CORONAVIRUS

Iowa Veterans Home reports positive coronavirus cases

Staff being tested

The Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
The Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Heightened precautions are being taken at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown after residents there tested positive for COVID-19.

Two residents — one Friday and one Saturday — tested positive and 70 tested negative, Commandant Timon Oujiri wrote in an email Saturday. Both have been transferred to the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Des Moines where there is an infectious disease team.

“After a resident tests positive, IVH tests all residents in the household and those tests are ongoing,” he wrote. “IVH is continually in communication with family members.”

Medical Director Joe Hoagbin acknowledged that IVH residents fall into high-risk categories because of age and many having chronic medical conditions.

“We want to ensure that every measure is put in place,” he said in a memo to staff that was shared with the media by AFSCME, the union representing IVH workers.

The union was critical of the steps the Veterans Home had taken to deal with COVID-19.

“The precautions that management took prior to this incident were a joke,” AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan said in his email to media.

Before Thursday, 118 were tested, 108 negative, 10 positive because of presenting symptoms of COVID-19.

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To date, 246 staff members have been tested, Oujiri said. Of 118 tested because they presented COVID-19 symptoms before Thursday, 10 were positive. IVH has begun volunteer testing for all 900 staff. The first batch of 128 was sent to the State Hygienic Lab on Friday. Only one was positive. Testing will continue until all staff, all shifts and all schedules have had an opportunity to be tested. Staff who test positive will be placed off work for a minimum of 21 days.

All staff are expected to wear a surgical mask and face shield or goggles at all times upon entry at the screening station at IVH, Oujiri said. All staff who care for residents in isolation wear full PPE including N95 masks and gowns. All staff have been provided education on proper use of PPE including proper hand-washing.

No visitors have been allowed as of March 14 except in end-of-life situations, Oujiri said. In those cases, the one visitor per resident allowed must be screened and provided full personal protective equipment. IVH has followed CDC and IDPH guidelines to protect residents and staff to limit the spread, he added.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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