Gov. Kim Reynolds assures protective measures in long-term care facilities, says there is progress in testing accessibility

In Gov. Kim Reynolds’ daily press conference on Tuesday, she outlined restrictions that are being put into place in long-term care facilities across the state, adding that more COVID-19 tests are being made available in the state.


Katina Zentz

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during the Condition of the State address at the Iowa State Capitol on Jan. 14.

Julia Shanahan, Politics Editor

In a Tuesday press conference, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds assured Iowans that federal and state institutions have implemented health screening protocols in long-term care facilities, adding that hospitals and public health officials are able to test more people for COVID-19 each day.

Long-term care facilities — including nursing homes, residential-care facilities, assisted-living facilities, and adult-day services — while operated by varying institutions, have all implemented similar restrictions. Visitations in these facilities are restricted only to those who may be in a critical condition, and all staff and health-care workers are screened before entering the facilities.

The Department of Public Health has been doing outreach to over 400 long-term care facilities in Iowa, Reynolds said, hosting web-seminars to provide information to patients and residents about the virus.

As of March 31, there are 497 positive COVID-19 cases in Iowa, seven deaths, and 6,888 negative tests. Reynolds said there are currently 61 people hospitalized with the virus.

In a Monday press conference, Reynolds confirmed an outbreak of the novel coronavirus in a long-term care facility in Cedar Rapids, Heritage Specialty Care nursing home. Linn County now has a total of 90 positive cases, 17 more than Johnson County.

Reynolds said that long-term care facilities and nursing homes were identified early on for mitigation efforts in the days following the first cases. On March 14, the Iowa veterans home began restricting visitors and screening all staff. Reynolds said that public dining and other group activities in long-term care facilities are prohibited.

“I think we have been very aggressive in our messaging,” said Reynolds, saying she has consistently told Iowans to stay home if they feel sick and to follow the advice of their doctor.

Reynolds said there are currently 3,761 tests available at the Iowa City-based State Hygienic Lab and 1,500 ventilators available to Iowans. She said the line of communication between her and the Trump administration has been open, and that she has had an opportunity to voice specific concerns. Reynolds said she asked the White House for more COVID-19 tests on Saturday.

Other states in the U.S., like New York, have experienced shortages in ventilators. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last week that the state will need 30,000 more ventilators in the coming month, to which President Trump responded with hesitation and uncertainty in the governor’s claim. 

Brent Willitt from the Iowa Health Care Association said that in the event of a positive case in one of these facilities, they are working to provide facilities with waivers to allow flexibility in allowing them to respond to that situation, such as moving positive COVID-19 patients to a separate wing, Willitt said.

He added that the Iowa Health Care Association has developed a checklist to provide facilities in the event of a crisis, which lists things like patient and employee screening protocols, personal protective equipment guidance, and tools to help patients communicate with Iowa Department of Public Health, their families, and other staff.

“I can’t lock the state down — I can’t lock everybody in their home, Reynolds said Tuesday. “We have to make sure we have a supply chain up and going.”

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