Aug 3, 2021 - COVID

CDC raises Polk County's COVID-19 risk level amid Delta concerns

COVID-19 community risk in Iowa
Data: CDC; Map: Connor Rothschild/Axios

Polk County health officials are warning that infections and hospitalizations are "worsening every day" as the Delta variant spreads quickly, especially among the unvaccinated.

Driving the news: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention upgraded Polk County's COVID-19 infection risk level from moderate to high on Monday, officials said during a press conference.

By the numbers: 53% of Polk County residents are fully vaccinated.

  • Helen Eddy, the county's public health director, considers it a low rate that has allowed the highly infectious Delta variant to spread, and contributed to breakthrough infections.

Zoom in: At UnityPoint Health in Des Moines, seven COVID patients were hospitalized in the past two weeks. That surged to 19 patients admitted just this last weekend, said Tracy Eckhardt, the hospital system's chief medical officer.

  • At MercyOne in Des Moines, 60% of hospitalized patients were 60 or younger — a shift from the older age groups prevalent last year.

The big picture: Vaccinations and the return of masks will be essential to curbing the virus, said Aneesa Afroze, an infectious disease doctor for MercyOne.

  • With the Iowa State Fair and 41,000 kids returning to school this month, "it's a perfect storm" for spread, Afroze said.

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