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Rise in ER visits at local hospital sign of life returning to normal

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWWL) At least one hospital is reporting a rise in emergency room visits for illnesses and injuries other than COVID-19, which is a sign of people returning to living their normal lives.

Unity Point St. Luke's Hospital reports the hospital treated five people for injuries from fireworks over the Independence Day holiday weekend. Those injuries include one person with a burn on his or her legs; two individuals were treated for ash and/or a foreign body to the eye; one person with a firework injury to his or her chest and arm, and one person with firework injury to his or her upper chest.

Hospital staff say they have seen a gradual increase in emergency room visits over the last couple of months.

Ryan Dowden, M.D. is the attending physician in emergency medicine at Unity Point St. Luke's Hospital in Cedar Rapids. "The last few weeks we've been busier than we were even before COVID, so that's been a really nice to thing to see as proof that society is returning to normal," Dr. Dowden said.

He says over the past couple of months, emergency room visits have mostly been for the typical ailments or injuries they saw before the pandemic.

"Lots of normal viral infections in kids and adults coming back and I stress -- normal, not COVID --- but normal colds and things that we see as people are returning to normal activity without wearing masks around the community," Dr. Dowden said, "We're seeing a fair share of the normal injuries as people return to all of their leisure activities as well."

In the same time frame, the average number of in-patients at St. Luke's Hospital with COVID-19, he says, has been decreasing and they've only had one case of the coronavirus in a fully vaccinated person.

The hospital is expecting emergency room visits to rise again in this work week after the Independence Day holiday. That's because a lot of primary care and urgent care clinics have restricted holiday hours that lead to more emergency room visits.

“We had a busy holiday weekend," Dr. Dowden says, "We had a few isolated cases of fireworks-related injury and as per normal after a long holiday weekend, we’re experiencing higher than normal volumes here in the emergency department over the first few days of the work week here after the long holiday weekend.”