COVID-19 outbreaks continue to climb in Iowa nursing homes

By: - September 22, 2020 10:38 am

A COVID-19 cell. (Image via National Science Foundation)

The number of COVID-19 outbreaks and infections is continuing to climb in Iowa nursing homes, nearly doubling the levels set in July.

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. Since August, the cumulative total of COVID-19-related deaths in Iowa nursing homes has climbed from 508 to 671.

On Sept. 13, the White House coronavirus task force recommended that Iowa impose a statewide mask mandate to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the state’s nursing homes. The report noted that “COVID-19 is being brought into nursing homes through community transmission.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds has resisted calls for a statewide mask mandate, saying she trusts Iowans to act responsibly.

Statewide, 19 more Iowans died of COVID-19 on Monday, while the number of newly reported infections stood at 596, according to the New York Times’ COVID-19 tracker. Over the past week, Iowa has averaged 848 new cases per day, an increase of 12 percent from two weeks earlier, according to the Times.

As of Tuesday morning, Iowa had logged 81,006 cases of COVID-19 and 1,284 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

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, the department was reporting Monday’s total of new infections as 94 — about one-sixth of the new infections the New York Times was reporting for the same day. In addition, the state agency reported there had been two COVID-19 deaths on Monday, about one-tenth of the 19 reported by the New York Times.

State public health officials have acknowledged problems with 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.

The department reported in Tuesday there were 41 active COVID-19 outbreaks in Iowa nursing homes, up slightly from the 39 reported five days earlier. The department reported 939 staff and resident infections associated with those 41 outbreaks.

The Iowa nursing home with the most infections associated with a current outbreak is the Good Samaritan home in Ottumwa, with 84 infections, the same number that was reported at the facility one week ago.

Currently, there are six Polk County nursing homes with active outbreaks, and the number of staff and resident infections at those homes now totals 100.

The Polk County facilities, and the total number of staff and resident infections at each, are:

Calvin Community: 48

Iowa Jewish Senior Life Center: 15

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 271 on Monday to 285 on Tuesday. The number of infected Iowans admitted to a hospital during the previous 24 hours stood at 37 on Tuesday, up from 34 on Monday.


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Clark Kauffman
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.