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Governor’s Press Conference
Yesterday at her press conference, Governor Kim Reynolds said she is pleased to report that virus activity in Iowa continues to decline and the statewide average positivity rate is in single digits. Hospitalizations are at an 80 percent decrease since the height in November, at 292 on Tuesday. It is the first time since mid-September they have dropped below 300. 67 people were in ICUs, which is a 90 percent decrease since mid-November. Long term care outbreaks have dropped to 33 from an all time high of 166, and we continue to see that number decline, she said. Back in November projections on when total cases would double was only 33 days, it’s now 94 days to double, which is as high as it has been since the beginning of the pandemic. We’re continuing our recovery in a strong position, Governor Reynolds said.
The Governor updated on their efforts to resolve barriers in counties that had slow vaccination rates. Some counties had been forced to cancel clinics due to severe winter weather. Other counties didn’t transition to 1b until February 1 and now they have and have ramped up vaccination rates to 80 percent. There are still some counties that need help, and if counties don’t have enough resources to administer the vaccine, they are looking to provide contract nurses and possibly the support of the national guard. Some vaccines may be reallocated to ensure they are getting as many Iowans vaccinated as possible, and making sure vaccines don’t go unused.
As of Tuesday, Iowa had administered approximately 90 percent of first doses received. More than 10 percent of Iowans age 16-18 and up eligible to be vaccinated have had their first dose. Since expansion beyond 1a, 189,000 have been administered. Now are averaging more than 15,000 doses per day, and it’s increasing. Large scale vaccination clinics in communities across the state have helped increase the numbers.
Tuesday, the White House held its weekly update, and they announced another vaccine allocation increase of 5 percent to states for a total of 11 million doses nationwide. Our allocation will increase to 49,900 total doses which could arrive by the end of the week. The national retail pharmacy program begins this week to expand access to vaccines. The federal program has 40,000 participating locations--in Iowa it will include 40 Hy-Vees and 30 pharmacies. All participating pharmacies will be announced soon and will be added to the provider information on coronavirus.iowa.gov website and through public health departments.
Supply will continue to be a challenge for some time, the Governor said. I am confident the supply will continue to increase, and in time every eligible Iowan can be vaccinated, she said. The biggest problem of all of this is the amount of vaccines we are receiving. The allocation right now to the states is based on population, she heard directly from General Perna. They still have questions, because the state has been drawing down 100 of what they’re eligible for. Once they complete the long-term care partnership it will be easier to monitor and track doses getting to the state, because they don’t have eyes into that, Governor Reynolds said.
Part of the issue with the rollout is the number of long-term care facilities in Iowa, she said. On a per capita basis we’re in the top five. Many states have been frustrated with the rollout to long-term care facilities by the federal long-term care partnership and how long it has taken to implement it, she said. They’re starting to see that finally wrap up. An infusion of 64,000 unused vaccines returned to the state from that program made also more doses available.
Last week, an RFP was issued to provide a streamlined vaccination process to provide easier access—a place where individuals can register to be vaccinated and then be connected with a provider when vaccine is available. Earlier this week, Microsoft was selected to develop and deploy a vaccine appointment scheduling system. They are now reviewing proposals for a call center to complete the operation. They are working to have a streamlined process and a centralized access point.
Over the weekend the state’s updated disaster proclamation went into effect, lifting some of the mitigation requirements put in place on the evening of November 16. At the time, COVID cases were surging and hospitals were pushed to the brink. She implemented measures to turn the situation around in a short timeframe. The measures were never intended to be in place permanently, she said. When virus activity increases, we will dial up mitigation, and when it comes down, we will adjust accordingly. For nearly a year, you’ve heard countless times the steps we can take to protect ourselves and others from the virus, the Governor said. We know what we need to do and it doesn’t require a government mandate to do it. The Governor said she trusts that Iowans will continue to wear masks and that businesses will take steps to continue to ensure the safety of their patrons and employees. She doesn’t expect that to change.
Governor Reynolds fielded a question about why she relaxed the mask mandate. She responded that prior to November, we didn’t have a mask mandate, and she thinks people will be personally responsible, and wear masks. New York and California have been locked down since March, and their numbers are no different, she said. We are being reasoned and measured. We are trying to balance the lives and livelihoods of Iowans. She spoke about metrics that aren’t talked about: Mental illness is on the rise, substance abuse is on the rise, young people contemplating suicide is on the rise, child pornography is on the rise, food insecurity is on the rise, children being left behind socially and emotionally and being left behind academically is on the rise, delayed care at the hospitals is on the rise, child and spouse abuse is on the rise. We’re almost through our vulnerable population. I’m not saying go out and be carefree and irresponsible, she reiterated.
The Area Agency on Aging has said Iowans 65 and older first contact their health provider or pharmacy to schedule an appointment, if they can’t get scheduled, they will assist by providing to the county public health department who will work with providers. If they need transportation assistance they can help with that service. They are a resource to assist older Iowans.
The overall number of vaccines administered is 382,598 an increase of 17,956 since yesterday, with 182,598 receiving their first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and 99,978 receiving their second dose. To find vaccine providers in your county, click here or scroll to the bottom of the vaccine dashboard.
Currently, IDPH has reported on the state’s coronavirus dashboard, 327,252 Iowans have tested positive, up 838 from our update yesterday morning, with a total of 1,505,492 tested. 29 additional deaths were reported since our last update, bringing the total to 5,174 deaths. Now 299,126 Iowans have recovered. The total 14 day rolling average positivity rate is 8.6% the past 7-day average is 6.4%. The latest on hospitalizations, including how many patients have been admitted in the last 24 hours can be found here. There are currently 273 hospitalized patients.
School district statistics including positivity rates by county can be found here. According to guidance issued by the Iowa Department of Education, schools may petition to go to hybrid or online learning with less than 50 percent in-person instruction when the per county percentage positivity rates are above 15 percent in a county on average over the past 14 days (rolling average) AND 10% absenteeism among students is expected for in-person learning. School district waiver requests and whether they are granted or denied are listed here.
Currently 1 (of 99) counties are at or above a 15 percent positivity rate over the past 14 days. Click here to search county data for today.