DES MOINES, Iowa – The state of Iowa has surpassed a grim milestone. More than 10,000 people have died from COVID-19.

MercyOne Medical Director of Infection Prevention Dr. Ravi Vemuri says that many deaths in a two-and-a-half-year span are significant.

The CDC reports that COVID-19 is the third leading cause of death in Iowa, behind heart disease and cancer. To put it in perspective, the only other infection that rounds out the top ten is influenza and pneumonia.

“As much as we want to say, you know, maybe COVID is evolving to be just kind of like the flu, unfortunately, it’s still not just like the flu,” Dr. Vemuri said. “It is more serious than the flu, and we’re seeing more deaths than we would see with the flu.”

That’s why Vemuri cautions people to still be careful as we enter the colder season.

“I think in general, the public has kind of moved on from COVID and many people feel that perhaps the pandemic is over,” Dr. Vemuri said, “but for healthcare workers, we know that it’s not because we were still seeing it every day. Albeit not nearly as severe as it was, but you know if you happen to be that one that gets severely ill, then that’s significant for you.”

To protect yourself and others, Dr. Vemuri advises people to get vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 as well as the annual flu shot.