COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are surging: It is time for our community to step up and do the right thing

August 24, 2021

(Des Moines, IA) – Polk County is back in a situation we hoped to never be in again. COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are on the rise.

In late March of 2020, patients began to die of COVID-19 infections.  The number of deaths continued to increase so drastically that by the winter of 2020 and into 2021 over 30 individuals were dying each week from COVID complications.  Through the vaccine administration and COVID-19 prevention strategies, the number of deaths were driven down such that, beginning in March, there were zero weeks with above 10 COVID related fatalities.  The numbers continued to fall as people continued to get vaccinated and by June through July less than five deaths were seen every week (many weeks with only one or two COVID-19 deaths). 

“Our months of incredibly hard work are quickly being undone,” said Joshua Akers, Polk County Medical Examiner. “The first full week of August we saw seven COVID-19 related deaths and the numbers are continuing to rise. What is also concerning is that we are beginning to see the average age of decedents getting younger.”

Over the past three weeks, we have seen 175% increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations. Today, our hospitals have 109 COVID-19 patients. We have not seen a trend in COVID-19 hospitalizations like this since the last COVID-19 surge, which took place in October of 2020. Of the 109 COVID-19 patients, four of those are under the age of 18. While four may seem like a small number to most, this is the highest number of under 18 COVID-19 hospitalized patients we have ever seen throughout the pandemic. Polk County hospitals are operating at limited capacity. Currently, Blank Children’s Hospital has canceled elective surgeries and other metro hospitals are monitoring daily cases and canceling some elective surgeries.

Finally, our COVID-19 cases from the past weekend has increased 87% since the first weekend in August. During the month of July 2021, Polk County was averaging 31 COVID-19 cases a day. As of August 22, 2021, we are averaging 120 COVID-19 cases a day. We expect our COVID-19 cases in Polk County will continue to surge since school has started and individuals are not following COVID-19 prevention strategies, including wearing masks in public indoor settings.

“Our hospitals are full.  Our healthcare workers are tired. Parents and guardians are scared to send their children to schools,” said Helen Eddy, Director of Polk County Health Department. “We implore everyone to step up, once again, and do the right thing for the people you love and care about, for our community and for the 82,000 kids in Polk County who cannot be vaccinated.”

The Health Department strongly encourages you to follow these tips:

  • If you are still not vaccinated, there are many places for you to receive your COVID-19 vaccine such as your healthcare provider, pharmacy or local health department.
  • Follow the CDC recommendations and wear a mask in ALL indoor locations including at school, work, while running errands and any other public areas.
  • If you need to be tested for COVID-19, DO NOT go to the emergency department to be tested. Please contact urgent care or your primary healthcare provider.
  • If have tested positive for COVID-19, do NOT go to work, school or to run errands until you are well. You are potentially exposing anyone you are around including family and friends.
  • If you are waiting for COVID-19 test results, do NOT go to work, school or to run errands until you have your test results.
  • Continue to social distance, wash your hands frequently and cover your cough and/or sneeze.
  • If you are experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms, do not hesitant to seek medical care at an urgent care clinic or at an emergency department.


For more information or to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment, please visit