Polk County sees spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations due to Delta variant; more than 90% of patients not vaccinated

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DES MOINES, Iowa — The impact of COVID-19’s Delta variant is now affecting hospitals in the Des Moines metro.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 44 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 in Polk County within the past week, a 91 percent increase from the prior week. The CDC now considers Polk County a high-risk area of COVID-19 transmission.

UnityPoint Emergency Department Medical Director Clint Hawthorne said the Delta variant is specifically taking aim at Iowa’s unvaccinated population.

“Ninety-three percent of COVID-19 patients in our hospital are not vaccinated,” Hawthorne said. “We’ve gone from the single digits to the double digits this past weekend. It is affecting people anywhere from their 30s to mid-50s, who may not have as many medical problems.”

Polk County Health Director Helen Eddy reiterated her plea for mass vaccinations on Wednesday, and said the spike may only be in its infancy.

“If you remain unvaccinated, you will get COVID; it’s just a matter of how sick you will become,” Eddy said. “We may be about 3 to 4 weeks into it now, so by Labor Day, we may see the top of the curve.”

Hawthorne said if the increase in hospitalizations intensifies, doctors may need to delay surgeries and elective procedures which were already pushed back from 2020 in order to treat COVID-19 patients.

“If you were to talk to one of our surgeons, they would say they are not caught up on the surgeries they could have done and should have done,” Hawthorne said.

Eddy said this is the most challenging period for COVID-19 since the initial outbreak last March, but believes Iowans can pull together and neutralize the Delta variant.

“It’s frightening and it’s scary…it’s a little bit of deja vu,” Eddy said. “I don’t know how to be any plainer in what I’m saying. You need to get vaccinated.”

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