New ZIP-code-level data shows where the most dramatic increases in COVID-19 cases have occurred over the past month as more than 2,100 new cases have been reported in Dubuque County.
The figures provide a look at the coronavirus spread at a time when the county’s average daily new case count has reached its highest levels since last November. The data is updated as of Wednesday.
The data also shows the dramatic differences in vaccination rates across the county.
Almost all Dubuque County ZIP codes experienced significant numbers of new COVID-19 cases during that time period, though cases in some are climbing more quickly than in others in relation to their population size.
In some situations, those areas also have lower vaccination rates compared to other ZIP codes, though aspects of each area’s demographic makeup also play a role.
The Dubuque County COVID-19 Incident Management Team data shows that there were 2,116 new confirmed cases in the county from Oct. 17 to Wednesday.
Not surprisingly, the greatest numbers of new cases were in the ZIP codes with the largest populations.
The three ZIP codes covering the cities of Dubuque, Asbury and Sageville — the most populated area of the county — accounted for 1,601 of those cases — or 76%.
In the Dubuque area, the 52001 ZIP code covering the downtown and northern part of the city, as well as Sageville, had 963 new cases. While that ZIP code is similar in size to the combined population of city’s other two ZIP codes — 52002 and 52003 — 52001 accounted for about 60% of new cases among the three ZIP codes.
County Health Department Executive Director Patrice Lambert said some of that is likely because residents of the 52001 ZIP code skew significantly younger than in any other county ZIP code, and younger residents currently are testing positive more frequently.
Since the start of the school year in mid-August, 31% of new cases in Dubuque County have been in those 18 and younger. Another 15% have been residents ages 19 to 29.
The 52001 and 52002 ZIP codes contain the majority of the city’s school-age population as well as three colleges.
“I would attribute that to those ZIP codes having the majority of our younger people, but there could be a variety of variables contributing to that,” Lambert said.
The Dubuque ZIP code with the greatest number of recent cases — 52001 — also had the lowest rate of fully vaccinated residents in the city, at 52% of the total population of that area, according to the data supplied to the Telegraph Herald.
The ZIP code vaccination data takes into account all residents, not just those eligible to receive the vaccine. Children younger than 5 are not eligible to be vaccinated, and vaccinations were so recently approved for children 5 to 11 that none of them are fully vaccinated yet.
The City of Dubuque’s other two ZIP codes had 65% and 63% vaccination rates, the highest rates among county ZIP codes.
The ZIP code for Dyersville, the county’s second-most-populous city, had 100 new cases in the past month. The ZIP code covering Peosta — the county’s third-most populous city — and Centralia had 95 cases.
Those numbers represent different proportions of each community’s population, however. The 1,601 new cases in Dubuque and the surrounding area from Oct. 17 to Wednesday equates to just more than 2% of the area’s total population. In Peosta and Centralia, the 95 cases mean that just less than 5% of the communities’ population had a confirmed case of COVID-19 during that time frame.
The ZIP code covering Epworth and Bankston had 65 cases in the monthlong time frame. The ZIP code covering Farley had 60. Those are communities smaller than Cascade, which had 55 cases.
Farley City Council Member and Mayor-elect Jay Hefel said the rise in cases there likely is connected somewhat with pandemic fatigue.
“The pandemic is wearing them down,” he said. “It seems like there’s no end. People are so frustrated and worn out. They want to get back to their normal lives, whatever normal means now.”
Hefel, who is also a Western Dubuque High School teacher, said a spike in cases among students at the school following homecoming last month could have contributed to the recent numbers.
The ZIP code that covers Sherrill and Balltown also had 59 cases, nearly as many cases as Farley, despite having hundreds fewer residents.
The rate of vaccinations in each ZIP code likely also is contributing to spread, Lambert said. However, the Iowa Department of Public Health does not allow counties to see what percent of positive cases are breakthrough cases among vaccinated individuals.
Peosta/Centralia has the highest vaccination rate outside of Dubuque, at 61%. Dyersville had the tenth-highest vaccination rate, at 50%.
Cascade — the sixth-most-populous ZIP code — had the 13th highest vaccination rate, at 43%.
The ZIP code for Zwingle had the county’s lowest vaccination rate, at 20%.
To address this, Lambert said, the incident management team plans to return to holding vaccination clinics at events in small communities. The team and other health care providers held similar events early this summer but had since stopped as demand for the vaccine plateaued.