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Long-Term Care Centers in Tama, Washington Counties Have Outbreaks Of COVID-19

kim reynolds
Olivia Sun
The Des Moines Register via AP, pool
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds holds a news conference regarding COVID-19 at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston, Iowa, Monday, April 6, 2020.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Monday that two more long-term care centers are working to contain outbreaks of COVID-19 among residents and staff. She did not name the centers, but said one is in Tama County and another is in Washington County. That follows news last week that an outbreak was in progress at Heritage Specialty Care in Cedar Rapids.

A facility is considered to have an outbreak when at least three residents have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Reynolds said outbreaks among residents of the facilities were a concern early on.

“We have an older population, we have over 444 long-term care facilities and we knew that they would be the most vulnerable based on the data that we were receiving as we moved through the COVID-19 crisis,” Reynolds said at her Monday press conference.

Ten percent of confirmed COVID-19 illnesses across the state are residents or staff members of long-term care facilities, Reynolds said, and residents account for 48 percent of deaths from the illness in Iowa.

The state restricted visitors at long-term care centers on March 10. According to Iowa Department of Public Health deputy director Sarah Reisetter, the latest guidance from the state directs facilities to use eye protection and face masks whenever staff members are with residents. Centers with an outbreak must also use gowns and gloves.

Staff members are screened for fevers and coughs at the beginning and end of each shift and sent home if they become ill, Reisetter said. If there is an outbreak, workers are divided so that they work only with residents who have COVID-19 or residents who are healthy, not both.

“They are walking through this with us on a daily basis to ensure they’re doing everything they can to prevent the spread of infection within those facilities,” Reisetter said.

Reisetter added that the centers are told to screen patients daily for cough or fever and to isolate them in their own rooms if they show any signs of coronavirus.

Grant Gerlock is a reporter covering Des Moines and central Iowa