CORONAVIRUS

Linn County coronavirus cases linked to outbreak in Cedar Rapids long-term care facility

Heritage Specialty Care confirmed cases among residents, staff last week

Twenty-one of Linn County's 71 total cases as of Monday are directly related to an outbreak within a local long-term car
Twenty-one of Linn County’s 71 total cases as of Monday are directly related to an outbreak within a local long-term care facility, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Monday. (Zach Boyden-Holmes/Des Moines Register)

CEDAR RAPIDS — An outbreak in Heritage Specialty Care, a long-term care facility in Cedar Rapids, is “directly related” to a jump in the number of COVID-19 cases in Linn County, public health officials confirmed Monday.

Following the state’s announcement of additional COVID-19 cases, Linn County went from just three cases to 71 total cases in a little more than a week, becoming the county with the highest number of cases in the state.

And with two deaths as of Monday, Linn County also has the highest number of novel coronavirus-related fatalities in the state.

“We’ve said from beginning of this situation, we’re going to see more cases and that’s going to continue. We’re going to see more and more cases come through and that’s because of our interaction with each other,” said Heather Meador, Linn County Public Health clinical services branch supervisor, during a Monday news conference.

Twenty-one of Linn County’s 71 total cases as of Monday are directly related to an outbreak — or an instance of three or more residents testing positive for the novel coronavirus — within a Cedar Rapids facility, Gov. Kim Reynolds said during her news conference Monday afternoon.

The governor’s office confirmed to the Des Moines Register after the conference that Heritage Specialty Care as the facility that she referred to.

Heritage Specialty Care, a nursing home located at 200 Clive Dr. SW, confirmed to The Gazette this past week that it had cases among its residents and employees. On Tuesday of last week, two members of staff had tested positive for COVID-19, and by Thursday, four of the facility’s residents had been infected.

A spokesman for Heritage Specialty Care declined requests for comment Monday.

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Meador said those infected within the facility include residents and staff. However, she declined to provide details on how many residents or staff that total included “as it could potentially identify those that are ill.”

The cases does not extend to residents’ family members, as the facility has been closed to visitors since March 10.

On Monday, Iowa Department of Public Health announced an elderly resident of Linn County aged 81 years or older had died as a result of the novel coronavirus, bringing the countywide death count to two.

Meador declined to comment on whether Linn County’s two deaths were connected to the outbreak within Heritage Specialty Care.

This past week, officials with West Des Moines-based Care Initiatives, which owns Heritage Specialty Care, said they have taken “every precaution to protect our residents throughout the heightened COVID-19 awareness period.”

“We continue to implement recommended infection control procedures to remain vigilant against further exposure,” officials said in a statement Thursday.

Linn County Public Health currently has five staff members dedicated to contract tracing, a procedure done by public health officials to determine who an infected patient may have come into contact with before self-isolating. Meador said the agency also is working with community partners on this procedure and to ensure follow-up with infected patients are completed.

Dr. Tony Myers, Mercy Medical Center chief medical officer, said based on available data, Linn County should expect a peak in positive cases sometime in two to three weeks. The next 10 to 14 days will be key in determining whether local hospitals will “be overwhelmed or not,” he said.

Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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