It has been a long year as our state and our nation has worked to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our healthcare community has faced dangerous supply shortages, worked long hours, and continuously adapted to ensure that Iowans have access to safe, quality care. Nearly 300,000 Iowans have become sick and sadly, more than 5,000 Iowans have lost their lives to this disease.
Fortunately, hope is on the horizon. While the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine has not been as smooth or as quick as any of us would have liked, more than 300,000 Iowans have now received at least one dose of the vaccine and a third COVID-19 vaccine is now under consideration for federal authorization. At the same time, our state’s positivity rate has dropped substantially since its peak in November and the number of Iowans hospitalized with the disease is also on the decline.
These achievements should be celebrated, but it is also absolutely critical that Iowans not let their guard down now, even with the recent lifting of COVID-19-related public health state orders. It is likely going to be several months before COVID-19 vaccines are readily available and new, more highly infectious variants of the disease have begun to be detected in our state. The great achievements our state has made in the fight against the pandemic are a direct result of greater observance of the basic COVID-19 safety measures:
1. Wear a well-fitting facemask over your mouth and nose whenever you are in public, or in close contact with anyone outside your immediate household.
2. Avoid large gatherings and maintain at least six feet of social distance with those outside your immediate household.
3. Wash your hands with soap and water frequently and for at least twenty seconds especially when you are in public or have just blown your nose, coughed, or sneezed. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 70% alcohol.
4. Monitor your daily health and be alert to COVID-19 symptoms including a fever, cough, or shortness of breath. If you experience symptoms, stay home and call your doctor immediately.
We must all continue to do the right thing and work together to keep ourselves and our communities safe. Failing to do so will result in another deadly spike in infections, which will further divert resources from rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines. Now is the time to double-down on the Iowan commitment to caring for our neighbors and working together to help end this pandemic.