Mary Greeley Medical Center prepares for COVID-19 delta variant, weighs mandatory vaccinations for staff

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AMES, Iowa — COVID-19’s delta variant is showing up in Story County, which means patients are starting to show up in the Mary Greeley Medical Center’s emergency room.

“We went from zero hospitalizations for months to all of a sudden three last week,” said Mary Greeley Medical Center vice president Amber Deardorff. “All of a sudden, there were two more, then one more.”

Deardorff said five new COVID patients checked into Mary Greeley on Thursday, and none of them were vaccinated against the virus.

“It’s starting to feel like it’s moving fast again,” Deardorff said. “We’re starting to put together the teams and dust off the plans we had created last year. Time will tell on where this takes us, but it’s back and we’re ready for it.”

Deardorff is encouraging everyone in Story County to get vaccinated and wear masks indoors, since Story County has been declared a high-risk transmission area by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She said Mary Greeley is also debating whether to require vaccines among its staff, and will likely discuss the topic in a meeting on Friday.

“We have more data that the vaccines work and are safe, and we’re starting to see other organizations shift that way, too,” Deardorff said.

The increase in cases comes a few weeks before the start of Iowa State University’s fall semester. Deardorff said students are at a higher risk of contracting the delta variant than the first version of COVID-19.

“About 50 percent of the new cases coming into Story County are from the 18-29 age bracket,” Deardorff said. “We know we’ll see some more transmission within our community.”

Deardorff does not know how devastating the delta variant will become for Story County, but she hopes people have the energy to do what they can to stop it.

“I get that we’re tired of the masks and we’re tired of not being able to live our normal lives,” Deardorff said. “Resiliency is down, so we need to show that there is a little bit of light at the end.”

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