Iowa nursing homes’ COVID-19 infections increase by 50% in 72 hours

Close-up of woman holding senior man's hand leaning on cane
COVID-19 outbreaks in Iowa nursing homes are on the rise. (Photo by Getty Images.)

The number of COVID-19 infections tied to active outbreaks in Iowa nursing homes has grown by 50% in just 72 hours, according to state public health officials.

In recent days, the virus has been spreading in Iowa nursing homes at an unprecedented rate. On Tuesday, there were 2,881 infections associated with 96 active outbreaks in Iowa nursing homes. On Friday, there were 4,327 infections associated with 119 outbreaks.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, 987 of the state’s nursing home residents and workers have died of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.

The nursing homes with the highest number of new infections in the past 14 days are:

  • Elm Crest Retirement Community, Shelby County: 51 new cases; 72 cases total.
  • Good Samaritan Home, Scott County: 50 new cases; 75 cases total.
  • Crestview Nursing & Rehab, Hamilton County: 45 new cases; 55 cases total.
  • Manor House Care Center, Keokuk County: 35 news cases; 36 cases total.
  • Heritage Care Center, Cass County: 32 cases; 58 cases total.
  • Centerville Specialty Care Center, Appanoose County: 31 new cases; 56 cases total.
  • Great River Care Center, Clayton County: 30 new cases; 34 cases total.

At a press conference Thursday, Gov. Kim Reynolds acknowledged the growing spread of the virus in nursing homes, saying it was “very concerning as it impacts our most vulnerable population, and as we saw earlier this year, the consequences of COVID-19 in these facilities can be devastating for residents and their families.”

Reynolds said the state will be sending long-term care facilities $14 million from Iowa’s share of federal coronavirus relief funds to help with staffing and testing needs.

Overall, Iowa recorded 25 additional deaths on Thursday, along with 4,040 new cases of coronavirus, according to the New York Times’ COVID-19 tracker.

As of Friday morning, there have been at least 201,572 cases and 2,127 deaths in Iowa since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Times. The 987 nursing home deaths represent 46% of the state’s total death count.

While Thursday’s total of new, daily infections represents a significant drop from the record high of 5,489 new cases recorded on Nov. 13, it also means the spread of the virus is continuing at a level that Reynolds has said is unsustainable. Over the past week, Iowa has averaged 4,024 cases per day, an increase of 44% from the average two weeks earlier.

In early May, Iowa was averaging about 380 new cases per day – less than one-tenth the current rate of new infections.

The state’s primary concern is that if the current rate of infection doesn’t slow considerably, Iowa’s hospitals could be overwhelmed, putting all Iowans – not just those who have contracted the virus – at risk.

On Friday, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported there were 1,447 people hospitalized with the virus, with 2,700 hospital beds remaining available. There were 275 Iowans in intensive care unit beds, with 325 ICU beds still available.

Also on Friday, new hospital admissions for COVID-19 totaled 207 during the previous 24 hours – a decrease from the previous day’s 233 new admissions.

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.