BREAKING: Iowa Covid Numbers Highest In A Year, Raising Cries For Statewide Mask Mandate
BREAKING NEWS: Iowa’s covid-19 numbers for infections, hospitalizations and deaths are at their highest in over a year, as the omicron variant has broken out in surrounding states, prompting many officials in Iowa to call for a statewide mask mandate and other restrictions.
The latest data from the Iowa Department of Public Health shows COVID-19 case numbers and the death toll are accelerating, with 7,550 people dead from covid in Iowa since early 220, 777 people currently hospitalized, 185 people in intensive care, and a statewide average positivity rate of a whopping 12 percent over the last two weeks.
Those numbers are the highest in Iowa since mid-December 2020 — echoing Illinois’ latest data showing that neighboring state is also hitting its highest numbers in a year.
Much like Illinois, the numbers are being driven by the unvaccinated.
Of the COVID-19 patients in the hospital, 84.3 percent are unvaccinated, according to the most recent data from the Iowa Department of Public Health. All patients ages 30-39 in the hospital are unvaccinated, and those under 50 93 percent in the hospital are unvaccinated.
The IDPH says 69.4% of Iowans 18 and older have been fully vaccinated.
Children under 18 make up over 20 percent of the positive case results of the past week, reflecting a growing trend in Iowa of some officials calling for a return to a statewide mask mandate, particularly in schools. However, many Iowans and government officials, as well as many school districts, are very much against any mask mandates returning.
Iowa City schools are debating whether or not to continue to implement a mask mandate, Ankeny school board voted to end the current mask mandate on Wednesday despite the soaring numbers, and the Waukee school board discussed mask mandates, remote learning and other options in lieu of the covid spread.
A case going through federal court now showcases the statewide battle, as lawyers from both sides of the mask issue presented their cases to federal judges over an Iowa law banning mask mandates in schools, championed by Gov. Kim Reynolds.
Gov. Reynolds signed the bill into law in May, and was promptly sued by the ACLU, beginning a battle that has been running since then, over whether or not state schools and other institutions can make their own decisions regarding mask usage and other covid mitigations, regardless of federal and state laws. The state appealed the temporary injunction of Iowa’s mask mandate ban, and Gov. Reynolds filed an appeal. Federal judges are still considering the case.
Numbers from the Iowa Department of Public Health show a negative trend for the state, demonstrating that it’s headed to higher numbers of COVID-19 positivity as the winter months begin, based upon numbers from last fall and winter.
In November and December 2020, Iowa had a massive surge in covid cases, causing Gov. Kim Reynolds to shut down the state and implement mask mandates. However, she rescinded those mandates in spring of 2021, after covid numbers declined statewide.
The current legal battle over schools’ mask mandates echos other legal battles around Gov. Reynolds’ decisions surrounding covid restrictions.
Reynolds signed the bill that would allow employees to escape employer covid mandates, including vaccination mandates, and allow greater use of medical and religious exemptions for people to refuse covid restrictions. The governor’s law is in defiance of some federal mitigations and contrary to laws in other states, such as Illinois, that say employers have the right to fire employees who are not compliant to their regulations regarding covid.
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law an amendment to the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act allowing employers to penalize employees if they refuse to follow workplace rules about covid, including mandatory vaccinations, testing, and other mandates.
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