White House: Iowa should establish statewide mask mandate to protect nursing homes

The Iowa agency tasked with advocating for nursing home residents has dramatically scaled back visits to those facilities. (Photo by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

The White House coronavirus task force recommends Iowa establish a statewide mask mandate to reduce the community spread of COVID-19 in the state’s nursing homes, according to the task force’s latest report.

Iowa remains in the “red zone” for its high number of COVID-19 cases, which are more than 100 new cases per 100,000 population.

The state was the third-highest in the country for new cases per 100,000 population, according to the report, which examined COVID-19 numbers for the week ending Sept. 6. 

Iowa is in the “yellow zone” for its percentage of positive cases, which is between 5% to 10% and ranks 16th highest in the country.

Active COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes have been growing in Iowa, 38 active COVID-19 outbreaks in Iowa nursing homes, with a total 908 staff and resident infections at those 38 homes. The Iowa homes with the most infections are the Good Samaritan home in Ottumwa, with 84 infections; the Good Samaritan Home in Forest City, with 51 infections; and Oakland Manor in Pottawattamie County, with 51 infections, according to Iowa’s COVID-19 site.

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.

During the week of Aug. 31, 7% of Iowa nursing homes had at least one resident test positive for COVID-19 and 16% had at least one new positive case among staff. Out of those homes, 3% had at least one new resident die due to complications from the virus, according to the White House report.

On Tuesday, 653 new cases were reported in Iowa and the state had at least one virus-related death, according to the New York Times’ COVID-19 tracker. 

Over the past week, there have been an average of 672 cases per day, a decrease of 43% from two weeks earlier.

Linh Ta
Reporter Linh Ta comes to Iowa Capital Dispatch from the Des Moines Register, where she covered trending news, public safety and the suburbs. Most recently, she has covered retail business and followed both national and local trends to provide insight about the issues that matter the most to Iowans. Beyond traditional journalism, Ta has worked as a speech coach with the Des Moines Storytellers Project with the goal of sharing the diverse perspectives of Iowans from all walks of life. She is the 2019 winner of the Young Iowa Journalist Award and the winner of an Iowa Broadcast News Award. Email her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @linhmaita.