection, fewer limits. From trends evident in official data, IPP's Peter Fisher has identified several counties that are apparent COVID-19 trouble spots. In his latest update, he shows 16 counties had 200 or more new cases for every 10,000 people over two weeks. Of those, eight were among 77 counties where Governor Reynolds had eased social distancing restrictions — and six showed a doubling of cases in one week.

Meeting the emergency
• Iowa will need more fiscal relief than Congress has given
• COVID-19 poses threats to Iowa state and local services
• Governor’s metrics still raise questions
• Sheltering the data in place
• COVID metrics in Iowa arbitrary, backward facing
• Iowa's leaders need to better involve the public

The Economy
• Iowa's employment apocalypse
• New solutions needed long term

The Safety Net — Supports
• Expanding SNAP access
• Good start on jobless insurance
• Make Iowa resilient: Strengthen supports

Special perspectives
• Guest opinion: Meatpacking outbreak unsurprising given Iowa laws
• When economists talk health, we'd betterpay attention
• Winston Churchill's words today for Iowa