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Hospitals remain vigilant as fears of another COVID-19 surge remain

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(KWWL) -- Hospitalizations for COVID-19 seem to have levelled off in Iowa, according to data tracking from the Iowa Department of Public Health, but hospitals remain ready if another surge were to happen.

Based on CDC data, both new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations nationwide had been on a steady rise throughout August with younger Americans needing more intense treatment for the virus.

Locally, healthcare systems are seeing more patients in general than what is typical for this time of year. Dr. Matthew Sojka, the Chief Medical Officer for MercyOne Waterloo, says they've managed but it's been a challenge.

"We've had a few COVID patients but not hear what we saw during the first or second surge," said Dr. Sojka.

Last week, MercyOne expanded its ICU because of the high census of patients. While things have returned to normal, Sojka says staffing was an issue. Such a high number of patients overall has two hospitals in Cedar Rapids limiting non-emergent procedures.

UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Hospital is experiencing a high census. These increased patient numbers include COVID-19 patients and also individuals with other illnesses and injuries seeking care at St. Luke’s. To make sure we have capacity to serve the community and emergency cases we started to temporarily limit non-emergent surgeries and procedures. We continue to assess the situation daily as it remains a very fluid situation.

Sarah Corizzo, St. Luke's Hospital spokesperson

A spokesperson for St. Luke's Hospital in Cedar Rapids says to maintain capacity for emergency cases they've temporarily limiting things like elective surgeries.

Mercy Care made a similar move, saying they were limiting elective procedures that would require a hospital stay post surgery.

Mercy spokesperson Mark Wehr said, "It is a day-to-day decision based on census and affects only procedures that do not need to be done within the next four to six weeks. If a procedure is moved, we notify the patient directly, otherwise, patients should plan on their procedure as scheduled."

Wehr says they continue to see higher number of COVID patients. He estimates it at between 25-35 people in the past two weeks. In July, Mercy's COVID-19 patients were in the single digits.

Visitor restrictions differ among the various hospitals in the area, but most have implemented some sort of protocol to limit traffic within the facility.

Dr. Sojka specifically mentioned a fear of new cases continuing to emerge among children. The Delta variant is said to be causing an increase in pediatric cases but not the severity of illnesses, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Healthcare experts continue to urge vaccination against COVID-19. The CDC revealed that unvaccinated Americans were 11 times more likely to die from COVID-19 if infected, which was 4.5 times more likely to occur in unvaccinated people.

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Taylor Vessel

Multimedia Reporter

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