Hardin County hasn't escaped the increasing COVID-19 infection rates that other parts of the state and country have seen in recent days. An update of disease numbers on Wednesday showed the county recorded 14 new cases of the disease in the last week.
Earlier this month, the Iowa Department of Public Health shifted the way it reports new COVID-19 infections in the state. Rather than updating its website – coronavirus.iowa.gov – in real-time as test results are recorded, the website is updated once each week on Wednesdays. Last Wednesday, July 14, the website was reporting a total of 1,897 positive COVID-19 cases in Hardin County since testing began in March 2020. The update on Wednesday this week a total of 1,911 cases.
Of the 1,911 COVID-19 cases that have been reported among Hardin County residents, 1,842 of those people are classified as having recovered, and 44 people have died. That leaves 25 active infections as of Wednesday, the most since late May.
As COVID-19 infections have ticked up, so have hospitalizations in the state. According to Iowa’s coronavirus website, on Wednesday there were 106 Iowans hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19. That’s the highest number since May 28. Of those 106 hospitalized patients, 39 are in the ICU – a number not seen since May 21. As of Wednesday, two Hardin County residents are hospitalized, up from no hospitalizations last week.
The reported number of new infections this month has been confusing for local health officials and the public. For the week of July 2-9, the state coronavirus website showed nine new cases, but the disease tracking program that’s used by Hardin County Public Health showed no new cases. Rocky Reents, Hardin County’s public health coordinator, said she was told by state officials that the nine cases were the result of an update of patients’ addresses. Those cases, which were diagnosed weeks ago, had previously been assigned elsewhere, but when their addresses were corrected or added, they were reassigned to Hardin County’s COVID-19 case count. But Reents said Wednesday that the new cases reported this week are all new cases - not address updates.
According to the Iowa Department of Public Health website, the 14 new COVID-19 cases reported in Hardin County over the last week are spread out over four age groups:
- 52 percent are age 50-59
- 24 percent are age 30-39
- 14 percent are age 18-29
- 10 percent are age 70-79
The uptick in cases is being seen across the state. Health officials have warned that the delta variant of the disease – which is now the most prevalent strain of COVID-19 in Iowa – is more contagious and is sickening people who haven’t been vaccinated. They advise the public to get vaccinated if possible (vaccines are available for free to anyone age 12 or older). And, if you’ve not been vaccinated, you’re advised to maintain social distances and wear a face mask when out in public.
Vaccinations in Hardin County have stagnated this summer. As of Wednesday, 7,540 county residents – about 44.7 percent of the total population – had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. That’s just 191 new fully-vaccinated people in the month between June 21 and July 21. The month before (May 21 to June 21), 601 Hardin County residents became fully vaccinated.
Last week, the state announced the closure of its remaining TestIowa sites, which provided drive-through COVID-19 testing to the public. They’ve been replaced with at-home test kits. Iowans are able to receive a free test kit – either through the mail or at a pick-up site – and collect a saliva sample at home. The sample is then returned by UPS and results are sent through email. The service is provided at no cost. There are approximately 125 pick-up sites in the state, but just one in Hardin County. It’s located at Hardin County Public Health/Greenbelt Home Care in Eldora. More information about the at-home tests is available on the TestIowa website. COVID-19 testing is also available through hospitals and clinics, including Hansen Family Hospital in Iowa Falls.