With 29 active COVID outbreaks, a third of Iowa’s nursing home workers remain unvaccinated

By: - September 24, 2021 1:48 pm

There have been 504 outbreaks of COVID-19 in Iowa nursing homes since the beginning of the pandemic, newly disclosed state records show. (Photo by Clark Kauffman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

At least 284 residents and workers in Iowa nursing homes are infected with COVID-19 as a result of current, ongoing outbreaks in 29 different care facilities. As recently as Aug. 1, there was only one Iowa nursing home with an active COVID-19 outbreak.

According to the federal government, 36% of the workers in Iowa nursing homes remain unvaccinated.

Statewide, 11,675 nursing home residents have been infected with COVID-19 during the pandemic, and according to CMS. That number is equal to 60% of all nursing home residents in the state, according to the federal agency. A total of 2,434 Iowa nursing home residents have died.

Among the 29 Iowa care facilities with current outbreaks, the one with the highest number of infections is also the only state-run skilled nursing facility in Iowa: the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown, where an outbreak that began Aug. 20 has so far resulted in 26 infections, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

This is the sixth outbreak at the Iowa Veterans Home, which is the highest number of outbreaks any care facility in the state. The five previous outbreaks at IVH resulted in 146 infections.

The acting commandant of the home, Penny Cutler-Bermudez, did not immediately respond to questions Friday about the home’s COVID-19 response.

Last December, the home’s then-commandant, Timon Oujiri, said only 21 of the home’s 500 residents had contracted the virus, adding that some residents of the home called the facility’s COVID-19 unit “a 5-star hotel.”

At the time, the total number of infected workers in the home was almost six times higher than the total number of infected residents. Since then, the staff at IVH and other nursing facilities have been slow to accept the vaccine.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, six residents of the veterans home have died of COVID-19, and 29% to 30% of the IVH staff have yet to be vaccinated. Throughout 2021, state officials have said they are encouraging workers to be vaccinated. The percentage of IVH workers refusing the vaccine has not changed dramatically, but has declined from 37% on March 1.

Iowa’s vaccination rate high for nursing home residents, lower for staff

Almost 92% of Iowa’s nursing home residents have been vaccinated. Of the 50 states, only six others have a higher vaccination rate of nursing home residents. However,  Iowa doesn’t fare as well compared to other states when it comes to the workers in nursing homes. According to CMS, only 21 other states have a lower worker vaccine acceptance rate than Iowa’s 64%.

Gov. Kim Reynolds has opposed requiring workers in either state-run or private care facilities to be vaccinated.

On Aug. 18, the Biden administration issued a vaccine mandate for workers at all of the nation’s 15,000 nursing homes that collect Medicare or Medicaid funding. The administration has said it intends to cut off that funding for any home that fails to comply.

Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said an average of 60% of nursing home personnel in the  United States have yet to be vaccinated, a rate they said leaves the care facilities at higher risk for outbreaks among residents and staff.

In response to a formal Open Records Law records request, the Iowa Department of Public Health earlier this week disclosed that these 29 care facilities in Iowa are dealing with a current, active outbreak of COVID-19:

Black Hawk County – Friendship Village Retirement Center: Outbreak began Sept. 13, with three infections to date. A previous outbreak at the facility in the spring of 2020 resulted in 47 infections.

Bremer County – Denver Sunset Home: Outbreak began Sept. 10, with three infections to date. A previous outbreak at the facility last fall resulted in 15 infections.

Clay County – Longhouse-Northshire Ltd.: Outbreak began Aug. 24, with 17 infections to date.

Des Moines County – Oakview Nursing and Rehabilitation Center: Outbreak began Aug. 30, with three infections to date. A previous outbreak at the facility last winter resulted in six infections.

Dickinson County – Pearl Valley Rehab and Nursing at Lake Park: Outbreak began Sept. 8, with six infections to date.

Dubuque County – Ennoble Nursing and Rehabilitation: Outbreak began Aug. 23, with six infections to date. A previous outbreak at the facility last winter resulted in 70 infections.

Fayette County – Maple Crest Manor: Outbreak began Aug. 16, with 13 infections to date.

Hardin County – Scenic Manor: Outbreak began Sept. 7, with seven infections to date. Two previous outbreaks resulted in a total of 13 infections.

Iowa County – English Valley Nursing Care Center: Outbreak began Aug. 31, with 10 infections to date.

Jasper County – Newton Health Care Center: Outbreak began Aug. 17, with three infections to date. A previous outbreak at the facility last summer resulted in 61 infections.

Johnson County – Briarwood Healthcare Center: Outbreak began Sept. 8, with six infections to date. A previous outbreak at the facility last winter resulted in 33 infections.

Lee County – Donnellson Health Center: Outbreak began Aug. 23, with eight infections to date. A previous outbreak at the facility last winter resulted in 14 infections.

Lee County — Mississippi Valley Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center: Outbreak began Sept. 8, with eight infections to date.

Linn County – Cottage Grove Place: Outbreak began Sept. 8, with eight infections to date. Two previous outbreaks resulted in a total of 11 infections.

Linn County – Living Center West: Outbreak began Aug. 30, with nine infections to date. A previous outbreak at the facility in the spring of 2020 resulted in 61 infections.

Linn County – The Gardens of Cedar Rapids: Outbreak began Aug. 23, with five infections to date. A previous outbreak at the facility last winter resulted in 27 infections.

Mahaska County – Crystal Heights Care Center: Outbreak began Aug. 20, with 14 infections to date. A previous outbreak at the facility last summer resulted in 75 infections.

Marshall County – Grandview Heights: Outbreak began Sept. 12, with six infections to date. A previous outbreak at the facility last summer resulted in 79 infections.

Marshall County – Iowa Veterans Home: Outbreak began Aug. 20, with 26 infections to date. This is the sixth outbreak at the state-run home. Previous outbreaks have resulted in 146 infections.

Mills County – On With Life at Glenwood: Outbreak began Sept. 6, with 10 infections to date.

Page County – Accura Healthcare of Shenandoah: Outbreak began Aug. 24, with 11 infections to date.

Page County – Goldenrod Manor: Outbreak began Aug. 23, with 25 infections to date.

Palo Alto County – Palo Alto County Hospital Nursing Facility: Outbreak began Sept. 10, with six infections to date.

Plymouth County – Kingsley Specialty Care: Outbreak began Aug. 13, with 12 infections to date. A previous outbreak at the facility last summer and fall resulted in 15 infections.

Polk County – Sunny View Care Center: Outbreak began Aug. 23, with nine infections to date. A previous outbreak at the facility last winter resulted in seven infections.

Pottawattamie  County – Bethany Lutheran Home: Outbreak began Aug. 30, with 16 infections to date. A previous outbreak at the facility last winter resulted in 86 infections.

Scott County – Iowa Masonic Home: Outbreak began Sept. 13, with three infections to date. Two previous outbreaks at the home resulted in 37 infections.

Scott County – Kahl Home for the Aged and Infirm: Outbreak began Aug. 19, with 22 infections to date. Two previous outbreaks at the home resulted in 31 infections.

Scott County – Riverview Manor Healthcare: Outbreak began Aug. 19, with nine infections to date. A previous outbreak at the home last fall resulted in 59 infections.

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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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