CORONAVIRUS

7 new coronavirus outbreaks at Iowa long-term care facilities

Nine more deaths reported, bringing total to 136

Roberta Maas (left) of Watkins and her younger brother, Mark, walk up to their mom's window April 16 to visit her in her
Roberta Maas (left) of Watkins and her younger brother, Mark, walk up to their mom’s window April 16 to visit her in her room at Heritage Specialty Care in Cedar Rapids. The facility, one of 23 care facilities in Iowa with COVID-19 outbreaks, is closed to the public. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

JOHNSTON — State public health officials on Tuesday reported seven new outbreaks of COVID-19 at long-term care facilities and nine additional deaths among older Iowans due to the coronavirus.

Gov. Kim Reynolds announced outbreaks at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown, two each at care facilities in Polk and Jasper counties and one each at facilities in Dallas and Dubuque counties — bringing to 23 the number of care facilities battling COVID-19 cases affecting elderly residents and employees.

The governor said long-term care “strike teams” were being deployed across the state to conduct surveillance testing among the health care workers at those facilities.

Reynolds also said seven of the nine deaths reported in Iowa in the past 24 hours have taken place at long-term care facilities.

Iowa’s death toll from coronavirus now stands at 136.

In the latest report, 508 Iowans tested positive for the virus, bringing the overall count to 6,376 statewide.

The governor noted that most of Tuesday’s positive cases occurred in the 22 counties that remain under the social-distancing emergency executive order.

Reynolds on Monday eased restrictions in 77 Iowa counties where COVID-19 has not been as active, allowing restaurants, malls and other businesses to begin reopening Friday, with some limitations,

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“This is all part of turning down the dial, and we will continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19,” said Sarah Reisetter, deputy director of the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Of the total positive cases in Iowa, 941 are in Black Hawk County, followed by 813 in Polk County, 695 in Woodbury County, 632 in Linn County, 448 in Johnson County, 434 in Marshall County and 319 in Muscatine County.

The Woodbury County total was up 200 — or 40 percent — in one day and included 26 infected children.

Reynolds reported Tuesday that 1,165 Iowans had negative COVID-19 tests — bringing that total to 33,447.

One out of every 79 Iowans has been tested for coronavirus since the first COVID-19 was reported in Iowa on March 8. Also, 2,159 Iowans have recovered from their symptoms for a recovery rate of 34 percent, health officials said.

The deaths involved four elderly residents of Polk County (three aged 81 or older and one older, 61-80); two older Iowans (61-80) in Linn County; and three individuals aged 81 or older in Black Hawk, Muscatine and Story counties.

According to public health data, 304 Iowans were hospitalized for coronavirus-related illnesses and symptoms, with 98 in intensive care units and 64 needing ventilators to aid their breathing.

Reynolds said more than 39,000 Iowans have been tested as the state ramps up its testing program. She urged Iowans to go TestIowa.com for an assessment and possible testing at a drive-by site as a way to help health officials determine disease activity and to target responses.

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The state began testing in Des Moines last weekend and plans to open a second TestIowa site on Wednesday at the Crossroads Center mall in Waterloo.

The testing “is prioritized for essential workers and people who currently have symptoms of COVID-19 or contact with people who have had it,” Reynolds said.

Also during Tuesday’s briefing, the governor discussed new guidelines the state has put in place for restaurants in the 77 Iowa counties given approval to reopen at 5 a.m. Friday but at 50 percent of normal seating capacity, with at least 6 feet separating tables.

“You know, many Iowans have missed their favorite local restaurant, and they’re curious about how the experience will be different and whether it will be safe,” Reynolds said.

Reisetter said in-person dining should be by reservation only and no more than six people should be allowed to sit at a table.

Also, establishments are being urged to follow social distancing and hygiene guidelines — such as employees wearing masks that are laundered and replaced daily — with no customer self-service of food, including buffets and salad bars.

Also, restaurants that reopen are to eliminate seating in bar areas where customers sit close together.

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Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please donate. Your contribution will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.

All donations are tax-deductible.