Nursing home outbreaks and infections continue to rise in Iowa

Nursing homes are the most dangerous place to live during the COVID-19 pandemic but data on cases at these facilities is difficult to track. (Photo by Getty Images)

Another 605 Iowans were reported to be infected with coronavirus on Wednesday, and 12 Iowans were reported as having died of the virus.

The number of nursing home outbreaks rose this week from 22 to 25, with 92 additional nursing home infections reported since Monday.

As of Thursday afternoon, there have been at least 47,141 cases and 907 deaths in Iowa since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the New York Times’ coronavirus tracker.

Over the past seven days, there has been an average of 459 cases per day, a decrease of 12% from the average two weeks earlier.

As usual, the New York Times’ data indicates a significantly higher daily count of infections and deaths in Iowa than the data reported by the Iowa Department of Public Health. IDPH has not responded to several questions from the Iowa Capital Dispatch about its data collection and reporting.

On Thursday afternoon, IDPH was reporting there had been 418 new infections the previous day — 187 fewer than the 605 reported by the Times. Also on Thursday, IDPH was reporting there had been two deaths on Wednesday, rather than the 12 reported by the Times.

The Times counts infections and deaths that have been identified by public health officials as “probable” coronavirus patients. Some states report only those coronavirus infections that have been confirmed through testing. The probable cases have been evaluated using criteria developed by the states and the federal government.

The number of active outbreaks in Iowa nursing homes increased to 25, an increase of three since Monday, while the number of infections associated with active outbreaks stood at 856 — representing 92 additional nursing home infections since Monday.

Between Monday and Thursday afternoon, 14 additional Iowa nursing home residents died of the virus, according to Iowa Department of Public Health data. That brings Iowa’s total number of nursing home residents who have died from COVID-19 to 487.

The number of Iowans hospitalized with COVID-19, after dropping all of last week, increased over the weekend. On Monday, 241 Iowans were hospitalized with the virus, and by Thursday afternoon that number had dropped to 237. The number of infected Iowans admitted to a hospital during the previous 24 hours increased slightly from 27 on Monday to 28 on Thursday.

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.