Iowa this week surpassed more than 70,000 coronavirus cases as the Midwestern state emerges as the current hotspot of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S.
The state reported 558 new confirmed cases on Monday, pushing the state past the grim milestone, The Des Moines Register reported. An additional 345 new cases were reported on Tuesday, bringing the state’s current total to 70,659 cases.
Six new coronavirus-related deaths were also reported on Tuesday, bringing the state's death toll to 1,173, according to state data.
The Register noted that the state has changed how it reports testing data, a move which has led to a spike in the rate of positive cases.
Iowa has been consistently reporting a positivity rate — the percentage of tests that come back as positive — below 10 percent. However, the newspaper noted that the state is now counting the results of rapid antigen tests that will increase the reported rates of infection in some counties.
As of Tuesday, the state’s positivity rate is at 10.5 percent.
Approximately 49 percent of those who have tested positive are adults between the age of 18 and 40, according to the state’s coronavirus database. Twenty-seven percent are between the ages of 41 and 60 while 12 percent are between the ages of 61 and 80.
Just 4 percent have been elderly over the age of 80 and 7 percent have been children under the age of 17.
The Midwest region was spared from the initial wave of infection that decimated the Northeast, and then again missed the spikes that hit the Sun Belt. However, six Midwest states saw single-day records for new cases in recent weeks. Iowa peaked at 1,477 new coronavirus cases within a 24-hour period on Aug. 27.
Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) responded by closing bars and clubs in six of the state’s most populous counties until Sept. 20, including the counties home to Iowa’s largest universities.
Iowa State University also rolled back plans to allow 25,000 fans into its stadium for the football season opener after it faced considerable pushback. The initial plan was announced on the same day Ames, the city ISU is located in, was named the country’s single worst coronavirus hot spot.
The White House coronavirus task force on Aug. 31 warned that Iowa has the country's steepest coronavirus outbreak, and the state should close bars in 61 counties and test all returning college students for the virus.
The report also said "mask mandates across the state must be in place to decrease transmission."
Reynolds, however, said she has no immediate plans to enact the stricter guidelines regardless of the White House recommendations.
"We're going to monitor this next week, and we're going to see if the mitigation efforts that we've applied start to reduce those numbers," she said on Wednesday. "And if they don't, then we'll take additional steps."
The governor is also pushing forward with a requirement for most schools to reopen for at least 50 percent in-person learning.