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Unnamed COVID-19 variant behind Iowa Veterans Home outbreak

Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 3:19 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The Iowa Department of Public Health confirms a variant of COVID-19 is behind an outbreak at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown that has infected at least seven fully vaccinated residents.

In a letter sent to resident families obtained first by Bleeding Heartland, the clinical support director at the Iowa Veterans Home reported the virus was not the Delta variant but instead “a new variant without a specific name”.

IDPH spokesperson Sarah Ekstrand said the variant identified at the Iowa Veterans Home is “not a variant of interest or concern”, which is a technical definition from the Centers for Disease Control to identify variants that are more easily spread, among other characteristics.

“Just like other viruses, the Sars-CoV-2 virus can change over time,” Ekstrand said. “This virus has demonstrated a generally low mutation rate when compared to other RNA viruses such as HIV and influenza virus.”

According to the state’s website, the Iowa Veterans Home is one of three active outbreaks at long-term care facilities with nine active cases. The Home is in the midst of its fifth outbreak, defined as three or more active cases, during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is the most of any long-term care facility in the state.

However, the public’s ability to track those is about to change. In a memo sent to county health departments last week, the Reynolds Administration announced it would cut the long-term care facility tracking from the state’s COVID-19 data page along with several other sections. It will also switch from live data reporting to weekly data reporting by July 7th and aims to shut down the site completely by late summer. The memo notes the changes are part of a “transition to COVID-19 pandemic recovery”.

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