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Rural And Urban, Health Care Providers Strained During COVID Pandemic

Talk of Iowa, hosted by Charity Nebbe

Iowa has seen a surge in new cases of COVID-19. For health departments and nursing staffs, the second year of the pandemic is hitting hard.

A year ago, the distribution of a vaccine was the light at the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. But even with several effective vaccines, reports of infections breaking through has dampened enthusiasm for some. As we saw in Iowa City's Kinnick Stadium Saturday, many are choosing to be maskless in large crowds, raising their potential for spread of the virus in our second year with it.

"Our expectations were very high. The vaccine was a light at the end of the tunnel, if you will, to get back to some degree of normalcy," said Dr. Dustin Arnold, the chief medical officer at UnityPoint Cedar Rapids. "And with the Delta variant, the efficacy — particularly the Pfizer vaccine — has turned out not to be as effective as it was with the alpha or the original variant. So it feels like the rug was pulled out from underneath us quite honestly." The vaccine remains the best way, he said, to prevent severe illness and death.

But when people become sick, there is a workforce in the middle of its second year dealing with COVID: nurses. And the fatigue is real.

On this episode of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe speaks with a Wayne County Public Health Department official about her frustrations with trying to get people vaccinated. Then Dr. Arnold explains what UnityPoint Cedar Rapids' staff has been seeing. Finally, Nebbe speaks with two nurses, one from Carroll County and the other from Johnson County, about what nurses have been going through.


  • Shelley Bickel, administrator at the Wayne County Public Health Department
  • Dustin Arnold, chief medical officer at UnityPoint Cedar Rapids
  • Cheryl Bombei, a recently retired nurse manager at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City
  • Bailee Schleisman, nurse at St. Anthony Regional Hospital in Carroll, Iowa
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Zachary Oren Smith is a reporter covering Eastern Iowa