COVID update: State lifts restrictions on most nursing home visits

By: - March 12, 2021 4:34 pm

Newly disclosed data identifies the privately run nursing homes in Iowa that have had the most infections among residents and staff, the most outbreaks, and those that have spent much of the past year in outbreak status. (Photo by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

As COVID-19 cases continue to fall in Iowa and more residents get vaccinated, state officials on Friday announced nursing homes can allow access to more visitors.

The Iowa Department of Public Health said the facilities “should allow responsible indoor visitations at all times and for all residents, regardless of vaccination status of the resident or visitor.”

Health officials said visits still should be restricted in these cases:

  • Unvaccinated residents, if the COVID-19 county positivity rate is greater than 10% and less than 70% of residents in the facility are fully vaccinated;
  • Residents with confirmed COVID-19 infection, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, until they have met the criteria to discontinue transmission-based precaution;
  • Residents in quarantine, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, until they have met criteria for release from quarantine.

In vaccine news, health officials in the state’s most-populous county, Polk, on Monday will add residents who are 64 years old or younger and have underlying health conditions to the list of those eligible to get COVID-19 vaccines. That policy matches the practice now in place statewide, as providers continue to make progress vaccinating senior citizens, teachers, emergency personnel and others in the groups designated most at risk.

Vaccine supplies remain limited, so being eligible does not necessarily mean a person will get the injection immediately.

On March 22, Polk County will open vaccine appointments to farm workers, frontline workers such as cashiers, and persons with disabilities, and their direct care staff. 

Statewide, the number of new COVID-19 cases per day in Iowa fell 13% in the past two weeks, the New York Times reported. Deaths were down 26% and hospitalizations dropped 25%. 

On Thursday, Iowa reported 459 new cases, and 20 deaths. There were 177 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, the Times reported.

The number of tests conducted on a given day in March has ranged from 11,942 to 3,462, according to the newspaper’s database.

Iowa has recorded 369,804 cases and 5,630 deaths since the pandemic started, the state reported. 

The Washington Post reported that in the past week, Iowa has averaged 33,300 doses of vaccine administered per day, up 59% over the week before. At least 22% of the state’s population has had one shot. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two doses. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is a single dose.

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Perry Beeman
Perry Beeman

Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.