Three weeks ago today, Iowa Department of Public Health Deputy Director Sarah Reisetter told reporters our state’s novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infections might hit “a first peak in the next two to three weeks.” But Iowa has racked up more confirmed cases and deaths attributed to COVID-19 during the past three days than in any previous three-day period. Outbreaks continue to be identified in long-term care facilities and meatpacking plants, where one infected person can pass the virus to many others.
Governor Kim Reynolds imposed stricter limits on socializing outside the household in fourteen northeast Iowa counties on April 16. The next day, she ordered all schools in the state to remain closed through the remainder of this academic year. But even as the governor encouraged Iowans to stay home if they can, she asserted on April 17 that “there are a lot of really positive signs” and suggested officials may be ready to start opening things up in parts of the state soon.
Meanwhile, the country’s most widely-cited model for COVID-19 now projects that use of hospital resources and coronavirus deaths in Iowa will peak on May 7 and 8, respectively. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington also indicates that “relaxing social distancing may be possible” in Iowa after June 29. By comparison, the same model projects that the states of Washington and California already passed their peak for deaths and hospital resource use and may be able to scale down mandatory social distancing on May 18.
Why hasn’t Iowa turned the corner?