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Local 5 - weareiowa.com | Des Moines Local News & Weather | Des Moines, Iowa

Latest increase in US coronavirus cases nearly twice the rate of spring and summer surges, White House report says

The first White House Coronavirus Task Report of 2021 noted the likely presence of a United States variant of the coronavirus.

IOWA, USA — 2021 is beginning a lot like how 2020 ended: a steady increase of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations across the country.

According to the latest White House Coronavirus Task Force report issued on Jan. 3 and obtained by ABC News, 96% of all of Iowa's counties have moderate or high levels of community transmission. 

Though Iowa's new cases per 100,000 people is less than the national average, test positivity is increasing.

Coronavirus Mitigation Efforts

The task force notes data reporting has been unstable for the past week, but there is aggressive community spread in several parts of the country.

"This fall/winter surge has been at nearly twice the rate of rise of cases as the spring and summer surges," the task force says. "This acceleration suggests there may be a USA variant that has evolved here, in addition to the UK variant that is already spreading in our communities and may be 50% more transmissible."

Individuals under the age of 40 have been known to be silent spreaders in their households, according to the task force. Iowa leaders were urged to focus messaging on proactive testing for this age group.

Additionally, the task force recommends Iowa hospitals create outpatient infusion sites immediately to save lives.

The full report for Iowa can be read at the bottom of this story

Coronavirus Vaccination Program

Public health leaders in the state should not to delay immunizing those over the age of 65 and those vulnerable to COVID-19, the report adds. 

Right now, Iowa is still in Phase 1A of the vaccination administration process, meaning health care workers and long term care residents and staff are being vaccinated.

"No vaccines should be in freezers but should instead be put in arms now," the task force notes. "Careful planning, efficient implementation, and transparent balanced messaging on the state's vaccination campaign are all critical to maintaining public confidence and maximizing vaccine acceptance."

Local 5 learned this week of a rural county health department offering leftover vaccines to educators. The state said it does not "monitor the justification for every vaccine administered."

RELATED: Pharmacies wrap up first round of vaccinations at long term care facilities

RELATED: After being offered to health care workers, educators in Jefferson County receive coronavirus vaccine

In December, the Iowa Department of Public Health created the Iowa Infectious Disease Advisory Council to create guidance for Iowa's immunization program. It holds private meetings to discuss how, when, and who will receive the vaccine in Iowa.

Some open meetings advocates and legal experts have questioned the state's justification for keeping those meetings private.

RELATED: Iowa vaccine panel will keep meetings closed to the public

The task force, in its latest report, encourages Iowa to create a vaccine-specific dashboard with regular updating of the number of individuals vaccinated to date.

Iowa public health leaders have said they are working on the dashboard.