The novel coronavirus has recently infected nearly all the residents of a nursing home in Amana, an indication of the impacts a broad community spread of the highly contagious disease can have on long-term care facilities, its officials say.
Among the 42 residents living at Colonial Manor in Amana, 36 have tested positive for COVID-19 over the past few weeks. In addition, 25 members of the staff have tested positive.
The first positive test occurred Sept. 22, said Administrator Tanya Powell. As of Tuesday morning, roughly a month later, 19 residents and 17 staff infected with the virus have recovered.
“The health and safety of our residents and staff is very important to me,” Powell said. “Infection control is part of what we do every day, and something we have trained to manage. Yet COVID-19 has been unlike any other virus we have seen.”
Colonial Manor is one of 65 long-term care facilities across Iowa experiencing an outbreak as of Tuesday morning, according to the state’s coronavirus tracking database.
Powell told The Gazette that Colonial Manor officials are following federal and state recommendations to eradicate the spread of COVID-19, including virus tests for all staff and residents twice a week.
But when asked how the virus could have infected almost all of its residents in less than a month, Powell pointed out that studies have shown that virus activity in a long-term care facility “is often linked to the level of COVID-19 activity in the surrounding community.”
“Unfortunately, as has been the case in thousands of nursing homes around the country, the spread of the virus is very difficult to contain when introduced into a congregate setting,” she said.
COVID-19 hospitalizations across Iowa have reached record totals over the past week or so, and daily positive cases of COVID-19 continue to rise across the state.
On Tuesday morning, the state reported the highest hospitalization rate in a 24-hour period with 501 COVID-19 patients in hospitals. Iowa also saw 754 new cases from the day before.
Colonial Manor, the for-profit facility on 220th Trail in Amana, is certified for 60 nursing home beds in total, according to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. CMS reports that Colonial Manor has an above average health inspection rating.
During its most recent inspection in June 2019, the facility received two health citations — which is below the state’s average of six citations per facility. Of its two citations in 2019, one was a result of staff failing to follow appropriate infection control measures while administering eye drops to a resident.
All staff and residents at Colonial Manor are tested for COVID-19 “every three to seven days,” Powell said, a policy that will continue until there are no new positive tests over a 14-day period.
In addition to twice weekly testing, Colonial Manor officials also are mandating daily temperature checks of staff and routine screenings for symptoms. Staff members are also wearing full personal protective gear — including masks, face shields and gowns — around residents.
“We have learned a lot more about this virus since it first emerged in Iowa in March,” Powell said. “We have seen over time that as infection rates rise in the community, it is inevitable that more long-term care facilities will be impacted.”
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She continued, “At the same time, we have learned much more about how to combat it. We also have far more tools and resources available now to combat it than were available in March.”
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