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Latest White House report emphasizes need for more COVID-19 mitigation efforts in Iowa

The White House also recommends Iowa to highlight hospitalizations to rural communities to help reduce spread of COVID-19.

IOWA, USA — The latest White House Coronavirus Task Force report for Iowa says the state needs to strengthen mitigation efforts to effectively combat the spread of COVID-19 and deaths resulting from the virus. 

ABC News obtained the full report Tuesday. It is dated Oct. 18, 2020. 

As of Wednesday at 9 a.m. the state has confirmed 1,221 new cases and 28 more deaths the previous 24 hours.

Summary

The task force report says Iowa has seen an increase in new cases and test positivity from Oct. 8 to 14. The state had 238 new cases per 100,000 people, topping the national average of 117 per 100,000.

The state is still in the red zone for cases, meaning 101 or more new cases per 100,000 people were confirmed during that week. 

Iowa has the 8th highest rate in the country. 

The state is in the orange zone for test positivity, which indicates a rate between 8-10%. Iowa has the 9th highest rate in the country. 

Polk, Woodbury and Dubuque counties had the highest number of new cases over the last three weeks, according to the report. Combined, these counties represent 22.6% of new cases in Iowa. 

The report says 90% of all counties in the state have "moderate or high levels" of community transmission. Of those, 49% have high levels of community transmission. 

RELATED: COVID-19 in Iowa: State reports 28 deaths in 24 hours; hospitalizations set another record with 534

From Oct. 5-11, 11% of nursing homes had at least one resident test positive for the virus, while 26% of nursing homes had at least one staff member test positive. 

The report says 4% of nursing homes reported at least one death among residents. 

As of Wednesday morning, the Iowa Department of Public Health's (IDPH) coronavirus website says 68 long-term care facilities are experiencing an outbreak with more than 1,700 confirmed cases among staff and residents. 

Hospitalizations continue to increase in the state. 

Wednesday morning, IDPH reported the highest number of Iowans hospitalized from the virus: 534. 

Iowa has set the state record of hospitalizations eight times in October:

  • Oct. 7: 444
  • Oct. 8: 449
  • Oct. 9: 461
  • Oct. 13: 463
  • Oct. 14: 473
  • Oct. 15: 482
  • Oct. 20: 501
  • Oct. 21: 534

The task force report says from Oct. 10 to 16, 67 patients with confirmed COVID-19 were admitted to hospitals each day on average. An average of 34 patients with suspected COVID-19 were admitted each day. 

An average greater than 95% of hospitals reported either new confirmed or new suspected coronavirus patients each day during this time, according to the task force. 

RELATED: 'We have the right to peacefully gather:' Gov. Reynolds supports Trump's rally that attracted thousands

Recommendations

The task force recommends the state increase its mitigation efforts to reduce community transmission of COVID-19. This includes mask wearing, social distancing, washing hands, avoiding large crowds and social gatherings and ensuring flu shots. 

Red and orange counties should limit the number of people at both public and private gatherings, limiting exposure to only immediate family. 

The task force also recommends increased testing levels in the state to find positive individuals and isolating them to prevent ongoing transmission. The report says fully deploying Abbott BinaxNOW tests statewide in "sentinel sites and populations."

According to the World Health Organization, a sentinel surveillance system is used when high-quality data is needed about a particular disease that cannot be obtained through a passive system. 

The task force report says weekly surveillance data will help with identifying emerging hotspots where "immediate action should be taken to stop the spread within communities."

All antigen tests must be reported within the state totals, including total tests and positive tests. Iowa is on track for doing this already. 

RELATED: Nearly 27,000 antigen test results will be added to Iowa's coronavirus website

With 26% of nursing homes reporting at least one staff positive, the task force recommends the state work with these facilities to contact trace to decrease the introduction of community transmission to nursing homes. 

The task force recommends highlighting the number of hospitalizations to rural communities so residents can do their part to help slow the spread. 

University students should continue their own mitigation practices to ensure no further outbreaks on or off campus as surveillance testing declines. 

The task force recommends the state encourage the use of retailers that enforce mask wearing and social distancing, and that they should also send specific messaging to those 65 years and older through senior citizen networks. 

Another recommendation is ensuring hospitals have access to antivirals and antibodies to use for treatment. 

They also recommend aggressive support in testing for Tribal Nations as well as isolation and health care delivery systems "within appropriate cultural context." 

READ: The latest White House Coronavirus Task Force report

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