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Iowa hospitals stressed by high COVID spread, test demand

January 13, 2022 GMT

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A surge in coronavirus cases in Iowa has significantly stressed medical centers as people rush to get tested, hospitalizations surge and health care workers are sidelined by illness, a hospital official said Thursday.

University of Iowa Health Care CEO Suresh Gunasekaran said Iowa is likely entering a peak of virus activity with the highly transmissible omicron variant, and the next three to four weeks will be critical in determining the severity and length of the virus surge.

Demand for testing at hospitals and clinics is at an all-time high, and among those infected are many health care workers or their families. That has led to staff shortages that have strained hospital resources more now that at any time during the pandemic, Gunasekaran said.

Gunasekaran repeated his earlier calls for people to get vaccinated, wear masks and practice social distancing.

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“We know if we can recommit ourselves during this period of time we can significantly help avoid overwhelming the health care system,” he said.

Iowa’s seven-day moving average of cases rose to 4,901 cases per day on Tuesday, surpassing the peak of 4,622 cases on Nov. 15, 2020, when Iowa experienced its previous worst surge, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Data.

The number of people being treated for the coronavirus in Iowa hospitals surged by 16% in the past week, according to data released Wednesday by the state Department of Public Health. The department reported 923 people in hospitals with COVID-19 infections, the highest number since Dec. 4, 2020.

CDC data shows 34.5% of Iowans remain completely unvaccinated.