COVID hospitalizations reach new 2021 high

By: - December 15, 2021 5:05 pm

Health care workers tend to a COVID-19 patient. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

There were 823 people with COVID-19 receiving inpatient treatment at Iowa hospitals on Wednesday, a 6% increase in the past week, according to state data.

There were 843 as of Tuesday, a new high for the year and the highest number since early December 2020.

In response to rising hospitalizations and a shortage of nurses, the state is paying a health care temp agency to provide 100 nurses and respiratory therapists to 17 medical facilities, said Sarah Ekstrand, a spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Public Health. That additional help first arrived at hospitals last week.

The state has been averaging more than 1,600 new confirmed coronavirus cases per day this month. That’s comparable to the earlier peak this year in September, and the State Hygienic Laboratory identified the latest significant virus variant, omicron, in an Iowa resident about a week ago.

There were 173 COVID patients receiving intensive care on Wednesday, and the state confirmed 130 new deaths in the past week. A total of 7,680 people have died in Iowa after being infected by the coronavirus, state data show.

“Getting vaccinated and getting a booster, for those who are eligible, is the most important step in reducing the risk of becoming seriously ill or hospitalized from COVID-19,” Ekstrand said.

About 58% of Iowans are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. That includes 70% of adults. The state maintains a list of vaccine providers here.

How to get tested

State health officials encourage people with COVID-19 symptoms to seek tests to confirm whether they have contracted the disease.

Those symptoms can range from coughs and shortness of breath to fever, nausea and loss of taste or smell.

Free tests are available through the state’s Test Iowa program, and collection sites in the largest cities have same-day delivery on weekdays to the State Hygienic Laboratory, which analyzes the test samples.

Those same-day sites are located at:

Davenport: Scott County Health Department, 600 W. Fourth St. (3:30 p.m. deadline)
Des Moines: Polk County Health Department, 1907 Carpenter Ave. (3 p.m.)
Cedar Rapids: Linn County Public Health, 1020 Sixth St. SE (2 p.m.)
Council Bluffs: Pottawattamie County Division of Public Health, 600 S. Fourth St. #100 (2 p.m.)
Iowa City: Johnson County Health Department, 855 S. Dubuque St. #217 (12:30 p.m.)
Sioux City: Siouxland District Health Department, 1014 Nebraska St. (12:30 p.m.)
Waterloo: Peoples Community Health Clinic, 905 Franklin St. (1 p.m.)

Most counties have at least one location — often the county health department — where free test kits are available. More information about those locations are available on the Test Iowa site, along with a request form to receive one of the test kits by mail. They use saliva to check for evidence of the coronavirus.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register.