More than 100 Iowa nursing homes report COVID-19 outbreaks

By: - November 10, 2020 11:49 am

Drawing of coronavirus cells. (Image via National Foundation for Infectious Diseases)

More than 100 long-term care centers in Iowa have active COVID-19 outbreaks with nearly 3,000 residents and staff infected as of Tuesday morning, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported.

The 102 current outbreaks represent an increase of nearly 22% over the 80 outbreaks reported Nov. 2. A total of 900 long-term care residents with COVID-19 have died since the pandemic began.

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living reported Tuesday there had been a 120% increase in COVID-19 cases in long-term care facilities between mid-September and Oct. 18. The associations, which represent 14,000 nursing homes and assisted living communities across the country, cited community spread of the virus as the driving factor behind the care center outbreaks.

The outbreaks coincide with a rapid escalation of virus cases throughout the state. Iowa reported 4,327 new cases as of Tuesday morning, 27 deaths and 1,034 Iowans in the hospital, according to New York Times data. Iowa remained No. 3 in the nation for new COVID-19 cases, behind North Dakota and South Dakota.

“As we feared, the sheer volume of rising cases in communities across the U.S., combined with the asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread of this virus, has unfortunately led to an increase in new COVID cases in nursing homes,” Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of AHCA/NCAL, said in a statement.

“It is incredibly frustrating as we had made tremendous progress to reduce COVID rates in nursing homes after the spike this summer in Sun Belt states,” Parkinson said. “If everybody would wear a mask and social distance to reduce the level of COVID in the community, we know we would dramatically reduce these rates in long term care facilities.”

The Department of Public Health reported Tuesday morning that 196 patients with the virus were in intensive care. The department reported that about 33% of the state’s hospital beds were still available, but that was not the case in every hospital.

UnityPoint hospitals in the Des Moines metro area were at capacity, the health care system reported Monday, leading to longer waits in emergency rooms and the delay of non-emergency surgeries and procedures.

Gov. Kim Reynolds cited the strain on hospitals Tuesday as she issued a mask mandate for certain social and recreational gatherings and other emergency restrictions.

“The overall increased patient volume is stressing our health care system, and it is putting capacity at risk,” she said during a news conference. While health care facilities have surge plans in place and beds are available, she said, “staffing them is becoming increasingly challenging.”

The state has averaged 3,888 new cases per day over the past week, an increase of 200% from the average two weeks ago, the Times reported. Iowa is approaching 160,000 cases and has recorded 1,872 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, the Times reported.

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