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UPDATE: Iowa coronavirus deaths up to 90; Black Hawk Co. records 511 infected
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UPDATE: Iowa coronavirus deaths up to 90; Black Hawk Co. records 511 infected

From the Coronavirus update Northeast Iowa series
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DES MOINES — Forty-five of Iowa’s 90 deaths from coronavirus have been residents of long-term care facilities, the governor said Wednesday, as another outbreak in a Poweshiek County nursing home brings the number of outbreaks at those facilities to 11.

Black Hawk County tallied one additional death for a total of four deaths and county officials said the infection total was at 511 as of Wednesday. Tama County also added one death for a total of 225 cases and seven deaths, according to state officials.

Black Hawk County’s deaths haven’t included anyone older than 81, according to state health officials, and county officials have pointed to Tyson Fresh Meats as the only outbreak in the county, responsible for at least 40% of the county’s total caseload and at least one death. Sheriff Tony Thompson wouldn’t confirm Wednesday if any of the deaths were Tyson employees.

Iowa tallied 107 new positive cases Wednesday for a total of 3,748 cases in 84 of the state’s 99 counties. It also added seven new deaths for a total of 90.

The state said 1,428 of those people have recovered, for a recovery rate of 38%. But 92 Iowans were currently in intensive care units and 57 of those were on ventilators statewide.

A state “strike team” was being deployed to Tama County to specifically test employees of long-term care facilities on Wednesday, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced.

Tama County is in the midst of two outbreaks — one at Premiere Estates of Toledo, a long-term care facility, and one at Iowa Premium, a National Beef meatpacking plant that remained closed as of Wednesday. Of the deaths, five have been elderly adults over the age of 81, and two have been middle-aged adults between 41 and 60.

The testing site opened Wednesday at the Toledo Juvenile Home, 701 S. Church St., and will also be open Thursday, but is for long-term care employees only, health officials said. It is not a TestIowa drive-thru site, though the state plans to also open one of those in Tama County soon.

“We anticipate testing more than 200 staff,” in Tama County, said Iowa Department of Public Health deputy director Sarah Reisetter. She added the testing will include both diagnostic as well as serology testing, which can test if someone has previously had the virus.

“We think the virus has been spreading in our communities now for a couple of months,” said Reisetter.

Allamakee County added one case Wednesday for a total of 45 cases and three deaths. Bremer County added one case for a total of 33 cases. Winneshiek County added one case for a total of eight cases.

Re-opening

Although she did not establish a timeline, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday her administration is crunching the numbers on the new coronavirus’ impact in Iowa to determine when temporarily closed businesses could be re-opened in portions of the state.

One day after she announced a project to exponentially expand testing statewide, Reynolds said some areas of the state have had fewer confirmed cases of the virus and indicated her orders requiring mitigation efforts like temporarily closed businesses could be relaxed in those areas.

During her daily news briefing Wednesday, Reynolds did not say when that may take place. During a radio interview earlier Wednesday, Reynolds said she hopes to make an announcement soon.

“We’re in a pretty good place throughout this state to have the conversation about how we in a responsible and safe manner start to open up the state. So we’re focused on that, and I’m hoping this week or by the very first of next week that we’ll have some announcements to make on what that looks like,” Reynolds said during an interview on WHO-AM radio in Des Moines.

Reynolds on Tuesday announced a newly expanded testing program that will enable the state to conduct roughly 540,000 tests over the coming months. On Wednesday she said that expanded testing ability, along with other public health data her administration has been tracking, will help inform when and where she will relax the mitigation efforts that have been in place since mid- to late March.

As of Wednesday, 75% of coronavirus cases in Iowa have been confirmed in just 10 counties, all of them in central or eastern Iowa, according to state public health data. Woodbury is the only county in the western half of the state with at least 100 confirmed cases.

On the map that the state public health department uses to rank the severity of the virus’ prevalence, on which the state is divided into six regions that are ranked on a 1-to-12 scale with 12 being the most severe, the northeast, southeast and south central regions all are rated 9 or 10, while the northwest, southwest and north central regions are rated no higher than a 6.

In 15 counties there have been no confirmed cases of the virus.

“We’re testing so we understand what the scope is and areas where those (cases) are located. But there are a whole lot of other areas of the state that are doing really, really well,” Reynolds said.

“We’ll be able to look at the data from a statewide perspective, from a regional perspective, from a county perspective, right down to a community and a zip code. So by being able to really look at the data and apply the metrics at that level, we can take a look at starting to open up different areas of the state.”

The assessment can be taken at testiowa.com, or by calling 211 or (515) 281-5211.

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State house reporter for The Courier/Lee Enterprises.

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