Health Care

4 long-term care facility workers, resident test positive

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Dr. Gregory Poland of the Mayo Clinic and immunogenetic expert suggests nursing homes need better training and practices.

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Five people at four long-term care facilities in Iowa have tested positive for coronavirus, according to a health care group.

Four of the cases involve employees and one case involves a resident at one of these facilities.

The Iowa Health Care Association confirmed to the Des Moines Register on Wednesday that five individuals at four long-term care providers — either a nursing home or assisted living facility — have tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus. Health Care Association officials reported the information to the state, spokeswoman Lori Ristau said.

The facilities are located in Dubuque, Linn, Poweshiek and Washington counties.

► More: The latest on coronavirus in Iowa

► More Tuesday: Eastern Iowan state’s first COVID-19 death — a 61- to 80-year-old from Dubuque County

The Washington County case involves a worker at the Pleasantview Home in Kalona. Residents of that retirement community received an email Saturday evening notifying them that the employee worked in the care center, but not directly with residents.

The person contracted COVID-19 through “community spread,” the email obtained by the Des Moines Register said, and has not been in the facility since first showing signs of illness. The email also said that people had been called about the positive test before the email went out.

“(The coronavirus) is in our community, so it is time to heighten precautions,” Pleasantview residents were told. The email said the name of the person who tested positive for the virus was not public “even to us.”

Pleasantview had already restricted visitors and begun screening staff. Group meals and activities had been discontinued.

► More: Track the coronavirus spread in Iowa and across the U.S. in maps and graphics

Those individuals impacted are receiving medical care and will remain in isolation for at least 14 days, according to Brent Willett, president and CEO of the Iowa Health Care Association.

“All four facilities are in contact with all staff and resident family members and are doing everything they can to support them,” he said in a statement.

Amy McCoy, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Public Health, said the state agency has provided guidance to nursing homes and retirement facilities regarding best practices to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

“That includes guidance on what to do when situations arise,” McCoy wrote in an email to the Des Moines Register. “IDPH will continue to serve as a resource and help in any way possible to keep residents in these facilities safe.”

► MORE: ‘He doesn’t want to die without me’: Spouses fear isolation, loneliness for loved ones as nursing homes lock down

In recent weeks, long-term care facilities cited federal guidelines in limiting visitations because of the coronavirus outbreak. Willett said in his statement that the cases show the screening process of staff and residents “are working.”

“These screening processes enabled facilities to detect these cases quickly and respond … they have implemented protective protocols, notified residents, families and staff members and contacted public health officials,” he said.

“We respectfully ask the public not to attempt to visit long-term care facilities at this time,” he said.

COVID-19 cases have been reported in each of the 50 states and around the world.

One of the initial outbreaks in this country included a nursing home in Washington State. Several of its residents have died in recent weeks. Such facilities typically house older people who may be more susceptible to serious illness because they have compromised immune systems.

Iowa reported its first coronavirus-related death, an older Dubuque County resident, on Tuesday.

Also Tuesday, the Cedar Rapids Gazette reported that two employees at Cedar Rapids-based nursing home Heritage Specialty Care had tested positive for COVID-19.

The workers had not been at the facility since at least Friday and started to feel symptoms on Monday, a spokesperson for the facility told the Gazette. Officials with the facility have notified the Iowa Department of Public Health and were starting to notify residents’ families. The employees are not being identified, and officials did not tell the Gazette if they were directly involved in patient care.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Barbara Rodriguez covers health care and politics for the Register. She can be reached by email at bcrodriguez@registermedia.com or by phone at 515-284-8011. Follow her on Twitter @bcrodriguez.

Mark Emmert covers rural life and the coronavirus for the Register. Reach him at memmert@registermedia.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.

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