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Health

Iowa Plans To Report COVID-19 Data More Frequently

090221-kelly-garcia
Katarina Sostaric
/
IPR
Iowa Department of Public Health Director Kelly Garcia speaks about COVID-19 data at a news conference Thursday.

State health officials announced Thursday they will start updating Iowa’s coronavirus data website three times each week, starting Friday, instead of once per week.

The Iowa Department of Public Health changed from daily to weekly reporting in early July. Officials said the move followed other states in the region and the CDC’s data reporting schedule at the time.

IDPH Director Kelly Garcia said the situation has “evolved,” and she’s hearing that Iowans want to know more.

“We know that as the virus evolves, as we see states struggling with high case counts in the South, and as we hit another milestone in our response, it’s time to make another shift,” Garcia said. “We owe it to you to share and ensure that you have access to clear information. And I want you to hear it from me: that every day, all along, internally, we are looking at critical data points.”

IDPH expects to update the data website by midday on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Garcia said the state will also begin reporting the percentage of Iowans with COVID-19 in the ICU who aren’t fully vaccinated, and the percentage hospitalized with COVID-19 who aren’t fully vaccinated.

As of Wednesday, according to IDPH data, 90 percent of Iowans in the ICU with COVID-19 weren’t fully vaccinated, and 79 percent of Iowans hospitalized with COVID-19 weren’t fully vaccinated. There were 524 total people hospitalized in Iowa with COVID-19 as of Wednesday, up from 498 the week before.

“It is our goal to highlight the critical information Iowans want more frequently, but this approach and frequency also allow time for our data team to ensure the accuracy of that deeper-level information,” Garcia said.

State health officials said Iowa’s aging computer systems don’t allow them to easily collect hospitalization data, so they have to hand count COVID-19 hospitalizations and manually record the vaccination status of hospitalized individuals. They said the lack of a more automated system means IDPH staff spend a lot of time gathering and correcting coronavirus data.

Health officials said they will not return to the practice of listing which long-term care facilities are experiencing coronavirus outbreaks. They said facilities notify family members of residents if there’s an outbreak.

The state’s coronavirus website previously listed facility names and infection numbers, but that information has been removed. Now, the website simply displays the total number of long-term care outbreaks, which was 14 as of Wednesday.

Garcia also said schools can decide whether they want to report information about student and staff cases of COVID-19. The state’s coronavirus website does not provide information about coronavirus in schools.