Virus Outbreak

In this June 22, 2021, file photo, nurse Jody Berry draws a syringe full of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at Mother's Brewing Company in Springfield, Missouri.

OSKALOOSA — Marion County saw a significant increase in coronavirus cases in the last week, returning to a seven-day trend level not seen since February.

New data from the Iowa Department of Public Health showed 60 new positive tests were recorded in the county in the week leading up to Wednesday. The county boasted a positivity rate of 18%, the second-highest in Iowa.

When adjusted for population, Marion County had the state's sixth-largest rate of new infections in the last week in Iowa, according to the Act Now Coalition.

It's the highest numbers have been for new infections since February, according to state data. At that point, Marion County and Iowa were coming down from what remains the largest spike in cases seen during the pandemic in the fall and early winter months of 2020.

Mahaska County added 20 new positive test results in the last week according to state data, and a 10% positivity rate.

The number of hospitalizations with COVID-19 in the state continued their growth, as well. As of Wednesday, 214 Iowans were hospitalized — the second straight week above 200. The state had seen fewer than 200 hospitalizations every day since late April. Hospitalizations peaked near 1,500 at the height of the pandemic in November.

Meanwhile, vaccinations in Iowa made some more progress in the last week, but still, less than half of the state's total population is considered fully vaccinated. The state reported about 47.2% of Iowans have achieved a full vaccination.

About 41.8% of Marion County’s population has received all required vaccine doses, ranking them 64th in Iowa. Mahaska County continues to rank near the bottom of the state in terms of vaccine rate, with about 34.5% fully vaccinated.

Individuals interested in receiving the vaccine can contact their health care providers, pharmacies or local public health offices. Or, they can also consult with state and federal resources. Iowa offers a COVID-19 hotline that can help schedule appointments at 211, providers can be found at vaccinate.iowa.gov/providers.

Texting your ZIP code to 438829 (or 822862 for Spanish) is a federal service that will reply with three locations with vaccines in stock. The Department of Health and Human Services also has established a website for vaccine information at wecandothis.hhs.gov.

There is no charge for the vaccine, and anyone above the age of 12 is eligible to receive it.

The virus continues to surge in other states, with some — like Florida — seeing new cases reaching levels not seen at any other point in the pandemic.

Florida, where 58.6% are vaccinated, are seeing 82.7 new cases per 100,000 people each day.

People who are vaccinated are able to be infected with COVID-19, but their cases are more mild. Almost all hospitalizations and deaths reported in recent weeks are from unvaccinated people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These so-called breakthrough cases occur in only a “small percentage of vaccinated people," the CDC said. This was expected all along, as no vaccine has proven to be 100% effective at preventing infection.

The vaccines are good at preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death, however. Recent CDC said more than 99.99% of people fully vaccinated have not had a breakthrough case that resulted in hospitalization or death.

The Delta variant of the virus is believed to be significantly more transmissible than the original Alpha form of the coronavirus. It's believed to be the dominant strain in the United States, with cases surging to more than 94,000 a day on average.

“If you get sick with the alpha variant, you could infect about two other unvaccinated people,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director at the CDC. “If you get sick with the delta variant, we estimate that you could infect about five other unvaccinated people — more than twice as many as the original strain.”

Kyle Ocker is the editor of the Oskaloosa Herald and the Ottumwa Courier. He can be reached at kocker@oskyherald.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.

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Kyle Ocker is a Centerville native and award-winning multimedia journalist. Kyle is currently the president of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and vice president of the Iowa Print Sports Writers Association.

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