Iowa reported a single-day record death toll from COVID-19 on Jan. 31, 2021. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Iowa is nearing 5,000 deaths from COVID-19 and has surpassed its previous single-day coronavirus death toll record, with 250 deaths reported on Jan. 31, 2021.

Because of the method the state uses to track deaths, not all of the patients died within 24 hours, but the number reflects the highest reported in a single day.

As of 10 a.m. Jan. 31, Iowa reported 4,901 deaths, with 76 more deaths connected to nursing home outbreaks during the past 24 hours. So far, 2,007 nursing home residents have died of COVID-19, according to the state’s reports.

The previous record of 202 deaths was set on Dec. 8, 2020, when Iowa changed its methodology to better align with national and state reporting of coronavirus deaths.

Sarah Ekstrand, spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Public Health, said some of the 250 deaths reported on Jan. 31 date back to October 15, 2020.

“As we noted in December when we aligned our method for calculating deaths to the CDC, there can be substantial processing time with the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). NCHS does “cause of death” coding for all US states and territories,” Ekstrand noted in an email.

“When we submit records to NCHS, some of the records are straightforward and COVID-19 is listed as the ’cause of death’, these can be electronically coded by NCHS, returned to the state, and reported on our dashboard in a more timely fashion,” she wrote. “But in many instances a NCHS specialist must spend time researching the individual’s record, including when there is a cause of death statement that has more than one disease listed or if there are a series of related diseases. Following the investigation, NCHS establishes the correct ’cause of death’ coding.”

Related: Coronavirus deaths spike in Iowa

Iowa reported an additional 74 deaths on Jan. 30, also a high number for a single day.

As of Jan. 31, Iowa has recorded 319,203 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and on the same day, reported 358 patients hospitalized with coronavirus; 94 of those in intensive care units; 55 patients admitted in the past 24 hours and 29 patients on ventilators.

Even as the federal program in Iowa finishes its vaccine distribution to long-term care centers, 55 nursing home outbreaks were still reported on Jan. 31.

Iowa will begin Phase 1B of COVID-19 vaccinations on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021, which includes Iowans age 65 and older and populations vulnerable to high risk of exposure or severity of illness.

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported that after meeting with the Biden Administration last week, beginning the week of February 1, and continuing through the week of February 15, the state will receive an increase of doses from the previous 19,500 per week to the following first-dose allocations weekly:

19,500 of Pfizer
25,800 of Moderna

The health department also learned that about 64,000 doses of vaccine, originally allocated to the Long-Term Care Pharmacy Partnership Program, can be redistributed to the state’s priority populations.

During a press conference last week, Gov. Kim Reynolds said while nursing home residents were being vaccinated, a number of staff at Iowa’s long-term care facilities were refusing the vaccine. Those doses will be sent directly to a limited number of stores to vaccinate Iowans age 65 years and older.

As of Jan. 30, the most recent data available, Iowa reported 248,832 doses of vaccine have been administered statewide, with 132,466 initial doses and 58,183 second doses of the two-dose series.

On the same day, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reported 417,900 vaccine doses have been distributed to Iowa, while 49.9 million doses have been distributed nationally, with 29.6 million doses administered.

Nationwide, the CDC reported 25.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Jan. 30, with 435,171 deaths.

Related: Vaccine available, but “don’t call us, we’ll call you”