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Frontline workers react to rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations: “We’re your last defense."

Published: Oct. 21, 2020 at 10:23 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Hospitalizations across the state are slightly down after breaking records earlier this week. As of Wednesday evening, 530 Iowans are in hospitals for COVID-19 treatment.

Michele Whaylen is a physician assistant in the ER at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. She sees 6 to 10 COVID-19 patients each day and says she’s busier than ever.

“You know at the beginning, I used to say we were all called first-line warriors, first-line heroes, but we’re not that anymore," Whaylen said. “We’re your last defense.”

UIHC said its hospitalizations are holding near average, at around 22 to 28 patients in the hospital with the virus each day. It’s not at capacity for COVID-19 patients, but it is seeing a lot of patients transferred in. Since the pandemic started, 41 percent of UIHC’s COVID-19 inpatients have been transfers.

Unions that represent UIHC health care workers are also calling for coronavirus relief money to go towards providing workers with more PPE as cases rise.

“They’re using it very carefully," Cathy Glasson, an RN and the president of SUIU local chapter 199, said. "What we’re saying is let us have the PPE that we as healthcare workers need, and it protects us and our patients and the general public.”

Glasson said needing more PPE is a statewide and national issue for hospitals.

Molly Rossiter, communications specialist at UIHC, said in a statement, “We continue to practice efficient use of our personal protective equipment and closely monitor our supplies to ensure we are able to meet future needs. We are not currently experiencing any significant shortage of PPE.”

Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids had 19 COVID-19 patients as of Wednesday afternoon. That’s higher than normal hospitalizations, but it is down from their peak a few weeks ago. Whaylen and Dr. Tony Meyers agree people are feeling tired and “fatigued” from the virus, which is likely contributing to the higher hospitalization numbers across the state.

“We understand the frustration and the fatigue related to, and the need to see people and see family and gather, but we need to just continue to tow the line on that," Dr. Meyers said.

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