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Epidemiologists Warn of More Surges if Iowa Doesn’t Control Virus Spread

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Local health experts are echoing concerns about Iowa’s virus transmission rate, raised by the White House coronavirus task force in a report released Thursday.

The report to Iowa leaders said “community transmission has remained high across the state for the past month, with many preventable deaths.”

Dr. Rossana Rosa, an infectious disease specialist in Des Moines, said the word “preventable” was particularly striking to her.

“They are now telling us that those deaths are preventable, and I think that’s the part that is most heartbreaking,” she said. “There are measures that we can all take as residents and citizens of Iowa. But there are also higher level measures that our authorities can take in order to advance that message, and in order to keep us safe.”

She said factors such as Gov. Kim Reynolds never imposing a stay-at-home order, opening the economy rapidly in May and lifting size limits on gatherings without a statewide mask madate, are reasons Iowa has been unable to control the spread of COVID-19.

Rosa said such actions resulted in a missed opportunity for the state to crush the coronavirus.

“We have many things that could be used to our advantage. And yet we are in a bad position right now, we have not controlled the viruses in the state of Iowa,” Rosa said, noting factors like Iowa’s population density being much more spread out than states like New York.

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Iowa has risen over the past two weeks from 15.9% on Sept. 23 to 16.95% on Oct. 7, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. Iowa’s rate was fourth in the nation.

The latest report warned about upcoming colder weather. It encouraged Iowa officials to ramp up messaging about the effectiveness of masks, as many events and activities will be moving indoors.

“Masks must be worn indoors in all public settings and group gathering sizes should be limited,” the report said. “Work with rural communities to message masks work and protect individuals from COVID-19.”

Rosa echoed fears from White House health officials with the coming winter months.

“Things can get worse, actually, she said. “They’re bad and they can get worse.”

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