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Health

Nursing Home Outbreaks Increase, Largely In Iowa’s Trump-Voting Counties

The five Iowa nursing homes with current, active outbreaks are all based in counties with lower-than-average vaccine acceptance rates.
The five Iowa nursing homes with current, active outbreaks are all based in counties with lower-than-average vaccine acceptance rates.

Five Iowa nursing homes are now in COVID-19 outbreak status, according to state officials, and four of the five are in Trump-supporting counties with low vaccine acceptance rates.

Two weeks ago, there were only two Iowa nursing homes with three or more infections, the level at which state public health officials consider a care facility to have entered “outbreak” status.

The five Iowa nursing homes with current, active outbreaks are all based in counties with lower-than-average vaccine acceptance rates. Four of the five homes are in counties that backed President Trump in the 2020 election.

The biggest outbreak is at the Montrose Health Center in Lee County, where 14 workers and/or residents have been infected in an outbreak that’s now entering its fifth week, according to newly disclosed data from the Iowa Department of Public Health. The vaccination rate in Lee County, where former President Trump claimed 59 percent of the vote in the 2020 election, is 42 percent.

Two surveys by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation have found that Democrats are much more likely to report having been vaccinated than Republicans. Nationally, the political divide separating the vaccinated and the unvaccinated is growing, the foundation reported.

As of last month, the average vaccination rate in Trump counties stood at 35 percent, compared to almost 47 percent in counties that backed President Biden, the foundation reported.

The Iowa counties with the lowest vaccination rates, and their support for President Trump in 2020, are:

  • Davis County, with 31 percent of the population vaccinated. Trump won the county last year with 74 percent of the vote.
  • Decatur County, with 34 percent of the population vaccinated. Trump won the county last year with 69 percent of the vote
  • Lyon County, with 34 percent of the population vaccinated. Trump won the county last year with 83 percent of the vote
  • Van Buren County, with 34 percent of the population vaccinated. Trump won the county last year with 76 percent of the vote
  • Wayne County, with 35 percent of the population vaccinated. Trump won the county last year with 75 percent of the vote
  • Sioux County, with 35 percent of the population vaccinated. Trump won the county last year with 83 percent of the vote

Here’s a look at the five Iowa nursing homes with current, active outbreaks and the counties in which they’re located:

Plymouth County – Kingsley Specialty Care: Outbreak began Aug. 12. So far, eight residents and/or workers are infected. (The home was the site of a previous outbreak that lasted from August 2020 to September 2020 and resulted in 15 infections.) The vaccination rate in Plymouth County, where former President Trump claimed 74 percent of the vote in the 2020 election, is 44 percent.

Black Hawk County – Pinnacle Specialty Care: Outbreak began Aug. 2. So far, five residents and/or workers are infected. (The home was the site of two previous outbreaks that lasted from August 2020 through January 2021 and resulted in a total of 80 infections.) The vaccination rate in Black Hawk County, where former President Trump claimed 45 percent of the vote in the 2020 election, is 50 percent.

Hardin County – Hubbard Care Center: Outbreak began July 27. So far, six residents and/or workers are infected. (The home was the site of a previous outbreak that lasted from October through December of 2020 and resulted in a total of 58 infections.) The vaccination rate in Hardin County, where former President Trump claimed 65 percent of the vote in the 2020 election, is 47 percent.

Lee County – Montrose Health Center: Outbreak began July 25. So far, 14 residents and/or workers are infected. (The home was the site of a previous outbreak that lasted from October through November of 2020 and resulted in a total of 40 infections.) The vaccination rate in Lee County, where former President Trump claimed 59 percent of the vote in the 2020 election, is 42 percent.

Marion County – West Ridge Specialty Care: Outbreak began Aug. 6. So far, 15 residents and/or workers are infected. (The home was the site of two previous outbreaks. The first, from August through October 2002, resulted in nine infections. The second, from December 2020 through February 2021, resulted in 67 infections.) The vaccination rate in Marion County, where former President Trump claimed 66 percent of the vote in the 2020 election, is 44 percent.

A recent outbreak at the state-run Iowa Veterans Home in Marshall County began in late June and reportedly ran its course by July 23. That outbreak infected a total of 10 people, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. The Iowa Veterans Home has had more COVID-19 outbreaks than any other care facility in Iowa, with a total of five that resulted in 146 infections. Marshall County, where Trump claimed 53 percent of the vote in 2020, has a vaccine rate of 53 percent.

The Bleeding Heartland blog reported Tuesday that the veterans home is now in the midst of its sixth outbreak, with the home’s clinical support director reportedly informing families earlier this week that two residents had been moved into the home’s COVID-19 unit and a third had been hospitalized. Additional infections involving five employees have also been reported this week, according to the blog, citing data compiled by Sara Anne Willette.

The latest data from the Iowa Department of Public Health, given to the Iowa Capital Dispatch on Wednesday morning, indicates no current outbreak at the veterans home. An IDPH spokesperson said that report was two days old by the time it was provided, and the agency anticipates including the veterans home in an upcoming update.

According to the IDPH data, a recent outbreak at Webster County’s Marian Home ran its course, after four weeks, on July 22. That outbreak resulted in six infections. Audubon County’s Friendship Home reported 14 infections from a month-long outbreak that ended on July 2.

More than 50 Iowa nursing homes have experienced a COVID-19 outbreak since the vaccine rollout in December.

The Iowa Veterans Home now ranks fourth on the list of Iowa nursing homes with the most COVID-19 infections. The Iowa home with the highest number of infections over the past 18 months is the Good Shepherd Health Center in Cerro Gordo County, where 248 workers or residents have been infected as the result of two separate outbreaks at the home, according to the IDPH data.

This article was republished from Iowa Capital Dispatch.