Governor disputes model showing late Iowa peak, 1,367 deaths
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Gov. Kim Reynolds and an aide pushed back Wednesday against a research model forecasting that Iowa will see a late peak in coronavirus cases, nearly 1,400 deaths by August and a huge shortage of intensive care unit beds.
Reynolds and Department of Public Health Deputy Director Sarah Reisetter said the widely-cited model from University of Washington researchers doesn’t consider some of Iowa’s efforts to stop the spread, including school and business closures.
They said they still expected Iowa’s cases to peak in mid to late April — earlier than the April 30 date that the model projects, which would make Iowa one of the last states to peak.
Reynolds did not specify the number of deaths or ICU patients that her staff is projecting, saying only that they are trying to keep the numbers as low as possible. The model projects that Iowa will need enough ICU beds for 654 patients at peak, which is 408 more than the state has available, and that the state will suffer 1,367 COVID-19 deaths by Aug. 4.
Meanwhile, Reynolds said that the state would allow livestock auctions to continue, saying “they are part of the food production supply chain.”
The governor said the state would not step in to cancel a horse sale Thursday in Wayne County, where health officials are concerned that up to 100 buyers from out of town could bring the virus with them.
Local officials had asked the man planning to auction off 65 horses to postpone the sale, but he refused. Reynolds said auction participants should practice social distancing.
The number of Iowa deaths linked to the outbreak rose by two on Wednesday, to 9, while the number of cases the state has had jumped by 52, to 549. Sixty-three Iowa COVID-19 patients were hospitalized.
Thirty-four of the state’s cases have come from Washington County, a rural area with 22,000 residents south of Iowa City. That ranks the county fourth highest in confirmed cases among the state’s 99 counties.
Washington County’s public health director, Danielle Pettit-Majewski, said the coroner has ruled that three deaths were caused by COVID-19: a man between 61 and 80 and two women over the age of 81.
She said two of the deaths have been included in the official statewide count, but a third individual who died before she could be tested had virus symptoms and contact with another person who tested positive. An attempt to test postmortem failed because the sample leaked on the way to the state lab, Pettit-Majewski said.
Pettit-Majewski said she suspected that additional testing by its hospital and at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics has contributed to the county’s relatively large number of confirmed cases.
“I think they are everywhere and we are just finding them,” she said. “People are starting to understand this is here. This is real.”
For most people, COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are among those particularly susceptible to more severe illness, including pneumonia.
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