Iowa’s nursing homes have recorded 4,096 COVID-19 infections

By: - September 28, 2020 3:06 pm

A coronavirus test kit. (Photo courtesy of Centers for Disease Control)

More than 4,000 people living or working in Iowa nursing homes have been infected with coronavirus during the 2020 pandemic, newly disclosed state records show.

The data from the Iowa Department of Public Health shows that as of last week, 4,096 nursing home residents and staff members have been infected with COVID-19. Those infections are associated with 128 COVID-19 outbreaks in more than 100 of Iowa’s 427 nursing homes, with some homes reporting more than one outbreak.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 685 residents or workers in Iowa nursing homes have died of COVID-19.

Of the 4,096 reported nursing home infections, 3,066 are attributed to 78 past outbreaks, now considered resolved, in Iowa nursing homes. The remaining 1,030 infections are tied to 50 outbreaks that were current, or active, as of last week.

Although the Iowa Department of Public Health reports only the combined number of staff and resident infections in nursing homes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports resident-only infections.

According to the latest CDC data, 2,364 Iowa nursing home residents have been infected with the virus. Assuming the CDC data is collected and reported in the same way as the state public health data, it would mean that workers in Iowa nursing homes account for 42% of all nursing home infections.

Among the hardest-hit homes in Polk County, according to the CDC: University Park Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, where 33 residents have died; and Trinity Center at Luther Park, where 44 residents have died.

The CDC data indicates that for every 1,000 nursing home residents in Iowa, there have been 111 infections and 29 deaths. There are more than 30 states with worse rates of infection and death.

Because the state of Iowa reports only those nursing home infections associated with outbreaks, and defines an outbreak as three or more cases, the actual number of infections in nursing homes is likely to be higher than the 4,096 reported by the state.

The newly reported data excludes infections in Iowa’s 403 assisted living centers, which are home to more than 20,000 older Iowans. Although state records indicate IDPH has collected some data on infections in those facilities, it has not been publicly disclosed by the agency.

“We are not tracking assisted living cases in the same manner as long-term care outbreaks,” said IDPH spokeswoman Amy McCoy. She added that while the agency “may know some information from a case investigation, or their administration may share some information as they are sending in the required long-term care reporting,” the department is not tracking or reporting infections in assisted living.

“There are different levels of risk for individuals in these different types of settings, and that has informed the approach during the COVID-19 response,” she said.

The current rate of infection in Iowa’s nursing homes appears to be climbing dramatically. Between Thursday and Friday of last week, the number of current, active outbreaks in Iowa nursing homes rose 22%, from 41 to 50.

In recent months, the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals has cited several Iowa nursing homes for violating infection-control regulations and failing to follow basic COVID-19 mitigation guidelines such as screening workers and ensuring the staff wear masks.

For example:

  • At the Mitchell Village Care Center, also known as QHC Mitchellville, inspectors allege the home was at times staffed by only one low-level nurse aide to look after 40 or more residents. After a visit in May, inspectors said a man known to be infected with the virus wandered the home without a mask; a nurse complained the situation was “free-for-all, with no leadership from management”; and the director of nursing told inspectors the home was “falling apart” with “bed-ridden, weakened residents with no one to help them.”
  • At Dubuque Specialty Care, where at least 11 residents have died of COVID-19, inspectors who visited the home in June said the facility had allowed at least three workers with symptoms of the virus to continue working. With inspectors watching, employees tended to residents without wearing any personal protective equipment.
  • At the Crystal Heights Care Center in Oskaloosa, where 79 residents and staffers tested positive for COVID-19 and at least 15 residents died, workers told inspectors they had been allowed to “self screen” before working shifts in the building.
  • At University Park Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Des Moines, where more than 80 residents have been infected and 33 residents have died, inspectors have alleged the home forced workers with COVID-19 symptoms to continue providing care and ignored basic mitigation guidelines intended to protect the elderly residents of the home. The home’s human resources director reportedly informed inspectors that workers who tested positive for the virus but had no symptoms were told by the home’s medical director they could continue to work.

In April, Gov. Kim Reynolds commended the state’s nursing homes, saying she had met with industry lobbyists about the need to protect older Iowans in care facilities. “I want Iowans to know that we knew that this would be an extremely vulnerable population,” Reynolds said at the time, “and that’s why we took very significant measures early on to start to really limit access to protect and to make sure that we were doing everything we can to mitigate the effect of COVID-19 on our vulnerable Iowans.”

Two months later, Reynolds signed legislation granting Iowa nursing homes and other care providers immunity from COVID-19 lawsuits. She has said the bill includes “appropriate exemptions that still permits some lawsuits for reckless or willful misconduct,” but the bill itself has exemptions only for acts “intended to cause harm,”  those that involve “actual malice,” and those that involve in-patient hospitalizations or deaths.

Current, active nursing home outbreaks in Iowa

(The number alongside each facility represents the total number of infections associated with an outbreak at that home. Outbreaks marked with an asterisk were first reported last Friday.)

Black Hawk County

Harmony House Health Care Center: 7

Northcrest Specialty Care: 56

Pinnacle Specialty Care: 24

Bremer County

Denver Sunset Home: 15

Carroll County

Thomas Rest Haven: 17

Chickasaw County

New Hampton Nursing and Rehab Center: 14

Clinton County

Eagle Point Health Care Center: 30

Alverno Senior Care Community: 41

Crawford County

Eventide Lutheran Home: 4 *

Dallas County

Granger Nursing & Rehabilitation Center: 4

Perry Lutheran Home: 6 *

Delaware County

Good Neighbor Home: 17

Des Moines County

Danville Care Center: 35

Dubuque County

MercyOne Dysersville Senior Care: 10 *

Sunnycrest Manor: 12

Floyd County

Nora Springs Care Center: 18 *

Franklin County

Rehabilitation Center of Hampton: 62

Grundy County

Creekside: 6

Guthrie County

Panora Specialty Care: 14

Harrison County

Rose Vista Home: 23

Howard County

Evans Memorial Home: 38

Linn County

Hiawatha Care Center: 29

Winslow House Care Center: 42

Lyon County

Fellowship Village: 7 *

Lyon Specialty Care: 16 *

Marion County

West Ridge Specialty Care: 9

Mills County

Glen Haven Village: 6

Muscatine County

Premier Estates of Muscatine: 18

Simpson Memorial Home: 21

O’Brien County

Prairie View Home: 29

Plymouth County

Akron Care Center: 10

Kingsley Specialty Care: 15

Polk County

Bishop Drumm Retirement Center: 5

Calvin Community: 49

Iowa Jewish Senior Life Center: 15

ManorCare, West Des Moines: 11

Mitchell Village Care Center: 4

On With Life: 6 *

Parkridge Specialty Care: 20

Scott County

Kahl Home for the Aged: 8

Ridgecrest Village: 14

Sioux County

Hegg Memorial Health Center Nursing Facility: 7

Tama County

Sunrise Hill Care Center: 5

Wapello County

Good Samaritan Home, Ottumwa: 85

Webster County

QHC Fort Dodge Villa:       26

Winnebago County

Good Samaritan Home, Forest City: 51

Timely Mission Nursing Home: 18

Winneshiek County

Aase Haugen Home:  40

Woodbury County

Embassy Rehabilitation and Care Center: 5 *

Sunrise Retirement Community: 6 *

Past, resolved nursing home outbreaks in Iowa

(The number alongside each facility represents the total number of infections associated with an outbreak at that home.)

Accura Healthcare of Ames: 55

Accura Healthcare of Marshalltown: 58

Accura Healthcare of Milford: 11

Accura Healthcare of Newton-West: 41

Altoona Nursing & Rehabilitation Center: 21

Arbor Springs of West Des Moines: 37

Azria Health Prairie Ridge: 6

Bartels Lutheran Retirement Home: 31

Bethany Life: 26

Bishop Drumm Retirement Center: 100

Calvin Community: 25

Cottage Grove Place: Two separate outbreaks of seven infections each.

Crystal Heights Care Center: 79

Dubuque Specialty Care: 52

Edgewood Convalescent Home: 10

Fleur Heights Center for Wellness & Rehab: 66

Fountain West Health Center: 12

Friendship Village Retirement Center: 53

Good Samaritan Home, Newell: 13

Good Samaritan Home, George: 17

Good Samaritan Home, Le Mars: 32

Good Samaritan Home, Villisca: 6

Good Shepherd Health Center: 123

Grand Meadows: 3

Grandview Heights: 83

Granger Nursing & Rehabilitation Center: 61

Harmony House Health Care Center: 86

Heritage Specialty Care: 116

Holy Spirit Retirement Home: 32

Iowa Jewish Senior Life Center: 8

Iowa Masonic Home: 15

Iowa Veterans Home: 14

Iowa Veterans Home: 53

Karen Acres Healthcare Center: 35

Linn Manor Care Center: 40

Living Center West: 83

Lutheran Living Senior Campus: 35

Madrid Home for the Aging: 10

ManorCare, Cedar Rapids: 50

Marian Home: 16

McCreedy Home: 30

Mill Pond Health Care: 12

Mitchell Village Care Center: 34

New Aldaya Lifescapes: 36

Newton Health Care Center: 65

Norwalk Nursing and Rehabilitation Center: 17

Oakland Manor: 51

Oakwood Specialty Care: 45

On With Life: 41

Park Centre: 29

Pearl Valley, Muscatine: 81

Pearl Valley, Gowrie: 3

Pearl Valley, Perry: 11

Pillar of Cedar Valley: 59

Pleasant View Home: 11

Polk City Nursing and Rehabilitation Center: 22

Prairie Ridge Care Center: 5

Premier Estates of Toledo: 52

Ramsey Village: 21

Rehabilitation Center of Des Moines: 19

Risen Son Christian Village: 58

Rowley Memorial Masonic Home: 32

Sheffield Care Center: 49

Solon Nursing Care Center: 38

St. Francis Manor: 74

Sunny View Care Center: 69

Sunnycrest Nursing Center: 12

The Alverno Senior Care Community: 3

Touchstone Healthcare Community: 22

Trinity Center at Luther Park: 99

University Park Nursing and Rehabilitation Center: 73

Valley Vue Care Center: 62

Vista Woods Care Center: 38

Wapello Specialty Care: 48

Westbrook Acres: 46

Willow Gardens Care Center: 39

Wilton Retirement Community: 32


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

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. 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.