Iowa doctors say virus spread risks overwhelming hospitals

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa’s number of coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations continued to surge higher Wednesday as medical professionals have begun to express concern that hospitals could be overwhelmed with patients if no action is taken to slow the virus spread.

Iowa hospitals had 596 coronavirus patients Wednesday, by far the highest number so far in Iowa. The 113 patients admitted in the past 24 hours also was the highest seen since the virus surfaced in Iowa in March. The number of patients needing intensive care unit services has also trended upward in the past month.

Iowa doctors and hospital officials are preparing for a system overrun by COVID patients by talking about how to transfer patients between hospitals and enacting surge plans that could turn non-hospital facilities into spots to handle any overflow.

“What we know is if the last four weeks are indicative of what happens over the next four weeks we will have the system overwhelmed,” said Suresh Gunasekaran, CEO of University Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. “If hospitalizations continue to increase at the exact same rate they have been for weeks, the math itself tells you that you run out of beds.”

University hospitals, the state’s only academic medical center, is often where other hospitals send patients with complex intensive care needs. It is seeing a significant volume of COVID-19 patients from around the state, Gunasekaran said.


He said Iowans need to understand that the coronavirus patient surge often displaces the ability to care for patients with other complex needs stemming from problems such as heart disease, cancer or neurological conditions.

State public health officials reported 1,814 new confirmed cases Wednesday and an additional 22 deaths for a total of 1,680.

Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases has increased by 249, an increase of nearly 23%, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins University. Iowa has averaged about 1,400 new cases a day for the past week.

“My take away from this is that things are bad but also they can and will likely get much worse because the number of new cases is just staggering,” said Dr. Rosanna Rosa, an infectious disease doctor with UnityPoint Health.

A spokesman for the Iowa Department of Public Health said the state is in regular, often daily, contact with health systems, hospitals and regional medical coordination centers to assess hospital capacity, staffing and resources.

“At this time, hospitals are reporting that they are able to manage the increased number of patients, and are prepared to implement surge plans to expand capacity if necessary,” spokesman Alex Carfrae wrote in an email.

He said staffing shortages can occur during times of seasonal illness or viral outbreaks and hospitals have a variety of solutions to maintain adequate staffing levels.

Rosa said a better public health approach would be to make it clear to Iowans that these illnesses and deaths are preventable, a point made in a recent report from the White House Coronavirus

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The Latest: Iowa Has Among US’s Highest Infection Rates | World News

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa has among the nation’s highest coronavirus infection and death rates and residents should avoid gatherings in most counties, federal health experts say.

Iowa had 238 new cases and 2.8 deaths per 100,000 people last week, about double the national per capita average between Oct. 10 and Oct. 16, the White House Coronavirus Task Force reported.

The task force report of Oct. 18 was released Friday by the Iowa Department of Public Health. The grim statistics came as Iowa’s hospitals faced a surge of coronavirus patients. The number hospitalized hit a record 536, according to data released Thursday.

In all, 90% of Iowa’s 99 counties are experiencing high or moderate levels of virus transmission.

The report recommends “mask wearing, physical distancing, hand hygiene, avoiding crowds in public and social gatherings in private and ensuring flu immunizations.”

The state reported a one-day record of 31 deaths on Wednesday and 38 more in the two days since for a total of 1,617.

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— France surpasses 1 million coronavirus cases

— WHO says Northern hemisphere at ‘critical juncture’ with rising cases, deaths

— FDA approves first COVID-19 drug: antiviral remdesivir

— UN chief says G-20 leaders must coordinate to fight coronavirus. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is frustrated leaders of 20 major industrialized countries didn’t do it in March as he proposed.

— Schools from New Jersey to California have been hit with teacher and staff layoffs. Urban areas lacking the property wealth of suburban communities are especially vulnerable to budget cuts, with many schools hoping for a new round of federal money.

— An online Japanese-language text messaging service for suicide prevention has grown to 500 volunteers since March.

Follow all of AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

PHOENIX — Arizona health officials on Friday reported an additional 975 known COVID-19 cases and six more deaths, the fourth day this week in which the state’s daily case report topped 900.

The additional cases and deaths reported by the Department of Health Services increased the state’s totals to 235,882 cases and 5,865 deaths.

Arizona in the past month has seen a gradual increase in COVID-19 cases and related hospitalizations but levels remain well below the thousands of cases reported on some days in June and July when Arizona was a national hot spot. The outbreak diminished in August and September as many local governments imposed mask mandates and the state re-imposed some business restrictions.

According to Johns Hopkins University data analyzed by The Associated Press, the state’s seven-day rolling average of daily new cases rose over the past two weeks, going from 598 new cases per day on Oct. 8 to 880 new cases per day on Thursday.

PARIS — France has surpassed 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, becoming the second country in Western Europe after Spain to reach the mark.

The national health agency announced 42,032 new

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