COVID-19 infections up sharply in Iowa nursing homes

COVID-19 cells (Photo via Ohio.gov)

The number of COVID-19 outbreaks in Iowa nursing homes is up sharply this week, as is the number of residents and staff infected.

There are currently 20 COVID-19 outbreaks in Iowa nursing homes, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. That’s an increase of 25% from the 16 active outbreaks reported just three days ago on July 20. (Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the percentage increase in oubreaks.)

The current nursing home outbreaks involve 518 residents or workers, an increase of 81 individuals from the 437 active-outbreak infections reported on July 20.

A total of 440 Iowans in nursing homes have died of the virus, up from 425 on July 20.

Earlier this week, the Iowa Capital Dispatch reported that more than 2,584 Iowa nursing home residents and workers have been infected with COVID-19, with outbreaks confirmed at one of every six Iowa nursing homes.

The Iowa home that has experienced the largest number of infections is the Good Shepherd Health Center in Mason City, home to 179 older Iowans. At least 108 residents and workers at Good Shepherd have been infected with COVID-19 and the home is the site of a current, active outbreak, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health

Overall, Iowa saw another 487 of its residents contract COVID-19 on Wednesday, which is slightly less than the current seven-day average of 525. According to the New York Times’ COVID-19 tracker, the state also recorded six additional deaths Wednesday, which is consistent with the seven-day average of five deaths per day.

The number of Iowans currently hospitalized with COVID-19 was reported by IDPH on Thursday as 232 — the highest number since June 10.

As usual, the daily numbers of deaths and new infections reported for Iowa vary depending on the source of information. Compared to the New York Times, the Iowa Department of Public Health is reporting 29% fewer new infections (346) for Wednesday, and half as many death (three).

Also Thursday, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa praised President Trump for the recently announced federal requirement for weekly testing of nursing home workers, and for committing an additional $5 billion in funding for nursing homes.

“America’s seniors face just about the highest risk in this pandemic,” Grassley said. “Many are isolated from friends and family. And the first major outbreak occurred in a nursing facility. A testing mandate, while providing actual tests and financial support, will be a crucial tool in our nation’s fight to slow and eventually overcome the disease. The president’s action here is a big step in the right direction, which will help further protect the lives and health of both the residents of nursing facilities and the dedicated staff who care for them.”

Clark Kauffman
Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.