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DES MOINES, IOWA — A member of President Biden’s Cabinet was in Des Moines on Thursday assess the surge of COVID-19 in Iowa. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra met with local leaders at the Polk County Health Department on Thursday morning. He’s on a tour of multiple states right now, including stops in Washington, North Carolina and Louisiana.

In Des Moines he thanked local health officials for all they are doing to fight misinformation and protect Iowans as COVID-19 surges with the arrival of the delta variant. “Our message here is: let’s do it right, let’s get vaccinated, let’s protect each other and especially – with school starting – let’s protect our children under the age of 12 who don’t have a choice right now to get the vaccine,” said Secretary Becerra, “The vaccine works. If you are dying in America today from COVID – 98% chance you’re unvaccinated.”

Secretary Becerra was given a grim assessment of the situation in Iowa right where mask mandates are still illegal despite skyrocketing case numbers. “Over the past three weeks we have seen a 175% increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations,” said Polk County Public Health Director Helen Eddy, “Our hospitals today have 120 COVID-19 patients – on Tuesday that number was 110.”