DES MOINES, Iowa – To encourage more Iowans to sign up to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, Gov. Kim Reynolds invited Maj. General Benjamin Corell, the Adjutant General of Iowa, to share during her weekly press conference his experience being ill with COVID-19 that led to his hospitalization.
Before he came to the podium, Reynolds appealed to Iowans hesitant to receive the vaccination.
“If you’re opting to wait and see what are you waiting for? If you’ve been a hard no from the start, what’s your reason? And if you can’t answer those questions, we hope that you take the time to reconsider. But don’t take it for me. Take it from someone who’s been there, someone who knows just how serious COVID-19 can be and how simple the solution is to prevent it,” she said.
When attending Governor Reynolds’ press conferences, Corell usually updates the press on the Iowa National Guard’s role in running the Regional Medical Coordination Centers (RMCCs) or transporting personal protective equipment and ventilators to areas of the state that needed it.
He wanted to share his personal experience.
“I’ve always been a healthy individual. I hadn’t missed a day at work because I was sick. I had not been a patient in a hospital since the day I was born. My job requires me to be mentally tough, physically fit and maintain a healthy lifestyle. I’ve served in multiple combat deployments, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have made it home safely,” Corell said. “Last November, I woke up one morning, and I didn’t feel well. Over the course of several days, I had the entire laundry list of COVID-19 signs and symptoms. I could hardly get out of bed. My wife took me to get tested. And after a couple of days, I got the phone call. It said you’re positive with COVID-19.”
He said he had taken all of the precautions that the Centers for Disease Control and the Iowa Department of Public Health advised but still was infected with the coronavirus. His symptoms worsened.
“I was really sick, and I was not getting any better. I was in denial that I was as sick as what I was. Two days later, my wife had me contact my family doctor for a telehealth visit because I was still getting worse,” Correll said.
He said that his wife purchased a pulse oximeter at his physician’s advice and discovered his oxygen levels were severely low.
“She gave me the choice, ‘either get in the car and go to the emergency room or I’m calling an ambulance.’ I got in the car, and she took me to the emergency room. They quickly admitted me to the hospital, where I stayed for a full week receiving medical treatment from the medical staff at Unity Point Health,” Corell said.
He said he is still dealing with the effects of COVID-19 five months later. He told a reporter later that he still experienced shortness of breath and lung capacity issues.
“I understand that COVID-19 affects people differently. In my case, it was very real, very serious—nothing to mess with. COVID-19 has killed almost 5900 Iowans, and thousands more have been infected. This past year, we had no real defense against this virus. Everything that we’re doing was reactionary in our attempts to keep this virus from spreading,” Corell said.
He noted a new way to combat the coronavirus beyond washing hands, wearing masks, and social distancing.
“Almost every day now we see that the news that COVID-19 is still a reality, people continue to get sick, some are hospitalized, and others lose their life. We learn of new variants of this virus and we still see spikes of new infection happening because of it in some places. Recently, we gained a tool to help stop this virus from perpetuating. We now have vaccines. We now have renewed hope, hope to move forward without this plague following us in bringing more sickness and death. I completed my second dose of the Moderna vaccine in March, and I’m fully vaccinated. I had no hesitation in becoming vaccinated. I did it for my family. I did it for my friends, my co workers, and for my community. It’s going to take all of us working together to defeat this pandemic. I believe getting vaccinated is doing my part in helping stop the cycle of spreading this virus,” Corell explained.
He noted that Iowa is now at a tipping point where the vaccine supply may outpace the demand. Reynolds noted that appointment slots in some counties were not being filled, and several counties turned away their allotment of the vaccine.
Corell challenged Iowa National Guard members, of whom about half have not been vaccinated, and veterans to sign-up for a vaccine.
According to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, To date, 911,336 Iowans have been completely vaccinated, with 824,114 receiving the two-dose Moderna or Pfizer vaccine and 87,222 receiving the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine before the state paused its administration. Currently, 375,482 Iowans are waiting for their second dose.