COVID-19 outbreaks continue to grow in Iowa nursing homes

By: - December 8, 2020 3:32 pm

In response to a formal open-records complaint, the Iowa Department of Public Health is continuing to withhold data regarding COVID-19 outbreaks in Iowa nursing homes. (Photo by Clark Kauffman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Iowa is continuing to see a slowdown in the rate at which COVID-19 has been spreading across the state in recent weeks, but nursing homes — which house Iowa’s most vulnerable citizens — continue to see a rapid spread of the virus.

At least six more Iowans died of COVID-19 on Monday, with 1,296 additional infections reported by the state.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there were 141 current, active outbreaks in Iowa nursing homes, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. That number reflects an increase of three additional nursing home outbreaks in the previous 24 hours.

There are 5,489 infections associated with those outbreaks, which represents an increase of 47 nursing home infections from the 5,442 reported on Monday.

The current number of nursing home outbreaks is more than five times the number of infections reported in late September when there were 1,030 infections tied to 50 active outbreaks in Iowa nursing homes.

The continuing spread in Iowa nursing home is particularly worrying since close to half of all the Iowa deaths associated with the pandemic involve staff or residents of nursing homes.

The state’s seven-day average of daily deaths now stands at 42, a slight decrease from the record high of 45 that was posted on Monday, the New York Times reported. By comparison, the seven-day average of the daily death tally during September ranged from five to 10.

Over the past week, there has been an average of 2,193 new COVID-19 cases in Iowa each day, a decrease of 39 percent from the average two weeks earlier.

Also, hospitalizations, while still three times as high as the levels reported in September, are continuing their recent downward trend. On Monday, the seven-day average of Iowans hospitalized with the virus stood at 1,033, a considerable decrease from the peak level of 1,450 recorded on Nov. 22, and a slight decrease from Monday’s average of 1,071.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Iowa had reported a total of 246,784 cases of COVID-19 during the pandemic, and 2,725 deaths, according to the Times’ COVID-19 tracker.

On Monday, the Iowa Department of Public Health announced changes, made retroactively, to the way it calculates deaths from COVID-19. Those changes have added 177 deaths to the state’s cumulative death toll.

IDPH reported 900 Iowans with COVID-19 in hospitals on Tuesday, a decrease from the 1,120 reported last Thursday but very close to the 898 reported on Monday.

There were 191 Iowans in intensive care on Tuesday, a drop from the 209 reported late last week. Also, 111 Iowans were admitted to a hospital with the virus during the 24 hours leading up to Tuesday afternoon, an increase from the 94 reported on Monday.

Individual hospitals in Iowa continue to report concerns with patient capacity, but state officials say that overall almost 40 percent of all in-patient beds remain available, with 397 ICU beds unoccupied.

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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. 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.

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