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COVID outbreaks at long-term care facilities reach peak not seen since Jan. 2021

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported 107 outbreaks this week, up 12 from last week.

DES MOINES, Iowa — This week, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported the highest number of COVID outbreaks at long-term care facilities since a year ago. The number sits at 107, up 12 from last week. 

"It's a lot like trying to keep smoke out of a house next to a forest fire," said Lori Ristau, Iowa Health Care Association's senior vice president of communications. "When you see outbreaks in a local community rising, you're naturally going to see cases in long-term care rise as well."

Ristau said the data shows the uptick among residents is likely coming from staff. 

"For the most recent data, the first week of January, we show a little over 200 resident cases," she said. "During that same period, we had 796 staff members test positive."

Ristau said the good news is the omicron variant is less severe, but still throws a major wrench in operations. 

"The bad news is it impacts our staffing situation," she added.

And while those sick days have caused staffing headaches, Ristau said what's different about this year's rise in outbreaks is the availability of vaccines. 

"We're seeing staff fully vaccinated at about an 80% rate," Ristau said. "And that continues to grow every day. Residents are vaccinated at a 94% rate."

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