Editor’s note: The following was published at iowacapitaldispatch.com on Nov. 16, and is being reprinted with permission.
The number of Iowans hospitalized due to COVID-19 complications continues to skyrocket as hospital staff at major facilities say their workers and their capacity are being stretched thin.
On Saturday, the Polk County Health Department announced that area hospitals were stressed over the record number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations.
“We cannot stress enough how alarming and urgent the situation has become for hospitals and their health care workers,” the health department said in a written statement.
UnityPoint Health Des Moines announced last week that all of its hospitals were at capacity for the first time since the pandemic began, according to KCCI.
The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics also announced last week that it activated the first phase of its surge plan, which includes adding intensive care unit beds, according to the Gazette.
University of Iowa epidemiologist Eli Perencevich tweeted on Sunday that hospital rooms and ICU beds were filling.
The Iowa Department of Public Health announced on Monday that it’s seeking private bids to increase its number of COVID-19 contact tracers, “due to the exponential increase in case volume,” according to the department. Vendors had one day to respond to the request for bids.
The request-for-proposal process is being expedited with an anticipated start date seven days after the contract is awarded. The Des Moines Register reported that the state has 90 employees now performing contact tracing.
In Iowa, nearly 3,000 hospital beds, or about 34 percent of all inpatient beds, are still available statewide. There are 354 ICU beds still available, according to the state’s COVID-19 website.
Only five Iowa counties have an infection rate below 15 percent. Jones County, home to the Anamosa State Penitentiary, has the highest COVID-19 infection rate at 50 percent. As of Monday morning, 262 inmates had tested positive out of 1,729 who have been tested, according to the Iowa Department of Corrections.
At least four new coronavirus deaths and 2,757 new cases were reported in Iowa on Sunday, Nov. 15. Over the past week, there has been an average of 4,390 cases per day, an increase of 107 percent from the average two weeks earlier, according to the New York Times’ COVID-19 tracker. Iowa has the third-highest infection rate per capita in the country, behind North Dakota and South Dakota, according to the Times.