Iowa announced its first detected case of the COVID-19 Omicron variant in an unvaccinated individual. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

On the heels of reporting record numbers of Iowans hospitalized this year due to COVID-19, health officials announced the state’s first confirmation of the Omicron variant.

The Iowa Department of Public Health released the following on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021:

The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the State Hygienic Lab (SHL) confirm
detection of the first case of the COVID-19 variant, Omicron, in an Iowa resident. The case involves an
unvaccinated individual under the age of 18 who resides in Black Hawk County. The individual remains
asymptomatic, however because of travel exposure; the family sought testing based on public health

Black Hawk County Public Health acted quickly to initiate contact with the family and remain in contact to
monitor the health of the individual. Proactive measures taken by the involved family, leadership of the county health department along with support provided by SHL underscore the strength of our public health process. It is because of this process that Iowans are informed about virus activity in the state. As always, COVID-19 infected individuals are advised to isolate in accordance with IDPH and CDC guidance.  SHL maintains a strong statewide genomic surveillance program and the lab will continue to prioritize sequencing of test samples that look suspicious for the Omicron and other variants.

“There is emerging evidence that a booster dose of vaccine offers protection against Omicron, which is
great news. Vaccinated Iowans who have not yet received a booster should do so as soon as possible,”
said IDPH interim Director Kelly Garcia. “I want to emphasize how grateful I am to Iowans who have
chosen to get vaccinated, thank you. To those who haven’t been vaccinated for COVID-19 yet, I urge you
to speak with your health care provider about the vaccine’s benefits for you and those around you.”

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In its last full data report, on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021, the state reported 777 Iowans hospitalized due to COVID-19, a record number for this year. Of those, 185 patients were in intensive care units and 133 had been admitted during the past 24 hours.

Iowa’s report noted 84.3 percent of patients in the ICU and 73.8 percent of hospitalized patients overall were not fully vaccinated.

The state also reported 105 new deaths since its last report one week ago, bringing Iowa’s death toll to 7,550 since the pandemic began. Deaths in the most recent report occurred between Oct. 12 and Dec. 1.

Iowa reported 584,387 total positive tests of COVID-19, up 11,207 from the previous week, with a 12 percent positivity rate during the past 14 days; a number that’s also rising.

One hopeful point in the report is a drop in the number of outbreaks in Iowa’s long term care centers, down to 17 from last week’s 19 outbreaks at nursing homes.

Nationwide, the United States hit a milestone of more than 200 million Americans fully vaccinated as of Dec. 8, 2021, or 60.4 percent of the total population and 71.8 percent of adults. One group that has maintained a high vaccination rate are Americans 65 and older. Beginning Nov. 20, 2021, that population reached 99.9 percent with at least one dose of vaccine.

In Iowa, just 69.4 percent of adults were fully vaccinated as of the last report on Dec. 8.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has sent a mixed message on vaccines, applauding a district court injunction against the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate rule for federal contractors just days after she received a booster shot.

Reynolds said in a statement that she “firmly believe in Iowans’ right to make health care decisions based on what’s best for themselves and their families, and I remain committed to protecting those freedoms.” She has not reflected that same sentiment regarding women’s reproductive rights.

More: Iowa hits high in COVID-19 deaths