After two deaths and a series of outbreaks, infections drop in state-run care facilities

An illustration of a coronavirus, created for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Image by Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM)

In the wake of two coronavirus-related deaths at six of Iowa’s state-run care facilities, the number of infections has dropped dramatically.

In November and December, the number of infections at the six facilities, all of which are run by the Iowa Department of Human Services, have reached their highest levels since the beginning of the pandemic. At western Iowa’s Glenwood Resource Center, home to 190 profoundly disabled individuals, infections increased 440% over four weeks in October and November.

At that time, the virus wasn’t much of a factor at three of the six facilities, but infections there rose dramatically in the weeks that followed.

For example, the Civil Commitment Unit for Sex Offenders had a cumulative total of 22 infections during the first eight months of the pandemic. But over the following 10 weeks, between mid-November and late January, that number grew to 142 cases.

During that same 10-week period, the total number of infections recorded at the Mental Health Institute in Cherokee tripled from 10 cases to 31. At the Mental Health Institute in Independence, the total number of cases grew from 19 as of mid-November to 75 cases as of late January.

In December, a resident at one of the six facilities — DHS has declined to say which facility — died of COVID-related causes. Earlier this month, another resident at one of the six facilities died.

The number of active infections reported by DHS at the six facilities has since plummeted, with all of them reporting zero to five infections among staff and residents combined.

Collectively, there are only 13 individuals — six workers and seven residents — at the six facilities who have contracted the virus and not yet recovered, according to DHS.

The facilities that have recorded the highest number of staff infections during the pandemic are the Glenwood Resource Center and its central-Iowa sister facility, the Woodward Resource Center. In terms of residents, the facilities with the highest number of infections are Glenwood and the Civil Commitment Unit for Sex Offenders.

The cumulative total of all infections at all six of the DHS-run facilities, during the entire pandemic, is 858.

Here’s a look at how the cumulative total of staff and resident infections has grown at each of the six facilities since July 28:

Glenwood Resource Center: 310 cases to date (was five cases on July 28; 43 cases on Oct. 5; and 264 on Nov. 17).

Woodward Resource Center: 219 cases to date (was 53 cases on July 28; 84 cases on Oct. 5; and 188 cases on Nov. 17).

Eldora Boys State Training School: 80 cases to date (was 23 cases on July 28; 51 on Oct. 5; and 67 cases on Nov. 17).

Civil Commitment Unit for Sex Offenders: 142 cases to date (was two cases on July 28; eight cases on Oct. 5; and 22 cases on Nov. 17).

Cherokee Mental Health Institute: 31 cases to date (was one case on July 28; eight cases on Oct. 5; and 10 cases on Nov. 17).

Independence Mental Health Institute:  75 cases to date (was one case on July 28; seven cases on Oct. 5; and 19 cases on Nov. 17).