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Iowa Confirms Six Long Term Care Outbreaks, Other Facilities Report COVID-19 Cases

Iowa officials confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks in six long-term care facilities.

Iowa officials said Tuesday six long-term care facilities are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks, which the Iowa Department of Public Health defines as three or more residents testing positive for the new coronavirus.

The state reported 202 positive cases across the six facilities as of Tuesday.

“Despite significant mitigation measures taken early on, including restricting visitors and screening staff at all shifts, the virus has still been introduced into some facilities resulting in devastating consequences,” Gov. Kim Reynolds said this week. 

Newly confirmed outbreaks are at Bartels Lutheran Retirement Community in Waverly with six confirmed cases, Trinity Center at Luther Park in Des Moines with six, and On With Life in Ankeny with 22 confirmed cases.

Previously announced outbreaks include Heritage Specialty Care in Cedar Rapids with 102 cases, the McCreedy Home in Washington with 19 cases, and Premier Estates of Toledo with 47.

Reynolds said IDPH and local public health officials are working with the facilites to ensure they isolate sick residents, assign dedicated staff members to care for them, and monitor all other residents. 

And on Tuesday an IDPH spokesperson said 51 percent of the state’s 49 reported COVID-19 deaths were residents of long-term care facilities.

The state is using the number of long-term care outbreaks, by its definition, as one of the four categories it considers in six-region point system for guiding coronavirus mitigation strategies.

A region with three long-term care outbreaks would be assigned the maximum value of three points in that category. If the four categories add up to at least 10 points in a region, IDPH might recommend a formal shelter-in-place order for that region.

There are additional facilities in Iowa where residents or staff tested positive for COVID-19, but they don’t meet the state’s definition of an outbreak that requires three residents to test positive.

According to Linn County officials, two residents of Linn Manor Care Center in Marion tested positive and died. Three staff members there also tested positive.

Heather Meador with the Linn County Public Health Department disagreed with the state not defining that as an outbreak.

“I would consider this an outbreak because there are five individuals that tested positive, two of which have died,” Meador said. “So we work with them on a daily basis. We also are in touch with the Iowa Department of Public Health, and we are working with them to help with guidance.”

The Iowa Veterans Home, a 500-bed facility in Marshalltown, reported last week that three employees tested positive.

The AP reported Monday that the Kahl Home in Davenport had two employees and one resident test positive.

“Using three cases among residents allows us to be confident that we have confirmed an outbreak associated with a facility setting rather than detecting cases associated with another potential risk factor or source,” IDPH spokesperson Amy McCoy said in an email. “However, we continue to follow up on any report of two or more respiratory illnesses in any facility to assess whether COVID-19, flu or other illnesses might be affecting a facility.”

Bickford Senior Living in Iowa City is reporting three total cases and two active cases on its website, but the state does not consider senior or assisted living facilities to be long-term care facilities.

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter
Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter