For the second week in a row, Hardin County’s high level of community spread of COVID-19 has put it in the red zone, and a report from the White House Task Force warns that the disease will continue its rapid spread if people move their social gatherings indoors.
The task force’s latest report – dated Oct. 25 – shows that Iowa as a whole, and 56 of its 99 counties, are in the red zone. That means there were at least 101 new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 population in those areas. During that week, the state recorded 254 new cases per 100,000, up from 238 per 100,000 the week before, and above the national average of 133 new cases per 100,000 population.
The report uses data from the week of Oct. 17-23. During those seven days, Hardin County, reported 47 new cases of the disease. It marked the third week of a spike in local cases. During the week before that, Oct. 10-16, Hardin County had 53 new cases, putting it in the White House task force's red zone for the first time. The week before that, Oct. 3-9, the county recorded 47 new cases, but a delay in reporting meant the county stayed in the orange zone in that week's task force report.
The report warns that people must take action to slow spread of the disease. That includes adjusting social gatherings, which could be held outside in warmer weather, but now may be moving inside.
“Mitigation efforts must be increased to control community spread to include mask wearing, physical distancing, hand hygiene, and avoiding crowd s in public and specifically, social gatherings in private,” the report states. “We are finding that as the weather cools, friends and families are moving social gatherings indoors, significantly increasing spread.”
Contributing to the increase in new cases have been outbreaks at Hubbard Care Center and Ellsworth Community College. According to the Iowa coronavirus website, the outbreak at Hubbard Care Center, which was first reported on the state's coronavirus website on Oct. 12, has infected 58 people. Two people have reportedly recovered. The website does not distinguish between cases in residents and staff, and Hubbard Care Center Administrator Angie Kuda-Bruns has declined to comment on the outbreak.
Ellsworth Community College has reported double-digit numbers of new cases among students over the last three weeks for a total of 46 cases since Oct. 5.
As of Thursday morning, the Iowa coronavirus website was reporting a total of 492 COVID-19 cases in Hardin County residents since testing began in March. Of those 492 cases, seven people have died and at least 312 have recovered, leaving 173 Hardin County residents currently infected. As of Tuesday this week, four local residents were hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19.
Find more COVID-19 data and case numbers on the state's website.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story erroneously referred to Ellsworth Community College as Ellsworth Municipal Hospital.