Iowa Nursing Home COVID Outbreaks Down A Lot After Vaccine Rollout

Counties with nursing home outbreaks, 3/1/21

While Iowa’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout started slow and has run into problems caused by poor planning, the state is seeing real results from the quickly researched and produced vaccines.

The most noticeable difference between now and the worst days of the pandemic come from Iowa’s nursing homes, which have suffered the brunt of tragedy. As of Monday afternoon, there are only 19 longterm care facilities currently experiencing an outbreak (defined as three or more positive current cases).

As the AARP’s Brad Anderson noted last week, that’s less than half of the number of outbreaks from several weeks ago, and much lower than the 162 active outbreaks back in December.

About 40% of Iowa’s total deaths have come from nursing homes, despite nursing homes residents making up about 1% of the state’s population. There has been a total of 2,171 deaths of residents at longterm care facilities due to COVID-19.

The virus ravaged the state’s most vulnerable at those facilities largely unchecked throughout the pandemic, with seemingly no clear plan from Iowa on how to prevent the spread of infections. At the start of October, the state reported that 28% of all nursing homes had experienced an outbreak.

However, it seems like the eventual percentage of homes impacted was far higher than that, especially when about a third of all facilities were experiencing an outbreak at one simultaneous time in November alone. The state doesn’t list all the cumulative places on its website — just the ones with current outbreaks.

By about the end of January, Iowa reported that 98% of Iowa nursing homes had gotten a visit by a vaccination team. Around that time, the Des Moines Register reported that there were 69 current outbreaks.

As with everything related to COVID-19 and mitigation efforts, it takes some time for the impacts to be felt. Most of the vaccine options require two rounds of shots for full effectiveness.

But as the current numbers show, the vaccine is having a dramatic positive effect on the health and safety of Iowa’s most vulnerable residents.


by Pat Rynard
Posted 3/1/21

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