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COVID hospitalizations soar in region

As Iowa continues to see an increase in COVID-19 related hospitalizations, Southeast Iowa has followed the trend.

In the 17 southeast Iowa counties – including Henry, Jefferson and Washington, 126 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 treatment as of Monday afternoon. That includes 44 patients from the region who are in hospital intensive care units and 14 patients on ventilators. Thirteen coronavirus patients were admitted to the region’s hospitals in the past 24 hours.

Washington County Public Health Director Danielle Pettit-Majewski, said the 126 hospitalized patients in the region is an all-time high. The public health director said that was a jump from the 99 reported earlier the previous week.

“It’s been creeping up. We keep beating our own record for hospitalizations,” Pettit-Majewski said. The public health director added the numbers have been steadily escalating since the beginning of October.

“We’re seeing increased hospitalizations and deaths,” she said. “We’re seeing more cases, which leads to more hospitalizations and thus, more deaths.”

Washington County has seen a steady stream of new cases with six to 10 each day the previous week, according to the state website. The county has had 655 cases to date and has seen a steady increase in individuals testing positive across the 14-day rolling average, with 100 cases currently reported.

With dropping temperatures and the holidays just around the corner, Pettit-Majewski said the state and the region may continue to see numbers climb.

“It’s going to be more challenging to do things outside. We may see more people gathering indoors with family … if we don’t rethink how we do the holidays, we will likely see this continue through,” she said.

In Henry County, cases continue to climb as the county recently surpassed 1,000 cases. As of Monday afternoon, the county has had 1,062 positive cases to date, according to the state website.

Robin Poole, a public health nurse with Henry County Public Health, said there was a slight increase in cases the week of Oct. 19 with 18 new cases on Oct. 19, 21 new cases on Oct. 21 and 14 new cases on Oct. 22.

Poole said most of the cases from the previous week are related to community spread, which has occurred throughout the county.

The public health nurse encourages locals to continue practicing mitigation strategies including good hand hygiene, social distancing and avoiding large crowds.

“People need to think about what they’re doing. Especially, if they’re not feeling well, they should stay home or get tested,” she said.

Chris Estle, public health administrator for Jefferson County, said the county has similarly seen a significant increase in cases in the last three weeks but not too many have lead to hospital admissions.

The county health officials said they cannot release individual county hospitalization numbers, that those numbers are only reported on a regional basis.

Like Pettit-Majewski, Estle anticipates numbers of cases and hospitalizations will continue to rise as the pandemic stretches on and the state heads into winter.

“With the colder season, we’re going to see other respiratory illnesses as well, including influenza … this isn’t going away. We’re going to see increased numbers,” she said.

In Jefferson County, which has had 237 cases to date and 64 positive cases according to a 14-day rolling total, the vast majority of the most recent cases are due to community spread.

“A lot of the cases have been in the 18- to 40-year-old range which tells me it’s in the community,” she said.

Both Pettit-Majewski and Estle said general fatigue surrounding the pandemic may contribute to rising case numbers across the state.

“I think people have become emotionally numb,” Estle said.

Pettit-Majewski added people’s misconceptions about gathering with families as more safe has led to more cases.

“People feel safer and when they’re just with family, they think there is less risk, but we do see that it spread through families very effectively,” Pettit-Majewski said.

The Washington County Public Health director added increased coronavirus-related hospitalizations reduce the ability for the health care industry to respond to other care needs.

“We need to continue to just be diligent, continue to stay home as much as we can and make sure to keep distance,” she said.