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State Taking Extra Measures to Protect Iowans in Long-Term Care Facilities

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DES MOINES, Iowa — As COVID-19 continues to affect vulnerable communities, long-term care facilities continue to remain a high priority.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, more than 10 percent of all positive cases in Iowa are occurring among long-term care staff and residents, and more than 40 percent of all deaths in Iowa are associated with outbreaks in long-term care facilities.

“Statistics are certainly concerning. Not surprising. This is in line with what we have seen in outbreaks at other long-term care facilities in the United States, so as concerning as they are, unfortunately we do see this type of numbers with long-term care,” said Dr. Rossana Rosa, an infectious disease specialist from UnityPoint Health.

The Iowa Health Care Association, which represents about 75 percent of long-term care providers in the state, says they have been continuously updating facilities and guidelines continue to change daily.

“We’re recommending to our providers is that each and every one of them establish containment and isolation capabilities in each of their facilities because they need to assume that COVID-19 at some point will enter the facility and they need to be prepared to do that and so that is relatively new guidance in the last week,” said Iowa Health Care Association President/CEO Brent Willett.

This also includes organizing staff members dedicated to COVID-19 isolation wings throughout its facilities. 

According to Dr. Rosa, residents of these facilities are at high risk for contracting COVID-19 because oftentimes they are at a baseline risk for contracting infections. This includes residents that might be recovering from serious medical events like a stroke.

Willett says on March 9 the Iowa Health Care Association started to implement restrictions on visitors and since then has continued to update facilities on changing guidelines. Each facility has been equipped with a toolkit that includes all the necessary steps if a someone at the facility contracts COVID-19.

In addition to these precautionary measures, Dr. Rosa says the simplest and most effective guidance is for Iowans to stay home.

“It’s important that we all stay home, so it’s not only the Department of Public Health duty or the governor’s office duty to keep these places safe, but also our duty. If we stay home, we actually cut the chains of transmission within the community, and that way we protect these types of high risk places,” said Dr. Rosa.

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