Public health and hospital officials say Covid cases are “increasing significantly: in the Cedar Rapids area and they’re urging residents to get vaccinated and take other steps to prevent the spread of the virus. Dr. Tony Myers, Chief Medical Officer at the Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids, said they moved the pediatric unit over the weekend to convert an entire floor of the hospital for care of Covid patients.

“Compared to June and July, when we had an average of one to four patients on any given day, we have 33 now,” he said during a news conference, “so that’s just a marked increase.”

Eighty-three percent of confirmed Covid cases in Linn County this month are from the highly contagious Delta variant.

“We need to put the masks back on,” Myers said. “We need to avoid gatherings and we need to stay home when we’re sick and please, please, please get vaccinated.”

Dr. Dustin Arnold, Chief Medical Officer at UnityPoint Health in Cedar Rapids, said compared to the Covid patients treated during last November’s surge, current patients with the virus tend to be younger and sicker.

“Vaccination is the key. Vaccines work. They’re safe and they prevent hospitalizations and death,” he said. “…Please consider choosing to be vaccinated.”

About 63% of Linn County residents are fully vaccinated and Arnold said he’d like to see the community respond to that number can hit 90 percent. Linn County Public Health director Pramod Dwivedi said protecting public health is “a team sport.”

“If we get vaccinated and follow our layered preventive measures, we may avoid infections, hospitalizations and deaths,” he said.

Eight Linn County residents have died of Covid in August, compared to one Covid death in July. Public health officials in Iowa’s largest county say hospitalizations and deaths are surging in the Des Moines area, too. In Polk County, seven people died of Covid in the first week of August and the county’s medical examiner said those numbers are continuing to rise and the average of age of those who are dying of Covid is getting younger.

Des Moines area hospitals report a 175% increase in Covid hospitalizations over the past three weeks and Blank Children’s Hospital has canceled elective surgeries. Four minors are hospitalized in the Des Moines area for Covid. Public health officials say while that “may seem low,” that’s the highest number of patients under the age of 18 who’ve been hospitalized in Des Moines at any point of the pandemic.