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AARP analysis warns about rising COVID cases and deaths in Iowa nursing homes

While nursing homes are hoping a vaccine will help stop the spread of the coronavirus — the outlook in Iowa is not promising. According to tracking by AARP, in the last month 84% of Iowa nursing homes reported residents had cases of the virus.
Posted at 6:31 PM, Jan 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-15 19:31:13-05

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Ia. (KMTV) — A devastating pandemic is hitting our vulnerable populations hard. In Pottawattamie County there have been 112 COVID-related deaths.

Matt Wyant with Pottawattamie County Public Health says the majority of the facilities are out of the outbreak status, but the dark season is not over yet.

"Currently right now, we have one remaining in outbreak status, with only 3 positive cases, but I don't want to underscore the effects of what COVID has had on those communities for sure," Wyant said.

Elaine Ryan with AARP says staffing shortages remain a problem. Employees might be working in several facilities, spreading the virus. In the last month, almost 50% of nursing homes are short of direct care workers.

"I think one of the biggest issues is staff wages are inadequate," Ryan said. "The average worker in Iowa might make 13 dollars an hour."

With the Iowa legislature back in session, Ryan hopes lawmakers can take the lead from other states to improve Iowa nursing homes.

"Other states have done some interesting things," Ryan said. "At times of crisis, they've called in the National Guard, they've supplemented staff, they've provided hazard pay for people who are going in every day."

While a vaccine is providing hope to the world, Wyant wants to remind Iowans that the shot was not mandatory so keeping your guard up is a must.

"There are still people that have not been vaccinated that could be working in those facilities, could be family members of those facility members, so we just have to keep up with all the mitigation efforts until we eradicate this," Wyant said.

To look at the latest data that AARP compiled on nursing homes across the U.S., click here.