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So the year-old nurse at the University of Iowa ICU put on his gown, his gloves, his mask, and his face shield. The rest of the summer and early fall brought on a mix of business closings and reopenings in counties around the state.
W arnings from doctors like Perencevich are what prompted my visit to Iowa City, a college town in eastern Iowa that serves as a sort of liberal sanctuary in a mostly red state. Klein thought about how he would feel if the person in the bed were his own father, and he squeezed his hand tighter. Experts expect to see a spike in COVID cases in the state roughly one week from now, two weeks after the Thanksgiving holiday. But doctors posting diagrams to Facebook can do only so much, Gehlbach acknowledges.
Updated on December 7, at p.
When they were finished, Klein put on some music, a muted melody like you might hear in an elevator. Read: A tragic beginning to the holiday season. Reynolds and other state leaders could frame mask wearing and self-isolation as a matter of patriotic duty.
But just a few hours later, the man was dead.
Iowa is what happens when a government does basically nothing to stop the spread of a deadly virus. But a mask mandate is free.
She never imposed a full stay-at-home order for the state and allowed bars and restaurants to open much earlier than in other places. Infections exploded in meatpacking plants, where managers were allegedly taking bets on how many workers would get sick. To meet the demand, administrators have had to reschedule hundreds of nonessential surgeries and converted multiple wards into COVID units.
Around midnight, Klein watched as the man took one last, ragged breath and died.
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Through the month of November, Iowa vacillated between 1, and 5,5 00 cases every day. After students returned to schools and universities in the early fall, Iowa had the highest rate of COVID infections in the country. Ultimately, Reynolds was successful in her efforts: Trump won Iowa by 8 points. Through the glass windows of the lobby, I watched as nurses in face shields pushed sick people around in wheelchairs.
His biggest fear now is the coming holidays, and more nights spent silently in the ICU, holding the hands of Iowans who did not need to die this way.
The story of the coronavirus in this state is one of government inaction in the name of freedom and personal responsibility. Health-care workers like Klein are being pushed to their physical and emotional limits. And failing to control the virus is, unsurprisingly, very bad for business. The policies will do basically nothing to prevent the spread of the virus, they told me. An end to the pandemic is in sight: The United States is mere weeks away from being able to vaccinate health-care workers and vulnerable members of the public.
To visit Iowa right now is to travel back in time to the early days of the coronavirus pandemic in places such as New York City and Lombardy and Seattle, when the horror was fresh and the sirens never stopped. The city is home to the University of Iowa, and also to its public teaching hospital, which employs 7, people and has more adult ICU beds than most other state hospitals. Although some residents have certainly deliberately ignored the advice of public-health experts.
When Iowa City and other towns began to issue their own mask requirements, Reynolds countered that they were not enforceable, undermining their authority. Nurses removed his breathing tube, and his vitals were stable.
He laces up his sneakers and follows the trail along the river through City Park and past the disc-golf course, a three-and-a-half-mile loop around town. Every day after work, Klein, the ICU nurse, goes for a run. They are used to death. Read: How many Americans are about to die?
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As cases rose, Reynolds closed schools for the rest of the school year and most businesses for about two months. When Reynolds finally announced a spate of new COVID regulations on November 17, the rules limited indoor gatherings to 15 people, and required that Iowans wear masks inside public places only under a very specific set of conditions.
Gehlbach told me about his weekend routine while we sat outside the hospital on a cold park bench, as the straps of his mask pulled down on his ears, making him look like a gray-haired elf. There are not enough specialists to oversee common life-support techniques, such as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, for people with severe cases of COVID And the University of Iowa hospital is actually in a better position than many others in the state.
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Framing the pandemic around partisan politics makes Iowans tune out, he says, and right now, health-care workers desperately need them to listen. But Iowans lost much more. Worst of all, health-care workers are sapped. Reynolds needs to order bars closed and restaurants to move to takeout only, at least until the surge is over, public-health experts told me.
The Atlantic Crossword. That may not seem overwhelming until you consider that COVID patients require dozens of staff and that many spend weeks or months in hospital care.
Sick people are filling up ICUs across the state. The first cases of the coronavirus in Iowa were recorded here in early March, when a group of infected locals returned home from an Egyptian cruise. Trauma like that compounds when a hospital fills up with critically ill patients. Occasionally he throws in a photo of his cat for levity.
She imposed a mask mandate for the first time this month—one that health-care professionals consider comically ineffectual—and has questioned the science behind wearing masks at all. For two hours that summer night, there were no sounds but soft piano and the gentle beep beep beep of the monitors.
Iowa is what happens when government does nothing
But right now, Iowa is on a disastrous path. What makes all of this suffering and death exponentially more painful is the simple fact that much of it was preventable. That spike will likely precede a surge in hospitalizations and, eventually, a wave of new deaths—maybe as many as 80 a day, Perencevich, the infectious-disease doctor, estimates.
Popular Latest. Many Northeast and West Coast states have had more total deaths because they were badly hit by the virus early in the pandemic, before strong measures were put in place. Complicating the picture, a data glitch at the Iowa Department of Public Health deflated case s in late summer. Reynolds is in an admittedly complicated situation.
A recent New York Times analysis clearly showed that states with the tightest COVID restrictions have managed to keep cases per capita lower than states with few restrictions. Without state leadership on board, none of those changes will happen.
Once, I stepped inside to thaw and was startled by how quiet it was, and how the silence belied the suffering going on just a few floors above. In October, when Iowa was in the thick of community spread, Reynolds showed up, maskless and smiling, at a campaign rally for Trump at the Des Moines airport. By November, the of new COVID cases in Iowa was higher than at any other point in the pandemic, and as many as 45 Iowans were dying of the disease every 24 hours in a state of just 3 million people.