An outbreak of COVID-19 at Scenic Manor nursing home in Iowa Falls has infected 14 residents in the last two weeks.
The outbreak was first reported on the state’s coronavirus website on Thursday. According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, the facility has reported a total of four cases, all in the last 14 days. But Scenic Living Communities Executive Director Lisa Hoodjer told the Times Citizen the number stood at 14 on Thursday morning. In total, there are 56 residents at Scenic Manor right now. Staff at the facility have also tested positive, but Hoodjer said it’s been “one here and one there.”
The Iowa Department of Public Health classifies a long term care outbreak as three or more positive cases in a 14-day time period. The federal government defines an outbreak as one resident or staff member testing positive for COVID-19. This is the second time Scenic Manor has reported a state-defined outbreak of the disease. The first was in December. In that case, Hoodjer said three residents had tested positive, the last on Dec. 7, but the outbreak didn’t show up on the state’s website until Jan. 4.
The current outbreak began on Jan. 21. Hoodjer said the facility responded by moving residents who tested positive to an isolated hallways where fire doors are closed to help contain the disease. Hoodjer said staff members who are assigned to work in the isolation hallways stay in those hallways for the duration of their shift.
“We were doing consistent staffing before the outbreak, so it’s not that big of a change,” Hoodjer said.
Many of the residents at Scenic Manor, as well as Scenic Living Communities’ other facilities - Ashbrook Assisted Living and Cedar Ridge Independent Living – have received one or both of the shots needed to inoculate against COVID-19. The facility signed up through the federal COVID-19 vaccine program, and Walgreens employees visited the campus for vaccination clinics on Jan. 4 and Jan. 25. Walgreens has administered the Pfizer vaccine, which requires two doses 21 days apart. A third clinic, to vaccinate residents and staff who received their first dose on Jan. 25, is planned for Feb. 15. According to the CDC, it can take a week or two after a second shot before the vaccine is fully effective.
“We had families go, ‘They got the vaccine, nobody should be getting COVID,’” Hoodjer said, “but that’s not really how it works.”
Hoodjer said Walgreens employees advised Scenic Living Communities staff that anyone who’d tested positive for COVID-19 should wait 10 days before getting a shot. They also held off vaccinating any residents who may have been exposed to the virus because it could weaken a person’s immunity.
Hoodjer said about 80 percent of Scenic Living Communities’ residents and staff chose to be vaccinated. While there is one more clinic scheduled, that won’t complete vaccinations at the facility. As new employees are hired, or new residents move in - although, there is an admission freeze during the current outbreak - more vaccine doses will be needed.
“We are trying to find out from IDPH and Hardin County when the vaccine will be available again for our residents and staff and no one seems to be able to answer that question,” Hoodjer said. “I would hope it’s soon because you're going to have turnover in staff and residents and what you think your vaccination rate is could be lower because they’re not vaccinated.”
Hoodjer said the facility has had to turn new admissions away last week and this week. As soon as the outbreak is over, they will be able to admit new residents. The facility will have to go 28 days - two incubation periods - without a new case to be removed from the state website's outbreak webpage.
Currently, Scenic Manor is testing all residents and staff every three to seven days. And they're looking for the bright spots in every day.
“We’ll keep our eye on a group of residents being able to come out of isolation on a certain date and say ‘We’re almost there,’” she said. “You just have to focus on the positives.”
As of Thursday, the Iowa Department of Public Health was reporting active COVID-19 outbreaks at 43 long term care facilities across Iowa, with a total of 1,326 cases among residents and staff.
All of Hardin County’s six nursing homes have reported outbreaks of the disease: Hubbard Care Center, Eldora Specialty Care, Valley View Specialty Care, Grand JiVanté, Heritage Care Center and Scenic Manor.