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Virus task force notes ‘many preventable deaths’ in Iowa

ap photo In this July 14 file photo, a health worker performs a COVID-19 test at a Test Iowa site at Waukee South Middle School in Waukee.

The White House Coronavirus Task force told Iowa officials in its most recent report released Thursday that many virus-related deaths in the state were preventable.

The report dated Oct. 4 was released to the media a day after Gov. Kim Reynolds said Iowans shouldn’t let the virus dominate their lives. Average daily deaths have increased over the past two weeks to 10 per day. More than 250 people in Iowa have died in the past month alone.

“Community transmission has remained high across the state for the past month, with many preventable deaths,” the report dated Oct. 4 said.

Reynolds bristled Wednesday when asked why she hadn’t taken more steps to reduce virus spread, arguing she had taken action.

“We are doing a lot and I’m proud of what we’re doing, but you know what, any death is one too many and it’s heart-wrenching to see the numbers but I have to balance a lot,” she said.

Iowa Department of Public Health spokeswoman Amy McCoy said the state is following many of the recommendations of the task force, including enforcing social distancing measures in bars and restaurants, reaching out to community leaders to provide information and assistance when requested and expansion of testing capacity.

Reports for months have recommended a mask requirement for Iowa, which Reynolds refused to adopt. The latest report says messaging to communities about effectiveness of masks is critical as many outdoor activities will be moving indoors with colder weather.

“Masks must be worn indoors in all public settings and group gathering sizes should be limited,” the report said. “Work with rural communities to message masks work and protect individuals from COVID-19.”

Reynolds has declined to require mask use, including in schools where she requires students to spend at least half of their instructional time in classrooms.

State health data posted Thursday shows 1,515 new confirmed cases were identified through testing over the last 24 hours and five additional deaths, bringing the state death toll to 1,419.

Hospitalizations rose to 449, a day after Reynolds acknowledged a new record of 444 was set on Wednesday. Reynolds said the health care system could handle the increase and no further action was needed to reduce infections.

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Iowa has risen over the past two weeks from 15.9 percent on Sept. 23 to 16.95 percent on Oct. 7, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. Iowa’s rate was fourth in the nation.

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