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Iowa doctors react to high number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, spread of omicron variant

While doctors share their concerns over the rising positivity rate, they also reflect on how much medical has been learned in how to treat and prevent infections.

DES MOINES, Iowa — On Friday, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Iowa reached a record high not seen since December 2020. Data from the Iowa Department of Public Health showed 747 Iowans hospitalized.

"It is very unfortunate and kind of frustrating for health care workers to continue to see relatively young people with no underlying medical issues coming into the hospital and getting seriously ill," said MercyOne Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Ravi Vemuri.

As we get closer to the two-year mark of the pandemic, health experts say it is important to appreciate all we have learned.

"We have the monoclonal antibodies we have a lot of those other things now that we didn't have before," said Exemplar Care Urgent Care Medical Director Dr. Katie Kuehner. "There is the fatigue, but there's also the hope in that as we've gotten through this we're handling it smarter."

But doctors say they do not have a crystal ball on how or when this will end.

"What most of us are pretty convinced that this is going to be with us for a very long time," Vemuri said. "Eventually it will become more endemic, but nobody really knows when that time will be."

"The first time we had an influenza outbreak, that was 100 years ago," Kuehner added. "And we're still getting influenza shots every year."

While omicron is the latest variant to grab the attention of the global stage, doctors say these variants will continue until vaccinations greatly increase.

"As long as there are unvaccinated people out there, they are actually acting as vessels of viral evolution," Vemuri said.

Even though doctors say there are people whose choices make their work difficult, they want to say thank you to those doing their part.

"We're having more people that are electively getting tested just out of consideration for others," Kuehner said. "People are becoming more aware and more conscientious and more willing to do those things to help other people."

Something doctors stressed to Local 5: The vaccine does not prevent 100% of viral infections, but does help keep symptoms less severe, and in turn, keep you out of the hospital.

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WATCH: Health experts weigh in on COVID tests and when you should take them as omicron variant emerges 

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