Polk County health officials, politicians hold COVID-19 vigil
Polk County health officials and politicians gathered Thursday to pay respects to those lost locally during the pandemic but emphasized that the pandemic is not over yet.
“It’s not behind us, it’s not over,” UnityPoint Health-Des Moines Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Eric Lothe said at the vigil. “So please, everyone, do your part and we will get through this together.”
Candle-lit bags representing the 589 residents Polk County officials said have died of COVID-19 in the last year were displayed in front of the Polk County Administration Building, 111 Court Ave. The event marked one year since the first COVID-19 death in Polk County.
Leaders involved in the county’s COVID-19 response who spoke at the event — which was not open to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings — gave condolences to those who have lost loved ones during the pandemic, and thanked health care workers for their perseverance.
“What resonates with me was the tremendous strength and dedication in our colleagues, and the resiliency they demonstrated during this horrific year,” said Karl Keeler, president of MercyOne Central Iowa. “… Thank you for caring for us, and we will continue to care for you.”
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Angela Connolly, chair of the Polk County Board of Supervisors and Polk County Health Department Director Helen Eddy also spoke at the event. Eddy said she was proud of the work and collaboration between the government and local medical providers over the past year, saying that work will continue as the vaccine rollout continues.
In the meantime, she said, it’s important to continue to follow best health safety practices: Wear a mask, stay 6 feet away from others and wash your hands often.
“And please, of course, get your vaccine,” Eddy said.
Eligibility for the vaccine for all adults in the state officially starts Monday, Gov. Kim Reynolds said in previous news conferences. Currently, vaccines are available to Iowans aged 65 and older, those with underlying health conditions that may lead to more severe cases of COVID-19 and workers in certain professions.
Until a majority of the community is vaccinated, Eddy said, it’s important to continue to take COVID-19 seriously and continue to protect those vulnerable to the virus.
“The only way we can continue to fight and end this pandemic is together,” Eddy said. “I use that word often, together. One of the best ways to protect yourself and your community is to get vaccinated.”
Robin Opsahl covers trending news for the Register. Reach them at [email protected] or 515-284-8051.