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Gov. Reynolds implores Iowans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as hospitals struggle

Published: Sep. 2, 2021 at 12:32 PM CDT
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DES MOINES, Iowa (WOWT) - Officials on Thursday urged Iowa residents to get their COVID-19 vaccinations as Iowa hospitals struggle with capacity.

Gov. Kim Reynolds gave an update on the state’s COVID-19 numbers, noting that most new COVID-19 cases in the state are delta variant cases. Iowa currently has 524 hospitalizations, noting that at the peak last November, that number was 1,527.

The governor said she doesn’t expect the same sort of spike in hospitalizations this year with COVID-19 vaccinations available. Currently, 66.4% of Iowans ages 12 and older have had at least one dose; for those ages 65 and older, it’s 91%.

Reynolds also talked about breakthrough data, saying that of the COVID-19 patients hospitalized now, 79% were not vaccinated when they were infected; and that 91% of those in ICUs are not vaccinated.

“The data reflects — as I think you have heard for months now — that COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalizations, and death,” the governor said.

Iowa hospitals are also stressed caring for those patients and non-COVID patients alike as hospitals across the state also deal with staffing shortages. On top of that, there has been an unusually high number of pediatric RSV patients adding strain on the resources.

Reynolds implored Iowans to do what they can to help hospitals keep beds open.

“Getting vaccinated is the most effective tool in making that happen,” she said. “It’s the best way to protect yourself and those around you. And this is especially important as we start to roll into flu season.”

The governor also said that Iowans should understand that the pandemic isn’t something that’s going away anytime soon.

“The virus is here to stay, which means we have to find a way to live with it in a responsible, balanced, and sustainable way,” Reynolds said. “As always, that means keeping kids home when they’re sick, parents talking to their doctors about vaccinations — not only COVID vaccines but also those for flu and any others necessary to keep their children healthy.”

The Iowa Department of Public Health is also planning to ramp up data updates on its COVID-19 dashboard. Iowa Health Director Kelly Garcia said the state is working to reformat its COVID-19 dashboard to include more hospital data, including the vaccination status of COVID-19 patients. IDPH plans to push updates to its dashboard on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. In July, the state had scaled back to weekly updates, she said.

Also on Thursday, the governor reinforced her position on masks saying that parents she’s spoken with don’t want masks interfering with their children’s abilities to learn noting that Iowa isn’t prohibiting masks in class.

“So it’s their right, we have to remember it’s their right to wear a mask,” Reynolds said. “They can make sure they are in an N95, that they can use a face shield. There are various things we can do to help mitigate their chances of being exposed. But again, it’s a law in Iowa,” she said, referring to the state’s ban on mask mandates.

The governor defended the state’s emphasis on vaccination as the better approach to managing the virus than mask requirements.

“I’ve been clear from the beginning that vaccination is easily the best tool that we have to counter the virus. I chose to get vaccinated months ago; I would do it again. I continue to urge Iowans to get vaccinated to protect themselves and those around them,” she said. “I believe government’s role in a public health crisis is to provide the public reliable information so they can make their own informed decisions.”

She added that this approach is more effective than mandates or otherwise dictating people’s behaviors. Iowans are capable of making their own informed decisions about their health, she said, and deserve the respect from their leaders to do so.

Watch Thursday’s news conference

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