COVID-19 hospitalizations hit a new high for the year, as more than 12,000 new cases and 81 deaths reported

Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

Iowa set a record for hospitalized COVID-19 patients in 2021, as the rate of new cases continued to surge this month.

In its weekly update on Wednesday, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported another 82 deaths from the virus and 12,163 newly confirmed cases during its seven-day reporting period. That’s an increase of 440 cases since its previous weekly update. Wednesday’s total also represented a 71 percent rise in cases from IDPH’s report four weeks ago.

For the third week in a row, children made up the largest percentage of new cases in IDPH’s breakdown of cases by age. Iowans under 18 accounted for 26 percent of the total number of new cases.

The 81 newly reported deaths brought the state’s confirmed number of COVID-19 fatalities to 6,482.

According to IDPH, 638 Iowans with COVID-19 were hospitalized as of Wednesday. That is the highest number this year, and the highest number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients since Dec. 23, 2020.

The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units has increased to 161, the highest since Dec. 15, and the number of available ICU beds has sunk to its lowest point since the beginning of the pandemic, with 182 staffed beds statewide.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics CEO Suresh Gunasekaran addressed the stress the ongoing surge of COVID-19 is putting on UIHC staff.

“Even when COVID volumes were strong in prior stages of the pandemic, other kinds of health care volumes were lower, because patients weren’t seeking care at the same levels that they were today,” Gunasekaran said. “We now have this additional work.”

Like hospitals all across the country, UIHC is having staff take “early retirement or just wanting to temporarily take a break,” he said.

Gunasekaran said UIHC is “not having to turn away patients because of lack of beds at any greater rate than we do year-round.”

He added, “But what I see as a red line is if we’re unable to preserve our clinical workforce that has been working so valiantly for 18 months with this high volume, with this high level of moral and mental distress over the severity of the patients that they’re seeing.”

UIHC had 41 hospitalized COVID-19 patients as of Wednesday, according to its COVID-19 page. Seven of those hospitalized patients are under the age of 18.

According to the New York TimesICU bed tracker, UIHC currently has no ICU beds available.

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