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COVID-19 Task Force: Des Moines is Hotbed for New Cases


DES MOINES, Iowa — An unreleased report from the White House puts Des Moines on the map as one of the top ten hotbeds for COVID-19 in the country.

NBC News reportedly obtained undisclosed data the White House is using to track rates of infection of the coronavirus. 

The report issued May 7 shows COVID-19 cases increasing by 1,467 from the previous seven days in Des Moines. That is a 94.3% increase. That ranks Des Moines eighth out of ten cities nationwide in increased rate of cases, according to the data.

According to the data reported by the White House Coronavirus Task Force, the ten top areas recorded surges of 72.4 percent or greater over a seven-day period compared to the previous week. They include Nashville, Tennessee; Des Moines, Iowa; Amarillo, Texas; and — atop the list, with a 650 percent increase — Central City, Kentucky.

Polk County experienced a 107.3 percent increase in new COVID-19 cases (970 cases) in the seven-day time frame, according to the White House data. That also ranks Polk County eighth out of all counties in the United States where the virus is spreading fastest. 

Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie says the Iowa Department of Public Health is only sharing COVID-19 data on a county-by-county basis, meaning the City of Des Moines is receiving information about Polk County as a whole. Cownie says it would be helpful if the data was more specific so they could identify hotspots in or around the city. 

“It’d be really helpful if we could get data that was related to even zip codes. I know that for HIPAA and other reasons, maybe it’s not appropriate to release exact addresses and names. I understand that, but if we get our arms around where the outbreaks are taking place, and then start tracking those, it would be really helpful to all of us,” said Cownie.

Cownie is hopeful Gov. Kim Reynolds will extend restrictions in response to the current data that shows a spike in cases across Polk County. The mayor also said that all levels of government should be working together and collaborating in a strategy to reopen various areas of the state. 

“Any reopening … has to be very strategic. We have to incrementally open it up after we see that flattening over an extended period of time. Two weeks is what our health care people have been telling us. You have to make sure it’s not just a lull, but a definite downturn and a flattening. And then we have to responsibly and incrementally think about how we begin to open things back up,” said Cownie. 

The city has already taken measures to break up large groups in an effort to mitigate the spread of the virus. Cownie has extended the freeze on public event permits until July 1. That means no city streets can be used for public events. That includes the Downtown Farmers’ Market and other festivals. 


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