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A surge of sickness

COVID, influenza cases climb in FD

As COVID-19 cases soar throughout the country, local hospitals are once again treating a high number of patients for both COVID-19 and influenza-related illnesses.

Last weekend, providers with UnityPoint Health — Fort Dodge treated almost double the patients they normally would in both the emergency department and at the UnityPoint Clinic Express. That’s according to Kari Jones, chief nursing executive at UnityPoint Health — Fort Dodge.

“We are definitely seeing an increase in the number of COVID positive patients,” Jones said Wednesday. “It’s pretty astounding that both the ER and Clinic Express saw almost double the amount of patients.”

Meanwhile, new cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. have climbed to their highest level on record at over 265,000 per day on average, a surge driven largely by the highly contagious omicron variant.

Both the omicron and delta variants have been identified in Iowa.

UnityPoint experienced a surge in COVID cases in August and has been experiencing another spike in December.

Jones said one reason for the increase in December could be attributed to the gatherings during Thanksgiving.

From a testing perspective, the Fort Dodge hospital has seen a 30 percent increase in COVID and influenza testing since October, according to Jones. That includes both positive and negative tests.

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization, said Wednesday that he’s worried about the omicron and delta variants of COVID-19 producing a “tsunami” of cases between them, but he’s still hopeful that the world will put the worst of the pandemic behind it in 2022.

According to WHO’s figures, the number of COVID-19 cases recorded worldwide increased by 11 percent last week compared with the previous week, with nearly 4.99 million newly reported from Dec. 20-26. New cases in Europe — which accounted for more than half of the total — were up 3 percent while those in the Americas rose 39 percent and there was a 7 percent increase in Africa. The global gain followed a gradual increase since October.

Overall, hospitalizations throughout the U.S. have decreased in recent months.

The number of Americans now in the hospital with COVID-19 is running at around 60,000, or about half the figure seen in January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

While hospitalizations sometimes lag behind cases, the hospital figures may reflect both the protection conferred by the vaccine and the possibility that omicron is not making people as sick as previous versions.

“I still remain optimistic that this can be the year we can not only end the acute stage of the pandemic, but we also chart a path to stronger health security,” Tedros said with an eye toward 2022.

In terms of hospitalizations, Jones said one statistic has remained consistent. The vast majority of people who are hospitalized by COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

“About 90 percent of those hospitalized are unvaccinated,” Jones said. “That’s the trend we have seen since the beginning of this surge.”

Jones emphasized the importance of vaccinations.

“Getting vaccinated and helping others you know get vaccinated,” Jones said. “Stay home when you are sick is another way you can help slow the spread.”

Face masks remain a part of life at the hospital.

“At the hospital we are still masking 100 percent of the time,” Jones said. “We wear masks from the minute we enter the building. We ask visitors to wear masks as well when they are inside our hospital. It’s a great way to protect yourself and others.”

Webster County COVID-19 statistics reported

Over the past seven days, there have been 118 positive COVID-19 cases reported in Webster County, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

The Department of Public Health reported that in the most recent seven day period 6 percent of the COVID-19 tests administered were positive.

The department’s statistics show that19 percent of the cases were in people ages 18 to 29 while another 19 percent were in people ages 30 to 39.

Since the pandemic began, there have been 8,444 COVID-19 cases in Webster County.

There have been 128 deaths in the county attributed to the disease.

Statistics on the state’s coronavirus website show that 54.8 percent of the county’s residents who are eligible for a vaccine are fully vaccinated.

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