This State Has Suddenly Become the Biggest Hotspot in the Country

If this state were a country, it would have the third-highest infection rate in the world.

During the month of August, we began to see a shift in where COVID cases climbed. Many Southern states that had been hit hard by coronavirus, like Arizona and Texas, started to see cases decline, while outbreaks in the Midwest began to pop-up. One surprising Midwest state is now leading the pack in COVID cases. According to data from The New York Times, Iowa currently has the fastest spiking number of COVID cases in the U.S.

Governor Kim Reynolds responded to skyrocketing cases with an ordinance that shuttered bars, breweries, taverns, wineries, distilleries, and nightclubs in six counties, from Aug. 27 until Sept. 20. However, other businesses and restaurants will remain open. The closures affect Black Hawk, Dallas, Johnson, Linn, Polk, and Story Counties, which include Ames and Iowa City, the cities with the highest percentage of cases per population in the U.S. in the past two weeks.

Ames is currently listed as having the worst outbreak in the country, with Iowa City coming in second, according to The New York Times. Ames has 8.2 cases per 1,000 people, and Iowa City has 7.6 cases per 1,000 people.

Woman wearing a mask outside

The universities in the state are also experiencing a significant surge in COVID cases. The University of Iowa reports that 607 students and 11 employees have tested positive for the coronavirus, and Iowa State has an 8.8 percent positivity rate. While the general public may be surprised by the sudden spike in cases, some health officials in Iowa knew the state had been experiencing a high volume of COVID cases for months.

Back on May 29, Iowa nurse practitioner Dana Jones tweeted, "Fun fact: on March 20th I was told there were 49 cases of COVID-19 in Iowa on the @IAPublicHealth site. Today that total on that date is 80. Yesterday that total was 79. The day before that it was 78 … WHAT GIVES?" Jones told The Gazette that she had been following Iowa's Department of Health COVID data and noticed that positive cases were being tacked onto earlier days, rather than reported on the day they were discovered.

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Jones wasn't the only one who noticed the inaccurate data reporting. Journalists, including editor Sara Konrad Baranowski, were trying to get in contact with officials to understand the backdating of COVID cases but were met with silence. On Aug. 19, Iowa state epidemiologist Caitlin Pedati told The Gazette that she had known about the "glitch" that caused the data issue since July, but had not fixed it. According to the paper, the issue was finally fixed on Aug. 19.

The backdating was not the end of Iowa's COVID reporting problems. During a news conference on Aug. 27, Reynolds said antigen COVID tests were being added to the number of tests performed but not the positive case totals, potentially misleading citizens about how widespread the virus was in the state. Per The Gazette, antigen tests were added to Iowa's numbers on Aug. 28, which promptly sent the state's infection rate through the roof. And for more on the Midwestern COVID spikes, These Midwestern States Are Seeing a New Surge in COVID-19 Cases.

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