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Iowa's First COVID-19 Cases Confirmed One Year Ago Today

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Katarina Sostaric
/
IPR
It was one year ago, on March 8, 2020, that Gov. Kim Reynolds announced confirmation of the first cases of COVID-19 in Iowa.

It was one year ago, on March 8, 2020, that Gov. Kim Reynolds announced confirmation of the first cases of COVID-19 in Iowa.

Dr. Nicholas Mohr was working in the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics’ intensive care unit the night the first COVID-19 patient was admitted to the hospital.

“We had a group of nurses and physicians who had been training and preparing for that to happen, but when our first patient came, obviously knew that it was starting and we really didn’t know what the next year was going to hold,” Mohr said this weekend.

The first death of an Iowan who had contracted the virus was announced March 24. By early April, one in 10 cases of COVID-19 in Iowa were among nursing home residents or staff.

“When I think back over the last year, I think about what the preparation of those first few weeks looked like and just kind of the uncertainty because we had watched what happened in New York and what happened in Italy,” Dr. Mohr told Radio Iowa, “and we had no idea what that trajectory was going to look like in Iowa.”

As of this weekend, state officials have confirmed 5,558 Iowans have died after contracting COVID-19. By Sunday night, more than 860,000 Iowans have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“The end is coming,” Mohr said. “We look forward to a time when we can see our friends and families again. We look forward to a time when we can do all the things that we did before COVID, but right now it’s still really important that we’re following all of the same precautions until we can get all of our communities vaccinated and until our friends and family can be safe.”

By early April of last year, one in 10 cases of COVID-19 in Iowa were among nursing home residents or staff. As of Sunday, the state’s coronavirus website shows nursing home residents account for 39 percent of the COVID-related deaths in Iowa.

Brent Willett is president of the Iowa Health Care Association, which represents the 434 nursing homes in Iowa.

“More then 2,400 people residing in nursing homes and around 35 staff members lost their life to COVID in the last year,” he told Radio Iowa, “which is a completely unprecedented circumstance in the history of our sector and it’s probably fair to say there’s still a lot of shell shock out there.”

Everyone who lives or works in a nursing home who wanted to be vaccinated has gotten a shot now. Willett said conversations are underway about how to prepare for the next infectious disease outbreak.

“For example, I think that we need to have a deep conversation about how we regulate and resource infection control preventionists in long-term care facilities,” Willett said. “It’s a critical, critical position. We have them now. We need more of them and we need to find a way to ensure that they can be more active and more proactive in planning for these kind of eventualities in the future.”

On Sunday evening, the state website tracking coronavirus activity indicated there were COVID outbreaks at 10 Iowa nursing homes. On the last day of November, 155 nursing homes had outbreaks.