Iowa is ending its public health disaster emergency, even as COVID-19 nursing home outbreaks continue to rise. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Outbreaks of COVID-19 at Iowa nursing homes continue to escalate, even as the state prepares to end data reporting on two websites as its disaster emergency expires.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced Feb. 3 that the state’s Public Health Disaster Emergency Proclamation will expire at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022.

Reynolds said in a statement that “it’s no longer feasible or necessary” to treat COVID-19 as a public health emergency, at the same time Iowa’s death toll continues to climb and nursing home outbreaks are in triple digits.

On Feb. 4, COVID-19 outbreaks were reported at 115 of Iowa’s long-term care facilities; more than one-quarter of the 445 nursing homes in the state.

A facility is listed as having an outbreak when at least three residents test positive within 14 days.

This week’s outbreaks are reminiscent of pre-vaccine figures, as Iowa’s nursing home outbreaks reached record levels in late 2020.

Last summer, as a majority of Iowa’s older population was vaccinated against the coronavirus, weekly death toll increases numbered in the teens, and nursing home outbreaks numbered in the single digits.

This week, Iowa reported an increase of 156 deaths from COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 8,657. Those deaths occurred between Oct. 20 and Jan. 27.

Nationwide, deaths from COVID-19 approached 900,000, with 894,810 reported as of Feb. 4, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

In Iowa, 741 people were reported hospitalized as of Feb. 4, with 105 of those in intensive care units and 127 patients admitted in the last 24 hours.

In her statement, Reynolds said COVID-19 could be “managed similarly” to the flu and other infectious diseases.

Iowa reported no flu outbreaks at nursing homes as of its most recent report at the end of January, and 15 flu-related deaths since Oct. 3.

More: COVID-19 outbreaks escalate at nursing homes in Iowa