Gov. Reynolds says 10 percent of Iowa’s COVID-19 cases are related to nursing homes (Updated)

Gov. Reynolds delivers her Monday, April 6 COVID-19 address. — video still

Update: Late Monday afternoon, the Press-Citizen reported that a resident of the Bickford Senior Living Center in Iowa City has tested positive for COVID-19. It’s the first publicly reported case of the virus in a Johnson County long-term-care facility.


Gov. Kim Reynolds began her Monday press conference on the state’s response to COVID-19 by reviewing some of the statistics from last week.

There were 444 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Iowa last week, and 16 Iowans died from the virus.

“Unfortunately, we expect this week will be equally, if not more, difficult,” Reynolds said.

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported 78 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the state’s total to 946. The new cases include 12 residents of Johnson County and 14 residents of Linn County.

• Allamakee County, 1 adult (18-40 years)

• Benton County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)

• Cedar County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)

• Cerro Gordo County, 2 older adults (61-80 years)

• Chickasaw County, 1 adult (18-40 years)

• Clinton County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)

• Crawford County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)

• Dubuque County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)

• Franklin County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)

• Henry County, 1 adult (18-40 years)

• Jackson County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)

• Johnson County, 5 adults (18-40 years), 6 middle-age adults (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)

• Linn County, 5 adults (18-40 years), 6 middle-age adults (41-60 years), 2 older adults (61-80 years), 1 elderly adult (81+)

• Louisa County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)

• Marion County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)

• Marshall County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)

• Muscatine County, 5 adults (18-40 years), 2 middle-age adults (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)

• Page County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)

• Polk County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years), 2 older adults (61-80 years)

• Pottawattamie County, 1 adult (18-40 years)

• Scott County, 2 adults (18-40 years), 7 middle age adults (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80), 1 elderly adult (81+)

• Tama County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 1 middle age adult (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80), 3 elderly adults (81+)

• Wapello County, 1 adult (18-40 years)

• Warren County, 1 adult (18-40 years)

• Washington County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 1 middle age adult (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80)

• Winnebago County, 1 middle age adult (41-60 years)

IDPH also reported three more COVID-19 deaths on Monday. One of the deceased was a resident of Linn County, between the ages of 61 and 80. The other two were residents of Tama County, and both were 81 or older. The newly reported deaths bring the state’s total of COVID-19 fatalities to 25.

At her press conference, Reynolds said 10 percent of the state’s confirmed cases were long-term care facility residents or workers. According to the governor, 71 of Linn County’s current 176 cases are directly related to an outbreak at Heritage Specialty Care, a nursing home in Cedar Rapids.

“And 48 percent of our deaths have been residents of long-term care facilities,” the governor added.

Reynolds said, “two additional outbreaks have been identified in long-term care facilities in Tama and Washington counties.”

IDPH defines an outbreak as three or more residents of a facility testing positive for COVID-19.

According to Iowa Capital Dispatch, six long-term care facilities in Iowa had reported at least on case of COVID-19 involving either a resident or a member of staff by March 30.

IDPH has told reporters information on the spread of COVID-19 in the state’s more than 440 long-term care facilities is confidential, except for the county of the outbreak’s location and number of residents affected. Heritage Specialty Care was identified as the location of the Linn County outbreak by the Gazette, and confirmed by a statement by the West Des Moines-based company that owns the facility.

During her press conference, the governor said, the state’s long-term care facilities “were extremely proactive very early on, reaching out to us to coordinate and work together to protect a very, very vulnerable population.”

“As early as March 10, we met with the long-term care facilities associations to talk about what they were doing, what we are recommending to make sure that we were prepared and ready,” Reynolds said. “And as early as March 10, they started restricting visitors, except for end-of-life circumstances.” (On March 13, the federal government made the restriction on visitors mandatory for any facility that receives Medicare or Medicaid funds.)

March 10 was two days after the first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Iowa (the first confirmed case in the United States was reported on Jan. 20), but four days before there was proof of community spread of the virus in the state.

Since then, Reynolds has ordered all long-term care facilities to screen all employees for fever and cough or breathing problem at the start and end of shifts.

IDPH has also provided the following guidance to the state’s long-term care facilities to limit the spread of COVID-19, IDPH Deputy Director Sarah Reisetter explained at the press conference.

• Immediately send home any employee that becomes ill

• Isolate all symptomatic residents in single rooms

• Divide staff, so that only specifically designated staff members are working with ill residents

• Employees should use face masks and eye protection for all resident care

• Consider gown and glove use for all resident care, especially in facilities with outbreaks

• Screen all patients for fever and cough or breathing problems daily

• Coordinate with local health departments, EMS and hospitals to plan for “higher care needs,” including how and where to transfer patients

• Work with local public health agencies to ensure test kits are readily available to test any resident who becomes symptomatic

• Identify any other healthcare facilities where members of staff work. IDPH recommends staff not work in other facilities, if possible.

• Establish a communication plan with staff, residents, families, public health agencies, as well as members of the general public

Compliance with the guidelines is currently being done on a voluntary basis by the facilities.

After Reseitter finished listing the guidelines, Reynolds said she wanted to emphasize that “our long-term care facilities are doing everything they can to make sure that they’re taking care of their residents.”

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