Hardin County added 68 new COVID-19 cases over the last week, closely matching the previous week’s case count 67. But while new cases remain steady, health professionals and the White House Coronavirus Task Force urge Iowans not to let their guard down over the holidays this week and next week.
According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, a total of 1,393 Hardin County residents have tested positive for COVID-19 since March, an increase over 1,325 at the same time last week. Of those, 1,080 are classified as having recovered, and 24 Hardin County residents have died of the disease, leaving 289 people currently infected with COVID-19.
Not all of the new cases were added to dates over the last week. Over the weekend, the state's coronavirus website added two Hardin County cases to Nov. 6, and one each to Nov. 11, 15 and 20. It is unclear why cases are being added to dates last month.
The number of Iowans hospitalized for COVID-19 has continued to decline. As of Monday, 644 people were hospitalized, less than half of the 1,527 who were hospitalized at the state's peak on Nov. 17. As of Saturday, three Hardin County residents were hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19.
It’s not clear how many of the new Hardin County cases are tied to COVID-19 outbreaks at two Eldora nursing homes. Susan Eichmeier, administrator of Eldora Specialty Care and Valley View Specialty Care, said earlier this month that both care centers have outbreaks. Currently, only the Eldora Specialty Care outbreak is being reported on the Iowa coronavirus website. According to the website, 14 residents there have tested positive, but the information on the website has lagged by days or even weeks.
This week marks the last days of classes at Hardin County’s public schools before winter break. The schools have seen a decrease in the number of new cases after a spike in November that prompted the Iowa Falls and Alden districts to move to a hybrid learning model. Tony Neumann, who is superintendent of both districts, said Friday that full-time, in-person classes will resume on Tuesday, Jan. 5.
Hardin County superintendents issue weekly reports about new COVID-19 cases in the schools. Friday’s reports for the week of Dec. 14-18 were as follows:
- Iowa Falls-Alden: 3
- South Hardin: 4
- AGWSR: 0
A report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force that was issued on Dec. 13 for the week of Dec. 5-11 continued to classify Iowa and Hardin County as being in the red zone. The task force measures spread of the disease by the number of new cases per 100,000 population. A rate of 101 or higher indicates high community spread. Hardin County has been in the red zone for 13 weeks. For the week of the report, Hardin County recorded 61 new cases, or 362 per 100,000 population. Iowa had 383 new cases per 100,000 population, and the United States averaged 451 per 100,000.
The report urges the public to remain vigilant, especially with the approaching holidays.
“Virus levels are decreasing in Iowa but are still at high levels,” the report, which was obtained by ABC News, reads. “Throughout the holiday season, all media platforms should remain saturated with messaging about the risks of indoor social gatherings without masks. Keep all mitigation efforts in place.”
ZIP code map updated
On Friday, Greenbelt Home Care/Hardin County Public Health released an updated map of COVID-19 cases per ZIP code. The map reflects the slowing spread of COVID-19 in some ZIP codes.
According to the map, the Iowa Falls and Eldora ZIP codes recorded the biggest jump in cases – 22 and 21, respectively. But the Iowa Falls ZIP code’s share of the county’s total case count remains lower than its share of the population. The 50126 ZIP code is home to 36 percent of the population, but it has had just 33 percent of the total COVID cases in the area.
The Eldora and Hubbard ZIP codes have had a greater share of the cases than they have population. Eldora’s ZIP code is home to about 17 percent of the population, but it has had 19.7 percent of the COVID cases. The Hubbard ZIP code is home to about 7.3 percent of the population, and it has seen 10.8 percent of the COVID cases.