Grassley misled on state-operated veterans homes

An earlier version of this commentary appeared in The Prairie Progressive‘s fall 2021 issue.

In a media release earlier this year and a commentary published in some Iowa newspapers, Senator Chuck Grassley asserted, “it appears that the standard of care and quality controls at many state veterans homes falls well short of those required by other government supported nursing homes.” He was referencing the number of COVID-19 deaths and infections in veterans homes across the country.

How many is many? The senator’s letter to U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis R. McDonough cited a handful of media reports in footnotes. Although some of those articles cited statistics provided by the government, the numbers Grassley used are flawed.

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Ten ways Dr. Caitlin Pedati failed Iowans

State Medical Director and Epidemiologist Dr. Caitlin Pedati is leaving the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) in late October, the agency announced on September 22.

The leader of Iowa’s COVID-19 response had hardly been seen in public all year and granted few media interviews. Pedati was an occasional speaker at Governor Kim Reynolds’ televised news conferences during the first eight months of the pandemic, but had not appeared at one since November 2020.

The unexplained departure raised questions about whether Pedati walked or was forced out. Reynolds’ new spokesperson Alex Murphy told Bleeding Heartland via email that no one in the governor’s office asked the medical director to leave. “This was a personal decision by Dr. Pedati.” Murphy also said the governor won’t pick her successor; rather, IDPH Director Kelly Garcia “and her team will handle the hiring.”

I’ll be seeking records that could show whether Pedati (a board-certified pediatrician) disagreed with any aspects of Iowa’s COVID-19 mitigation strategy, such as grossly inadequate guidance for schools or the retreat from recommending masks, even for unvaccinated people crowded together indoors.

Whether or not Pedati had any private misgivings, she repeatedly failed to keep Iowans safe or adequately informed during this pandemic, which has already killed more than 1 in 500 Iowa residents who were alive eighteen months ago.

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IA-Sen: Medicare for All drives Glenn Hurst's campaign

A third Democrat joined the race for Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat on July 29. Dr. Glenn Hurst made clear that one issue in particular is driving his campaign.

“I went back to school and became a doctor because I saw a need in the rural communities I love and call home,” Hurst said in a news release. “I’ve had a front-row seat to the tricks insurance companies use to avoid paying for care, drowning providers in paperwork when we should be with our patients. I’m running for the U.S. Senate because Iowans deserve better. We deserve Medicare for All.”

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State medical director misleads on COVID-19 nursing home data

State Medical Director and Epidemiologist Dr. Caitlin Pedati asserted that publicly available information about coronavirus cases in Iowa nursing homes is “pretty similar” to what was long disclosed on the state’s official COVID-19 website.

Pedati made the false claim during a wide-ranging interview with Andy Kopsa of Iowa Watch, conducted soon after the state switched from daily to weekly updates on As part of the revamp, officials removed a page that had shown current outbreaks in long term care facilities.

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Vaccinated Iowa Veterans Home resident dies of COVID-19 (updated)

This story has been updated to note that a second resident infected in the latest outbreak has died.

Two of the seven Iowa Veterans Home residents who recently contracted COVID-19 have died, the home told relatives and guardians. The first resident who passed away “was in end of life care prior to testing positive” for coronavirus, an email sent on July 2 said. The message announcing the second death on July 4 did not provide further details.

All residents and staff affected by the latest coronavirus outbreak–the fifth at the state-run facility in Marshalltown–had been living or working in the Malloy 3 unit, which “remains in isolation.” Five of the residents who tested positive in late June returned from the facility’s COVID unit to Malloy 3 last week.

According to previous emails the facility sent to relatives and guardians, the residents who became infected in late June were all vaccinated for COVID-19.

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New COVID-19 outbreak hits Iowa Veterans Home

The Iowa Veterans Home is currently experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak. Families and guardians of loved ones living at the state-run facility in Marshalltown–the largest nursing home in Iowa–were notified on June 22 that four employees and five residents had tested positive that day. All lived or worked in the same building. An email sent on June 25 indicated that another resident in the same unit (Malloy 3) had tested positive, and all six affected residents were in the home’s COVID unit.

As of June 25, the long-term care dashboard on the state’s coronavirus website was showing eight positive cases and no recoveries at the Iowa Veterans Home within the last fourteen days.

The state website doesn’t break down how many cases have been identified among staff and how many among residents, or whether anyone has been hospitalized. Emails to relatives and guardians indicated that one Iowa Veterans Home resident was hospitalized on June 23 but had returned to the home by June 25.

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