COVID-19 deaths at another Linn County care facility, hospitals handling patient load

Dr. Tony Myers, vice president of medical affairs at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids,...
Dr. Tony Myers, vice president of medical affairs at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids, speaks at a briefing on Monday, April 13, 2020, on the status of the spread of coronavirus in Linn County. (KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: Apr. 13, 2020 at 5:07 PM CDT
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Officials in Linn County provided an update on Monday to the ongoing spread of the novel coronavirus, saying that deaths from the illness caused by the virus have been reported at two area care facilities, both in the Cedar Rapids metro area.

Heritage Specialty Care, in Cedar Rapids, has seen 17 deaths from COVID-19 of its residents, out of a total of 102 cases of the illness among residents and staff combined, according to Linn County Public Health. 16 of those residents are considered recovered from the virus.

A breakdown of how many each of the residents and staff makes up the positive cases at Heritage was not provided. The number of recovered staff members was unavailable, according to officials, because some of the staff live in other counties that Linn County does not have information from.

Linn Manor Care Center, in Marion, has reported a total of five positive cases of COVID-19, with three of those of staff members and two of residents. The two residents who had the illness have died.

No other residents at Linn Manor have tested positive for the virus as of Monday.

Heather Meador, with Linn County Public Health, said that the department was coordinating with area care centers, including those with active cases, to help prevent further spread. Proactive steps like barring visitors from facilities and daily communication on their status are being taken.

There have been no discussions about closing facilities, like Heritage, that have outbreaks, according to Meador.

No other long-term care facilities in Linn County have had anybody test positive for COVID-19.

Hospitals able to handle current influx of COVID-19 patients

At least one local hospital is seeing a steady, but manageable, flow of sick patients into its facility, according to an official there.

Dr. Tony Myers, vice president of medical affairs at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids, said at the Monday briefing that his facility is seeing around two to three new admissions per day for patients with COVID-19. He stressed that while it sounds like a small number, the overall rate is within the hospital's ability to handle.

Overall, 38 patients have been admitted to Mercy since the spread of the coronavirus began locally. Around a third of those patients have been discharged, with the average hospital stay being around six days.

Just over 30 percent of the patients with COVID-19 at Mercy have required at least some mechanical ventilation, which is around double the hospital's normal use of ventilators. Several of those patients have been taken off of the devices, and one who was previously on a ventilator has been sent home.

Myers said that the hospital was in good shape on personal protective equipment supplies, thanks to the usage of cloth masks and proper preservation of critical supplies. He said their situation on supplies had improved compared to two weeks ago.

"Quarantine fatigue" felt, but distancing measures working

Meador said that she had started to see some people, largely through social media posts, beginning to get anxious about getting life back to normal. She reiterated the need to continue the measures that have largely been followed by the county's residents to slow the spread of COVID-19.

"If we continue to look out for our neighbor, not only ourselves, we will get through this. It's just going to take time," Meador said.

Meador was unable to provide an estimate of when Linn County may see its peak in cases, saying that the situation is fluid. She noted that the act of "flattening the curve" helps keep hospitals from getting overwhelmed, but does prolong the process overall. She said the area was "nowhere near" the time where normal activities can resume without seeing a resumed spike in the spread of the virus.

"We are all in this together, and if we all do our part, we can save lives until we finally reach the end of this marathon."

Meador clarified that her office will report the latest numbers it has received based on its reporting, which may not always line up with numbers provided by Gov. Kim Reynolds' office. The state numbers are refreshed every 24 hours, while Linn County has new information coming throughout the day.

Linn County Public Health workers continue to conduct contact tracing, according to Meador, which she believes may be contributing to the higher case count overall.