Governor Reynolds.

Governor Kim Reynolds today reported 43 Iowans have died of COVID-19 so far this spring and 53 percent of those who’ve died of the virus were residents of a nursing home.

“This is why it has been so important that we prioritize testing for essential workers and vulnerable Iowans,” Reynolds said during her daily news conference.

There are 444 long-term care facilities in Iowa. State officials have confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks at nursing homes in Washington, Toledo and Cedar Rapids. The governor today said new machines that can produce testing results in as little as five minutes are being sent to some of the nursing homes.

“When an essential worker tests positive for COVID-19, local public health officials are able to conduct contract tracing,” Reynolds said, “to determine any potential exposures that may have occurred and isolate those individuals as soon as possible those to prevent further spread of the virus.”

The governor issued an order in March that requires nursing home staff to undergo health care screening and have their temperatures taken at the start and end of each shift.

“You’re more than caregivers. You’re heroes on the front line of this crisis and I know this situation is especially difficult for you,” Reynolds said today, “so thank you for showing up every day with compassion and integrity and for caring for your residents as you would your own family.”

During this morning’s news conference, Reynolds was asked about potential COVID-19 outbreaks at meatpacking plants in Tama and Louisa Counties. She indicated a machine has been sent to one of the plants, but she did not specify which one.

“In addition, they were able to send additional swabs to work with the local public health and the facility’s public health team to administer those so that we could start to get some sense of again who was testing positive and negative,” Reynolds said, “and to start to do the contact tracing to start to understand the scope of the exposures.”

The latest state report indicates 79 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Louisa County. A week ago, managers of the Tyson plant in Louisa County announced more than two dozen workers had tested positive. Earlier this month, the beef packing plant in Tama temporarily suspended operations after one employee tested positive for COVID-19.

Today’s state report indicates 101 Tama County residents have tested positive for the virus. State officials have identified a COVID-19 outbreak at the Premier Estates nursing home in Toledo, which is in Tama County, but the number of cases associated with the facility has not been made public.