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Iowa National Guard leader, hospitalized for Covid in fall, urging Iowans to be vaccinated

DES MOINES — The leader of the Iowa National Guard joined Governor Kim Reynolds Wednesday to urge Iowans hesitant to get the Covid vaccine to schedule a shot.

Adjutant General Ben Corell got Covid in November and wound up being hospitalized for a full week.

“I’ve always been a healthy individual. I hadn’t missed a day of work because I was sick,” Corell said Wednesday . “I had not been a patient in a hospital since the day I was born.”

Corell, who spoke at the governor’s weekly news conference, said he was “in denial” about how sick he was. His wife gave him the choice of going to the hospital in their car or an ambulance.

“I had the entire laundry list of Covid-19 signs and symptoms. I could hardly get out of bed,” Corell said. “I had been careful. I had done the things that the Iowa Department of Public Health and the CDC advised us to do, but I still got the virus. I was really sick and I was not getting any better.”

Corell still has Covid symptoms five months later, mainly fatigue and reduced lung capacity, which he is working to restore.

“I understand that Covid-19 affects people differently,” Corell said. “In my case, it was very real, very serious and nothing to mess with.”

Corell said after Covid has killed nearly 5900 Iowans, there’s finally a defense against the virus — the vaccines.

“I completed my second dose of the Moderna vaccine in March. I’m fully vaccinated. I had no hesitation in becoming vaccinated,” Corell said. “I did it for my family. I did it for my friends, my co-workers and for my community. It’s to take all of us working together to defeat this pandemic. I believe getting vaccinated is doing my part.”

More than 53% of Iowa adults have gotten at least one Covid shot, but Governor Reynolds acknowledged there are worrisome signs that many Iowans are not getting a follow-up dose or don’t intend to be vaccinated at all. Public health departments in 43 counties declined all or part of their weekly vaccine allocation.

“Vaccine hesitancy is beginning to become a real factor across the country,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds cited a study indicated half of U.S. adults under the age of 40 plan to wait a while before getting a Covid shot.

“I want to appeal to everyone who is hesitating,” Reynolds said. “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’ll take the time to reconsider.”

Other surveys have found a partisan divide, with a far greater percentage of Republicans among those reluctant or never intending to get vaccinated. And, in 2018, Reynolds won all but one of the 43 counties where additional vaccine supply was declined this week.

Major General Corell thanked the more than 800,000 Iowans who’ve been fully vaccinated for being part of the solution to “defeat this plague.”

“For those of you who have not yet been vaccinated, I implore you to take the time to get it scheduled, ” Corell said. “For those of you sitting on the fence, wondering about getting vaccinated: do it. It’s the right thing to do.”

And Corell issued a direct challenge to military veterans and to soldiers and airmen serving in the Iowa National Guard today.

“I call on each of you now to serve your communities in a different way,” Corell said. “Schedule an appointment to be vaccinated. Roll up your sleeve to be a part of the solution that will lead us out of this pandemic.”

Corell said Covid shots are not mandatory for Iowa National Guard soldiers. About half of those serving in the Iowa Guard today have been vaccinated. Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg will be in Sioux City for a vaccination clinic on Friday and Gregg, who is 37, will be bringing some celebrities with him for the event. Gregg will be getting his first dose of the vaccine.

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