IOWA CITY, Iowa — With so much misinformation about the COVID-19 Pandemic and the vaccines that could end it, we wanted to talk to those who are tracking the real effects on real people here in Iowa. Among them is Mike Hartley. He's the Emergency Coordinator at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. As the manager covering RMCC District 5 in Iowa, he's responsible for monitoring bed space servicing 20 counties in southeast Iowa.
"Bed capacity is pretty high," says Hartley, "bed availability in a number of facilities is declining and it's not all COVID." While COVID cases do play a role in the reduction in bed space, other respiratory diseases are also making a comeback. Cases of many diseases including pneumonia and RSV saw sharp declines over the past year because of widespread mask usage and social distancing. But now, with restrictions lifted, the more common but also dangerous infections are rising at a time when many would not expect to contract a virus.
"As long as there are challenges in other places, there’s always going to need to be readiness and capacity for us," State Epidemiologist Dr. Caitlin Pedati said during an interview with Iowa Watch.
While the situation has not reached a crisis point, such a scenario is playing out just across the border in Missouri. Both there and in Iowa, the culprit is the Delta Variant of COVID-19. The new form of the virus has a viral load estimated to be 1,000 times higher than other strains, making it easier to infect people, even outside, in areas with low vaccination rates. "The Delta Variant will seek out and find those areas and that’s what we’re witnessing right now." Says Hartley.
Meanwhile, Dr. Pedati says besides many are still unwilling or uncertain about getting vaccinated, she hopes everyone thinks about the strain this now 17-month pandemic is putting of health care workers in their communities.
"And they’ve been working so hard for so long. I know that it doesn’t always get seen. I know it’s not always clear, but there are a lot of wonderful people who have made really significant sacrifices, personally and professionally over the past year and a half. We’re not going to stop because we believe that it’s important.”
We reached out to the office of Governor Kim Reynolds to find out if they were considering new efforts to encourage Iowans to get vaccinated. They didn't have an answer but did forward us to a statement from the Iowa Department of Public Health which says:
As cases increase across the country and in Iowa, it's important that even more Iowans get vaccinated. It's the key to reducing virus activity, saving lives and keeping our healthcare resources available for all Iowans' needs.