Two residents of a Marion nursing home have died, three employees test positive for COVID-19

Linn County Public Health’s Heather Meador at a press conference on Monday, April 13. — video still

Two residents of Linn Manor Care Center, a nursing home in Marion, have died from COVID-19 and three employees have tested positive for the virus. But according to the Iowa Department of Health, the facility is not experiencing an outbreak of COVID-19. IDPH defines an outbreak as three or more residents of a long-term care facility testing positive for COVID-19.

At a Linn County Public Health press conference on Monday, LCPH Clinical Services Supervisor Heather Meador was asked about that definition and whether she thinks there is an outbreak at Linn Manor.

“Yes, I would consider this an outbreak because there are five individuals that tested positive, two of which have died,” Meador said.

As of Monday afternoon, Meador said there are 265 COVID-19 cases confirmed in Linn County and 20 deaths. The number of cases and deaths in Linn County is higher than what IDPH reported on Monday, because there is a lag-time of one to two days in the data IDPH reports, while Meador was relying on numbers LCPH had reported as of 1 p.m. Monday.

COVID-19 Press Conference, April 13th, 2020 3:30PM

Now streamed live on Facebook, YouTube and local news sites.

Posted by Linn County Public Health on Monday, April 13, 2020

Linn Manor Care Center is the second nursing home in Linn County that has reported positive cases of COVID-19. The first was Heritage Specialty Care, a long-term care facility in Cedar Rapids. Together, the two nursing homes make up the majority of the county’s deaths due to the virus.

As of Monday, Heritage has 102 residents and staff who have tested positive, and 17 residents have died.

When asked about the possibility of closing down or evacuating Heritage, Meador said that conversation has not happened.

“Anything is an option, and I don’t think we would take anything off the plate, but again, we’d be in consultation with the facility, with the Iowa Department of Public Health and with our local leaders to determine what would be needed,” Meador said. “That conversation has not occurred at this point in time.”

“There’s been no discussion of shutting them down,” she added. “They are working very, very hard and very diligently to care for the residents, for their staff. They have put every procedure in place that we have recommended. So we will continue to work with them on this. It is a very unfortunate incident, but they are working very, very hard to mitigate the situation.”

LCPH is monitoring the other long-term care facilities in the county, and Meador said no other positive test results have come back from other facilities.

Meador said those facilities fill out a survey to let LCPH know how much personal protective equipment (PPE) they have and if residents or staff are sick. The facilities have also limited visitors.

“When we’re looking at a nursing home, you’re looking at individuals that are older and have multiple health issues, you are looking at individuals that live very closely together, and then you also have health care workers,” Meador said. “We know that health care workers are at high risk for contracting this virus, and so you have one area where you have people that are at high risk, both professionally and for people that live there.”

“So, 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.”

Asked when Linn County might see its peak, Meador said, “we won’t know until after we’ve hit that peak.” She mentioned the importance of “flattening the curve” to ease the burden on hospitals and health care works but also how flattening the curve lengthens how long it will take to get through the pandemic.

At an LCPH press conference on March 30, Dr. Tony Myers of Mercy Medical Center estimated a peak in three to four weeks, which would be the end of April.

At Monday’s press conference, Myers gave an update on personal protective equipment at Mercy. Last Friday, IDPH issued a PPE order to address current and anticipated shortages of the supplies.

The order calls for health care providers to minimize patient contact when possible, shorten the stay of COVID-19 patients in hospitals where PPE is in short supply and reuse normally single-use PPE in the case of extreme shortages.

Myers said Mercy is in a “relatively good spot right now.” He attributed this to flattening the curve, donations of cloth masks and using the cloth masks for visitors and hospital workers who don’t have direct patient care.

“I would say right now, and again this is kind of day-to-day always, but we are in a better position now than we were even two weeks ago,” Myers said.

Mercy Cedar Rapids employees are wearing hand made masks as they are screening people coming into the hospital on March 24. — photo provided by Karen Vander Sanden, Mercy’s public relations specialist.

Myers also seemed optimistic about the trends he’s seen regarding the number of available beds and patient discharge at Mercy.

The hospital admitted its first COVID-19 patient more than three weeks ago, and since then, there have been 38 COVID-19 patients admitted.

He said several people who were critically ill and on ventilators have been successfully taken off the ventilators, and one of them went home today. Overall, a little more than one-third of patients have gone home, Myers added.

The average hospital stay has been six days. During the last 10 days, there have been anywhere from one to five admissions per day, but on average, there have been about two patients admitted per day.

“Even though two patients a day may not seem like too much, that’s two patients stacking up every day,” Myers said. “That said, though, very reassured by those numbers. That’s completely within the capacity of both intensive care, ventilation and just beds in the hospital as we map this out over the next three weeks. If we can continue to do this, then we should be in really good shape as far as critical care capacity goes until this should start to go down.”

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