UPDATED, Wednesday, March 25, 2020, with response from Linn County Public Health, at end.
CEDAR RAPIDS — Two workers at a Cedar Rapids nursing home have tested positive for COVID-19.
Heritage Specialty Care, 200 Clive Dr. SW, offers rehabilitation services, skilled nursing care, long term care and hospice care.
Spokesman Jason Bridie said he did not know in which area the two staff members worked, but noted they had not been at work over the weekend or early this week.
Both are direct care employees, Bridie said, adding that the two sought testing for the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, after experiencing symptoms.
“When symptoms presented, they sought their own clinical assistance,” he said.
The two informed the care center of their positive status this morning, Tuesday, March 24, and staff began notifying family members of patients early this afternoon, he said.
Iowa has not implemented widespread testing and does not advise testing for the virus unless a person has symptoms.
Gov. Kim Reynolds reported 19 new cases of COVID-19 today, bringing the total to 124 positive cases in Iowa, but provided no strict guidelines to stem the tide of transmission.
Other states, including neighboring Illinois, have issued “stay at home” orders to slow the spread of the virus, which has killed 544 Americans as of March 24, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.)
The CDC reported a total of 44,183 cases in the U.S. as of today.
Bridie said Care Initiatives, which owns and operates 44 care centers in Iowa, including Heritage Specialty Care, is following guidelines offered by the Iowa Department of Public Health.
That includes screening staff by taking temperatures at the start of each shift and asking them to self-report symptoms. No visitors have been allowed since March 10, except on a case-by-case basis for end-of-life patients.
Communal dining and activities are no longer offered for patients and residents since that time.
“We’ve been in contact with the Iowa Department of Public Health and Linn County Public Health today and are taking their advice,” Bridie said. “I think everyone is aware of the seriousness of the situation.”
Rigorous infection control measures, including an emphasis on hand-washing, are part of those efforts, he noted.
“We’re trying to do our best to limit the risk of exposure to our patients and staff,” he said.
Heritage Specialty Care employs 125 staff and had 110 residents in its most recent count.
Bridie did not know if the two staff members had been hospitalized, but said, “we want to make sure they have a healthy and quick recovery.”
UPDATE from Linn County Public Health Assessment and Health Promotion Supervisor, Kaitlin Emrich:
Long-term care facilities and staff are considered essential. When there is a potential exposure of COVID-19 in a long-term care facility we are concerned with anyone having close contact (within 6 feet for more than 2 minutes) with the person who is visibly sick with respiratory symptoms (i.e., sneezing, coughing) or says they are sick with fever or respiratory symptom. There are two areas that we are concerned with; the residents and the staff.
The residents will be isolated in their room and will avoid mixing together such as in a dining room or activity center. Residents will be monitored twice a day for fever or respiratory symptoms. If either of these are detected, testing for the individual is indicated. The other area of concern is with staff. Essential services personnel are allowed to go to work as long as they remain asymptomatic and monitor their temperature at the beginning and end of their shift.
If essential services personnel become symptomatic at any point during their shift, they should be sent home immediately and self-isolate. When Essential Service Personnel are not working, they should stay at home and isolate themselves from others in the home for 14 days after their last exposure. If essential services personnel are providing healthcare in a hospital, long term care, pre-hospital setting or residential care facility- they should wear a procedure/surgical mask when providing care (within 6 feet of patients).
Any Essential Service Personnel that become ill with fever or respiratory symptoms (like cough or difficulty breathing) should stay home and not return to work or anywhere else until the following are met.
• No fever for at least 72 hours (that is three full days of no fever without the use medicine that reduces fevers)
• Other symptoms have improved (for example, when your cough or shortness of breath have improved)
• 7 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared
A public hotline has been established for Iowans with questions about COVID-19. The line is available 24/7 by calling 2-1-1 or 1-800-244-7431.