Active COVID-19 outbreaks in Iowa nursing homes continue to grow

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)

Thirteen more Iowans reportedly died of COVID-19 on Monday, while the number of active outbreaks in Iowa nursing homes increased by more than 75% from July.

While Monday’s death toll was the highest since Sept. 9, when the state recorded 19 COVID-19 deaths, the number of new infections is significantly less than the 647 daily new cases Iowa has been averaging over the past week.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there had been 75,277 COVID-19 cases in Iowa, and 1,233 COVID-019 deaths in the state, since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the New York Times’ COVID-19 database.

As is usually the case, the Times’ single-day tally of Iowa’s new infections and additional deaths conflicts with what is being reported by the Iowa Department of Public Health.

On Tuesday, IDPH was reporting Monday’s total of new infections as 200 — less than a third what the New York Times was reporting for the same day. In addition, IDPH said there had been one COVID-19 death on Monday, while the New York Times was reporting 13, and the Iowa Covid-19 Tracker was reporting 14.

IDPH has acknowledged problems with its data reporting, but only after those issues have come to light through media reports. The agency has blamed what it calls an “antiquated” computer system as the reason it had been under-reporting daily case counts earlier this summer.

IDPH says that currently there are 36 active COVID-19 outbreaks in Iowa nursing homes, with a total 873 staff and resident infections at those 36 homes. The Iowa homes with the most infections are the Good Samaritan home in Ottumwa, with 82 infections; the Good Samaritan Home in Forest City, with 51 infections; and Oakland Manor in Pottawattamie County, with 51 infections.

In late July, there were only 502 infections tied to 20 active nursing home outbreaks in Iowa. Over the next month, the number of COVID-19 infections associated with active outbreaks increased 66% to 835. It has since increased 5% to 873.

Since August, the cumulative total of COVID-19-related deaths in Iowa nursing homes has climbed from 508 to 652.

Currently, there are six Polk County nursing homes with active outbreaks, according to IDPH. The facilities, and the total number of staff and resident infections at each, are:

Calvin Community: 14

Iowa Jewish Senior Life Center: 43

Parkridge Specialty Care: 19

ManorCare of West Des Moines: 11

Mitchell Village Care Center: 4

Bishop Drumm Retirement Center: 5

The number of Iowans currently hospitalized with COVID-19 increased from 272 on Monday to 284 on Tuesday. The number of infected Iowans admitted to a hospital during the previous 24 hours stood at 36 on Tuesday, up slightly from the 34 reported on Monday.

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.