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Iowa remains coronavirus hot spot in White House report
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Iowa remains coronavirus hot spot in White House report

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DES MOINES — Iowa remains in the “red zone” for spread of the coronavirus, according to the latest report from the White House.

Published Tuesday by the New York Times, the White House report also shows 61 Iowa counties are in “red” or “yellow” zones that indicate heightened virus activity. That number is up from 47 counties in the report two weeks ago. The federal government has dispatched 14 staff workers to Iowa to assist with “medical activities.”

On a conference call Tuesday with governors, White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx listed Iowa as one of 13 states the task force is working with and encouraged those states to increase mitigation efforts now, according to a CNN report on the call.

“Because if we wait until increased hospitalizations, it is really way too late,” Birx told governors on the call. “Because what we are experiencing now is really different than March and April; it’s very different from the outbreaks of May that was typically contained. This widespread community spread (is) in the younger age group, both rural and very urban and urban areas, so by the time you see it up to 80% to 90% of your counties already have more than 10% (of cases that are positive).”

Statewide, Iowa’s coronavirus cases have surged back to near the state’s first peak in early May, according to state public health data. Virus-related deaths and hospitalizations also have been climbing, albeit more gradually.

The White House task force categorizes areas with new cases above 100 per 100,000 population and a positive test share above 10% as “red zones,” according to the report.

Areas with cases between 10 and 100 per 100,000 population and a positive test share between 5% and 10% are classified as yellow zones.

The report classified eight Iowa counties as red zones: Dubuque, Emmet, Franklin, Hardin, Lyon, Marshall, Montgomery and Wapello.

The report listed Dubuque, Marshalltown and Ottumwa as red-zone communities.

In red zones, the White House recommends bars and gyms be closed, restaurants limited to strict social distancing and face masks be required inside all businesses.

None of those mitigation strategies are in place in Iowa. Bars, gyms and restaurants are allowed to operate at full capacity, and while Gov. Kim Reynolds has encouraged Iowans to wear masks when social distancing is not possible, she has not required them.

The state public health department and governor’s office did not immediately respond to questions about the task force’s recommendations or the federal workers that reportedly were sent to Iowa.

According to state public health data, Iowa’s positive test share has been below 10% for most days since late May.

As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 43,000 Iowans have contracted the virus and 845 Iowans have died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, since the pandemic first arrived here in late March.

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported 458 new cases on Wednesday and three new deaths. Black Hawk County reported 3,524 total cases as of Wednesday, up 11 from the previous day, while deaths remained unchanged at 62.

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