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Iowa hospitals filling up, but help could be on the horizon

The FDA approved a preventative antibody treatment that could be used in central Iowa as early as the upcoming week.

DES MOINES, Iowa — The number of COVID-19 cases is spiking across Iowa and with it, hospitalizations are on the rise. Now, hospitals like MercyOne in Des Moines are running at capacity.

"In simple words I would say we are in worse shape than we have ever been," Dr. Aneesa Afroze, a MercyOne infectious disease physician said. 

With hospitalizations reaching record highs in Polk County almost every day, hospitals are needing to pull resources to help COVID-19 patients.

"Almost every few days we have to open up beds and expand our units because we just don't have room for our Covid patients," Afroze said.

The rise in COVID-19 related hospitalizations also means less room for patients transferring to major metro hospitals.

"Our goal now is to keep the non-critical patients in the rural hospitals," Afroze told Local 5.

That could overwhelm a system already stretched thin. In southeast Iowa hospital officials say their latest survey shows only 2 of 17 hospitals have open ICU beds.

"Hospitals are already having to suspend elective procedures and some small hospitals don't have ICU. The situation will only get worse," Dr. Jorge Salinas, and epidemiologist at the University of Iowa said in an emergency meeting on Thursday.

Back in Des Moines, exhaustion is setting in for those who have been on the frontlines longer than expected.

"This is just going on too long. I think the effects of this are going to last long because you don't forget what happens at work so easily." Afroze said. "No matter how much we say about preventive strategies, they are more important now than they've ever been."

There is good news on the horizon though.

This week, the FDA approved a preventative antibody treatment. It was 90 percent effective in trials in keeping patients with mild or moderate symptoms from severely progressing. MercyOne says they hope to have access to that by the end of this upcoming week. 

RELATED: US allows 1st emergency use of experimental COVID-19 antibody drug

RELATED: COVID-19 in Iowa: 95 out of 99 counties have 14-day positivity rate above 15%