A third outbreak of COVID-19 at a long-term care facility in Linn County was reported on Thursday. ManorCare Health Services, a nursing home in Cedar Rapids, has 10 confirmed cases among its residents and staff, according to Linn County Public Health.
Iowa currently has 12 long-term care facilities across the state experiencing outbreaks. The Iowa Department of Health defines an outbreak as three or more residents testing positive for the virus.
Earlier this month, reporters asked IDPH why their definition of an outbreak due to COVID-19 is different from a flu outbreak where “one laboratory-confirmed influenza positive case along with other cases of respiratory illness” is an outbreak. IDPH Deputy Director Sarah Reisetter’s answer did not explain why there is a discrepancy in the definitions.
The cases at long-term care facilities in the state make up 10 percent of Iowa’s total confirmed cases of COVID-19. As of Thursday, 404 of the state’s 3,924 cases are at long-term care facilities, and 51 percent of the state’s deaths were nursing home residents.
In Linn County, those numbers are greater. In addition to the outbreak at ManorCare, Linn County has confirmed outbreaks at Heritage Specialty Care in Cedar Rapids and Linn Manor Care Center in Marion. Together, the three nursing homes have 141 residents and staff who have tested positive and 27 residents who have died.
As of 1 p.m. on Thursday, there were 507 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 33 deaths in Linn County. (The Iowa Department of Public Health was only reporting 479 cases and 29 deaths among Linn County residents on Thursday, but the IDPH’s reporting has a one-day time-lag.)
Long-term care facilities make up 28 percent of Linn County’s total confirmed cases and 82 percent of the county’s deaths due to the virus.
“Unfortunately, a nursing home is just almost a breeding ground for something like this to happen because of the individuals that are there, and again, this virus spreads very quickly,” LCPH’s Clinical Services Supervisor Heather Meador said at a press conference on April 13.
At a presser on Thursday, Meador said LCPH is in daily communication with long-term care facilities in the county. LCPH is also providing assistance to “multiple congregate living homes and facilities,” Meador said. She did not name the group homes.
“Vulnerable populations reside in these settings and require a number of people to care for them,” Meador said. “We are working with the Iowa Association of Community Providers in regards to group homes within Linn County. We want to stress the importance of restricting the number of individuals, staff, family, friends or others that are entering long-term care facilities and group homes. Every interaction that you have is a potential exposure to COVID-19.”
Meador also said LCPH has been receiving questions about Gov. Kim Reynolds’ new testing initiative, Test Iowa. She directed people with questions to visit the Test Iowa website or call the governor’s office at 515-281-5211.
“We want you to know that Linn County Public Health was not involved in the planning or implementation of Test Iowa, and we learned about the new testing option during the governor’s press conference,” Meador said. “We have fielded many inquiries as a Test Iowa assessment indicates that some Linn County residents should have a COVID-19 test, but there’s currently no way for them to register. Our method continues to be to encourage all Iowans to not wait for Test Iowa if they are experiencing symptoms of illness. Please contact your health care provider.”