Death numbers drop in IDPH nursing home virus reporting

A sudden drop in the number of COVID-19 deaths in Iowa's long-term care facilities this week suggests a problem in the IDPH data. Source: IDPH

The grand total of COVID-19 deaths in Iowa’s long-term care facilities dropped by 26 from Wednesday to Thursday this week, suggesting a problem in the data on the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) website, but the state has not explained the apparent anomaly.

According to IDPH data, the total of deaths to COVID-19 in Iowa’s long-term care (LTC) facilities was 242 on May 25. By May 27, the number rose to 256. On May 28, however, the number of LTC deaths shown on the IDPH website was 230, a reduction of 26 deaths.

The story is the same with the number of positive tests for the novel coronavirus among Iowa’s LTC residents and workers. The IDPH website reported a total of 1,566 positive cases on May 25, and the number climbed to 1,606 on May 27 but then fell to 1,488 on May 28.

Inquiries to the IDPH regarding the apparent anomalies have gone unanswered as has a request for the total number of tests administered at the nursing homes.

More than half of the COVID-19 deaths in Iowa have occurred in LTCs, and the death rate among Iowans in these congregate-living settings equals or exceeds the highest rates seen in Italy, France, Spain and Belgium. By contrast, Hong Kong has experienced zero deaths in its LTCs.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ often-repeated commitment to transparency was brought into question this week when IDPH Deputy Director Sarah Reisetter said at Wednesday’s press conference that the state would not voluntarily reveal outbreaks of the coronavirus at businesses but would publicly confirm them only when asked by members of the press.

Reisetter said Thursday the state does not require businesses to report outbreaks and outbreaks are only publicly confirmed “when the employment setting constitutes a high-risk environment for the potential of COVID-19 transmission.”

Reynolds said Friday the state has “announced each time there has been an outbreak in a business, and today we’ve had eight outbreaks that have been announced.”


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