Iowa reports record COVID-19 deaths, lists meatpacking site outbreaks

Published: May. 5, 2020 at 10:14 AM CDT
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Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds alongside health and education officials held their daily briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic in the state Tuesday, with the announcement of the state's highest single-day death toll and numbers on five meatpacking facilities that have had outbreaks.

Deaths and new cases

Reynolds began the conference with the latest numbers: 408 new cases Tuesday for a total of 10,111 in the state and 19 deaths — Iowa's highest one-day death toll to date.

The deaths are reported from the following counties:

• Allamakee County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)

• Black Hawk County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years), 1 elderly adult (81+)

• Dallas County, 1 older adult (61-80 years), 1 elderly adult (81+)

• Jasper County, 1 elderly adult (81+)

• Linn County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years), 5 older adults (61-80 years),

• Polk County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 1 elderly adult (81+)

• Tama County, 3 elderly adults (81+)

• Woodbury County, 1 elderly adult (81+)

The death toll in Iowa is consistently among the older population and those with compromised immune systems or underlying health conditions.

Residents of longterm care facilities make up about 56 percent of the deaths in Iowa.

Nearly 80 percent of the new cases are from the 22 counties in Iowa with restrictions still in place. Polk and Woodbury Counties share 201 of the new cases, Reynolds reported.

There are 3,000 new negative test results for a total of 50,458 in the state since the pandemic began. A total of 60,569 total tests have been done in the state -- about one in every 52 Iowans have been tested as of Tuesday morning.

3,572 Iowans have recovered from the coronavirus for a recovery rate of 35 percent.

Five meat processing plants sites of outbreaks

Iowa Department of Public Health Deputy Director Sarah Reisetter said it is in the interest of public health to release the name of certain kinds of businesses -- like meat packing plants -- in an outbreak if they report 10 percent absenteeism or workforce are confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Outbreaks have been confirmed at:

  • The Tyson Foods plant in Columbus Junction with 221 positive cases with 26 percent of its employees tested.
  • Iowa Premium National Beef in Tama with 258 positive cases with 39 percent of its employees tested.
  • The Tyson Foods plant in Waterloo with 444 positive cases with 17 percent of its employees tested.
  • The Tyson Foods plant in Perry with 730 positive cases with 58 percent of employees tested.
  • TPI Composites in Newton with 131 positive cases with 13 percent of employees tested.

"We appreciate these employers working with the department of public health to provide testing to their employees," Reisetter said. "It helps prevent the spread of the virus in the community."

Testing expands

Reynolds again emphasized the state's continued expansion for testing capabilities.

"Testing more Iowans provides us with more information about virus activity across the state," she said. "It allows us to respond in a targeted way to contain and manage the virus."

TestIowa has opened sites in Des Moines and Waterloo while the third site in Sioux City opened Monday. The fourth will open Thursday in Cedar Rapids.

"We are prioritizing our sites where virus activity is high," Reynolds said.

Dubuque County works with state

In Dubuque County, their health department reached out to the state health department to request a strike team of contact tracers and testers. Reynolds said it was a great example of Iowans working together in the face of the crisis.

Patrice Lambert, executive director of the Dubuque County Health Department, joined the conference by phone.

Lambert said the testing strike team will begin work in their area Wednesday.

"When Dubuque County longterm care facility was identified with an outbreak on April 29... the county reached out to the Iowa Department of Public Health and your office, governor, to request help," Lambert said.

Contact tracing conducted by the Dubuque visiting nurse association identified a growing number of people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 in the county, Lambert said.

Reynolds said they are working closely with manufacturing facilities across the state to conduct testing and keep the essential workforce safe.

Iowa schools receive $71 million from federal education fund

Iowa Department of Education Director Dr. Ann Lebo said the state has received $71.6 million in federal funding through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.

"It will help our schools address costs incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic," Lebo said. "About 90 percent of the funds will go directly to school districts. The remaining funds will be used for state-level education efforts to address urgent issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic."


The Food and Drug Administration recently declared some of the serology tests -- which detect antibodies -- on the market for COVID-19 are unreliable. Reisetter said all the tests being done in the state have been validated through the State Hygenic Laboratory.

Reisetter was asked the reasoning behind the 10 percent threshold for businesses to be publicly named -- as some employers like the meatpacking plants have hundreds if not thousands of employees.

"The 10 percent figure is what we use during our flu season as a consistent standard. We ask schools, for example, to report if they have more than 10 percent of students out or ill," she explained.

Reynolds was asked how some counties with greater restrictions have less virus activity than other counties that are not under such restrictions.

"We're looking at trends, not just a snapshot in time," she said. "Some (counties) have hit their peak and you can see they are beginning to trend down."

Iowa COVID-19 response update

Gov. Kim Reynolds and other Iowa officials give an update on the state's COVID-19 cases and response. Details:

Posted by WOWT 6 News on Tuesday, May 5, 2020