While the number of people hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19 in Iowa fell slightly in the past 24 hours, the number of outbreaks in the state’s nursing homes is taking a huge leap.
Late this morning, Governor Kim Reynolds announced 20 additional nursing homes are reporting outbreaks among residents, with outbreaks now at 114 facilities statewide:
“News of long-term care outbreaks is very concerning as it impacts our most vulnerable population,” Reynolds said, “and as we saw earlier this year, the consequences of Covid-19 can be devastating for residents and their families.”
The state is currently reporting 972 nursing home residents have died of the virus this year. The governor is allocating an additional $14 million for nursing homes to use for testing supplies and to hire more staff.
New state guidelines let nursing homes assign staff who’ve tested positive for Covid to care for patients who are also Covid positive. Plus, in what’s described as a “last resort” nursing homes may let staff who have an active case of Covid care for patients who do not have the virus, if the staffer is wearing protective gear like a face mask. The governor mentioned these moves during a news conference this morning.
“In an effort to more effectively assist long term care facilities with staffing concerns, the state has provided updated guidance on preparation and implementation of emergency staffing plans,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds indicated the state website will be updated soon to show how many more nursing home residents have tested positive in the past 14 days. It’s unclear when the outbreaks at the 20 nursing homes identified today started, but Dr. Caitlyn Pedati, the state epidemiologist, said it shouldn’t be a surprise since the total number of coronavirus cases in Iowa is spiking.
“We saw almost 30,000 cases reported to us last week and so when we think about what the definition of outbreak that we’ve used in a long-term care setting, right — looking for three or more (cases of Covid) — as you see that increase in volume and as we’ve said before, we’ve unfortunately sort of seen this across the board and so this is a reflection of sort of increasing activity that you know we’ve been identified of and worked with our facilities to keep track of and we’ll be sharing,” she told reporters.
Nursing homes may draw from the state’s PPE stockpile of face masks, gowns and other protective gear if there’s an outbreak at the facility. Other nursing homes can request PPE from the stockpile, but those requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
(This post was updated at 2:10 p.m. with additional information.)