COVID-19 positivity rates declining; latest vaccine roll-out under Phase IB to include those over 65, teachers and others at risk

Sharon Drahn
Herald Editor

With the first positive cases of COVID-19 moving into the continental United States a little over 13 months ago, the highly contagious virus has continued to spread as over 439 thousand Americans have died from the virus and upwards of 56 million Americans have recovered. In Iowa, as of January 31, 319,110 Iowans have tested positive for the virus and 4,651 Iowans have died. The recovery rate remains steady at over 90%. 

It is reported that at least one in every 12 Americans has tested positive for the virus at some time during the past year.

Schools in the state of Iowa were closed, by a mandate from Governor Kim Reynolds, from March 17 through the end of the  2019-20 school year.

When school opened in the fall, districts throughout the Iowa all submitted “Return to Learn Plans.” While some districts instituted a hybrid learning plan, others went with a virtual plan. Several smaller districts chose to begin the school year in-person with several precautions in place. During the first semester, the  Postville Community District held in-person classes four days each week, with virtual learning reserved for Wednesdays. Students and staff have been vigilant about wearing masks and social distancing, and for the most part, the plan was successful.

When Students returned to class following the winter break on January 5, they began the second semester with a new schedule in place as they are now meeting in-person Monday through Friday with most Wednesdays being early out days. Attendance has been very strong and the absenteeism rates have been well within the norm. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC),  the COVID-19 positivity rates for the counties where students in the district reside have continued to decrease in the past 14 days. For example, the positivity rate in Allamakee County is 10.6%; Clayton County is 7%; Fayette County is 8.4% and Winneshiek County is 8.1%.


Vaccinations on the way

As the school district, the state, and the country as whole continue to combat the deadliest virus in modern history, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Two vaccines from Modern and Pfizer have been approved and are being distributed on a phased-in schedule. A third vaccine, from Johnson & Johnson is expected to be approved for distribution within the next few weeks.

During the month of January those listed in Phase IA, that includes health care providers and long term care residents, were vaccinated. To date 1002 doses of vaccine have been administered in Allamakee County, 1142 doses in Clayton County, 1541 in Fayette County and 1691 in Winneshiek County. Statewide 234,653 doses have been administered. Of the vaccines received, 124,680 Iowans received the Moderna vaccine and 109,973 received the Pfizer vaccine.

Phase IB vaccine distribution was set to begin February 1. This phase will include persons 65 years of age and older, school teachers and staff. However, vaccine remains in short supply and, more than likely, not everyone in Phase IB will be able to get vaccinated right away.  Others who qualify under Phase IB are Iowans living in residential care facilities, assisted living programs, elder group homes and independent living facilities. People who play a key role in keeping essential functions  of society running and cannot socially distance in the workplace are also eligible. Any adults with high-risk medical conditions who are  at risk to contract COVID-19 are also eligible under Phase IB.

Major pharmacies have announced that they will be offering vaccines to those who qualify  as soon as they have it available for administering.

Persons wishing to be vaccinated are urged to check with their county health department’s website.

The rollout date for Phase IC has not yet  been set, but this phase will include persons ages 16-64 with medical conditions that increase their risk for severe COVID-19, and essential workers not previously included in either Phase IA or IB.


About the vaccines

Pfizer: The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses administered 21 days apart. There is a four day grace period in which the second dose of the vaccine can be administered. The vaccine must be kept frozen at temperatures between -112 and -77 degrees Fahrenheit. The active ingredient in the Pfizer vaccine is messenger RNA that carries instructions for making the virus’s spike protein. The mRNA is then taken up by specialist immune cells, to make the spike protein, just as they would do if they had become infected with the actual virus.

Moderna: The Moderna vaccine requires two doses that are administered 28 days apart. There is a four day grace period when receiving the second dose. The Moderna vaccine must be kept at -13 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit.  Moderna is a vaccine for preventing COVID-19 in people ages 18 and older. This vaccine contains a molecule called messenger RNA (mRNA) with instructions for producing a protein from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Based on evidence from clinical trials the Moderna vaccine was 94.1% effective in preventing laboratory confirmed COVID-19 illness in people who received two doses who had no evidence of being previously infected. 

Johnson & Johnson: Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is expected to be approved within the next few weeks and is just one dose. This vaccine will also be easier to ship and store than either of the other approved vaccines. Their clinical trials show their one-dose vaccine is 85% effective at preventing severe diseases due to COVID-19. In the U. S. it was found to be 72% effective at preventing infection with symptoms in the first place. It also shows good safety, with limited side effects.

The most commonly reported side effects of the vaccines (which have been administered) are pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, swollen lymph nodes, nausea, vomiting and fever.

Post-vaccination resource:

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention developed a website to report how individuals feel after they receive the COVID-19 vaccine. 


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