With staff vaccinations still lagging, new nursing home outbreaks appear

By: - November 29, 2021 3:46 pm

Three new COVID-19 outbreaks were reported in Iowa nursing homes last week. (Credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Rocky Mountain Lab)

Three new COVID-19 outbreaks were reported in Iowa nursing homes last week.

Currently, there are 27 Iowa nursing homes in outbreak status, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health, which means that each has had at least three staffers and/or residents infected as a result of a current, active outbreak.

There are a total of 259 infections associated with those 27 outbreaks. The week before, Iowa reported 29 active outbreaks that had resulted in 275 infections.

The three new outbreaks are at Fremont County’s Tabor County Manor Care Center, where there are four infections; Cerro Gordo County’s Rockwell Community Nursing Home, also the site of four infections; and Hamilton County’s Stratford Specialty Care Center, where there have been six infections tied to the current outbreak.

The Iowa nursing homes that have seen the biggest recent spike in infections are Clayton County’s Guttenburg Care Center, where the number of infections increased last week from three to 12; and Pottawattamie County’s Avoca Specialty Care Center, where infections have increased last week from 20 to 27.

According to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, there have been 16 confirmed resident deaths at the Guttenburg Care Center due to COVID-19.

In fact, the total number of confirmed deaths at the home due to the virus equals 471 per 1,000 residents of the home – a death rate that is approaching 50% of the facility’s average resident population. (The home had a total of 30 residents when visited by state inspectors in April of this year.)

The CMS data also indicates that during the pandemic the number of infected residents at the Guttenburg facility has greatly exceeded the average number of residents. In all, there have been 1,911 confirmed resident infections at the home for every 1,000 residents, CMS says.

About 85% of the staff at the Guttenburg home are fully vaccinated, according to CMS.

At Avoca Specialty Care, only 64% of the staff are fully vaccinated. There has been one confirmed resident death at the home, which translates to a rate of 23 deaths per 1,000 residents of the Avoca facility.

Iowa’s biggest active nursing home outbreak is at the English Valley Nursing Care Center in Iowa County, where there are 44 infections associated with the current outbreak.

According to the CMS, there have been four resident deaths at the home due to COVID-19. The agency’s data indicates that during the pandemic, there have been 1,280 confirmed resident infections for every 1,000 residents of English Valley.

While 96% of the residents of at English Valley have been fully vaccinated, only 80% of the staff have been fully vaccinated, according to CMS.

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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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