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'Very Problematic:' COVID-19 Hospitalizations Continue To Hit Record Highs In Iowa

Martha Dominguez de Gouveia
Iowa's COVID-19 hospitalizations have sharply increased in the past month.

Iowa’s COVID-19 hospitalizations have hit a record high this week with hospitalizations passing 500.

On Monday evening, the state's coronavirus website reported that 501 people were hospitalized with the virus. It's the fifth time this month the state has set a record for the number of daily COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Jorge Salinas, an epidemiologist at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, said he fears if numbers continue to rise at this rate, it could overwhelm hospitals like his.

"We're doing extra efforts. We're hiring people from outside of the state. And our people are working extra shifts to not leave Iowans without the care they need," he said.

A screenshot of the Iowa's hospitalization numbers from its coronavirus website on Oct. 20.

Salinas called the increasing number of COVID-19 infections in the Midwest "very problematic" and said at the current transmission rate, UIHC risks being overloaded by patients coming from as far as western Illinois and Wisconsin.

He said COVID-19 transmission rates have increased across the state, especially in rural areas, and it's led to an increase in demand for hospital beds. He said that could overwhelm UIHC's health care workers.

"Remember that these people have been working very hard during this entire pandemic - six months, seven months, eight months," he said. "There's no end in sight for these health care workers. They're tired."

Hospitalizations and new infections have been sharply increasing across Iowa and parts of the Midwest for the past month with public health experts predicting transmission will only get worse during winter.

Salinas said the state needs to bring down numbers "tremendously" before getting into the winter months.

"There are several risk factors or risky activities that are in our near future. College football is going to start with more gatherings. People going to bars and tailgating," he said. "There's Thanksgiving, Christmas."

Officials at UIHC, the state's leading research hospital and one of the largest in the state, have previously raised concerns about the increase in demand for hospital beds.

A month ago, CEO Suresh Gunasekaran told the Iowa Board of Regents the hospital that staff were "struggling" under the increase in transfers and volume of patients with COVID-19 and those who have delayed care for other illnesses due to the pandemic.

At a press briefing last week, Gov. Kim Reynolds said the state’s hospitals reported they’ve been able to handle the increase so far.

"We're continuing to reach out to hospitals multiple times a day through not only my staff, but through the Department of Public Health as well to make sure that they are doing okay, that they have the capacity, if there's anything that they need that we can be helpful with," she said.