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University Of Iowa Changes Its Mask Policy

Daily Digest

Friday, October 16

4:21 p.m. - Buena Vista County finds language discrepancy in absentee ballot instructions

Some voters in Buena Vista County have noticed a discrepancy in the instruction sheet that came with their absentee ballots.

Per a federal requirement, the instruction sheets for absentee ballots in Buena Vista County are both in English and in Spanish. But some voters have noticed a difference between the two. The Spanish language version shows an image with a pencil and does not specify how to fill out the ballot. The English version shows a black pen.

Buena Vista County auditor Sue Lloyd says the instructions were provided by the Iowa Secretary of State. She says the English version was changed in 2019, and the old Spanish version was sent out. Lloyd wanted to clarify the error has since been corrected and all mailings that have gone out since Oct. 14 have the correct images.

Lloyd says even if someone does use a pencil the machine would still accept it and the ballot would still count, but voters should try to fill out ballots with a black pen.

2:01 p.m. - University of Iowa changes its mask policy

The University of Iowa is changing its policy to require the use of cloth or disposable masks, saying other kinds of face coverings aren’t effective enough.

Under guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the school says bandanas, gaiters and face shields alone have not been shown to be sufficiently protective.

Under the U.I. policy, face coverings must be worn in all university buildings unless alone in a private office or dorm room.

The change requiring masks goes into effect next Friday, Oct. 23.

10:00 a.m. - 1,330 new COVID-19 cases, 16 new deaths reported Friday

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period.

9:34 a.m. - Hart, Miller-Meeks spar in final debate Thursday

Republican state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks and former Democratic state Sen. Rita Hart faced off Thursday night in the final debate for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District.

Much of the focus was on the pandemic and healthcare. Both candidates voiced their support for coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, which is guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act.

The open seat in southeast Iowa has been rated a toss-up, according to the Cook Political Report.

Thursday, October 15

4:22 p.m. - Several Iowans still struggle to pay bills during economic downturn

Scores of Iowans continue to struggle to pay their utility bills during the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic downturn.

According to the Iowa Utilities Board, at least 190,000 accounts were past due at the end of August, the latest numbers available.

The state has set aside additional funding to help families pay those bills, up to $2,000 per household.

Iowans have until November 20 to apply for the debt relief program through the Iowa Finance Authority.

3:52 p.m. - President Trump's call to "go into the polls and watch" raises concern about voter intimidation

President Trump has called on his supporters to “go into the polls and watch,” raising some concerns about voter intimidation. Iowa has strict laws for who can observe a polling place and how they can behave.

Political parties appoint most of the poll watchers, and no more than three from each party can be present at a polling place. They’re mostly not allowed to interact with voters. Election officials may permit poll watchers to join them in asking specific questions during an official challenge of a voter’s qualifications. It’s also illegal for anyone to campaign within 300 feet of a polling place.

Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald, a Democrat, said official poll watchers are a standard part of elections.

Some are concerned Trump’s misleading rhetoric about poll watching is scaring people, or may even encourage illegal acts. The Iowa GOP says they don’t condone voter intimidation, and says their poll watchers will receive training about the laws governing their behavior.

3:41 p.m. - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services urges Iowans to follow COVID-19 guidelines

A top federal health official is urging Iowans to follow safety precautions against COVID-19 as the state is experiencing record high numbers of coronavirus hospitalizations.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar visited Iowa on Thursday.

Azar said the increasing amount of community spread seen in Midwestern states like Iowa is the result of casual indoor gatherings, which he said should be avoided.

As of Thursday morning, 482 Iowans were hospitalized with COVID-19, a new record high for the state.

Azar recommended Iowans frequently wash their hands, wear facial coverings and practice social distancing. He also said Iowans should consider donating plasma if they have had the virus.

3:37 p.m. - Gov. Kim Reynolds defends safety precautions used at Trump rally Wednesday night

Gov. Kim Reynolds says she believes proper safety precautions were taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during a campaign rally for President Donald Trump.

The event that was held outdoors at the Des Moines airport Wednesday evening attracted thousands as the state is experiencing record high numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Gov. Reynolds said Thursday Iowans have the right to peacefully gather.

Many people at the rally weren’t wearing masks or practicing social distancing. Under Reynolds’ current public health emergency declaration, mass gatherings of more than 10 people are permitted if the organizer ensures at least six feet of distance between each group.

11:55 a.m. - Minority communities struggle to find affordable housing in Des Moines

Affordable housing in Des Moines is difficult to find for minority communities, according to panelists at an Affordable Housing Discussion held by the Iowa Commission of Latino Affairs. The speakers talked about housing options, or the lack thereof, for minority communities. Kendyl Larson is the director of research and planning at the Polk County Housing Trust Fund. She says one reason why it’s so hard for minorities to find housing is because of the past practice of redlining, in which banks were far less likely to approve mortgages in certain neighborhoods.

Larson says even today, African Americans in Polk County are almost 25 percent more likely to be denied when they apply for home loans.

10:00 a.m. - 1,410 new COVID-19 cases, 13 new deaths reported Thursday

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period.

9:42 a.m. - President Trump held rally in Des Moines Wednesday night as Iowa remains in red zone for new coronavirus cases

President Donald Trump flew to Iowa Wednesday night for a rally. His trip came on the heels of a new White House coronavirus task force once again placed Iowa in the red zone for new coronavirus cases.

President Trump spoke to thousands outside at a rally held in a hangar at the Des Moines airport.

Recent polls have shown the President in a dead heat with Joe Biden here after winning the state by almost 10 points four years ago.

The president spoke for an hour and a half but didn’t talk much about the pandemic. He focused a lot on fiscal issues including the trade tariffs he imposed on China.

Trump also discussed the subsidies the federal government has provided to farmers to make up for the economic hit.

Trump also told the crowd Iowa will always come first in the rotation – referencing the Iowa caucuses and the 2024 GOP presidential nominating process.

9:36 a.m. - Gov. Kim Reynolds urges Iowans not to believe polls showing close races in Iowa

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds told attendees at President Donald Trump’s rally in Des Moines Wednesday night that they should not believe polls that show close races in Iowa. Trump was in the state looking to boost support ahead of the election as polls show he and former vice president in a tight race in Iowa. Reynolds was one of the speakers who revved up the crowd beforehand.

President Trump praised Reynolds for her leadership. An infectious disease doctor speaking on behalf of the Biden for President campaign said earlier in the day that the rally which attracted thousands could potentially be a super-spreader event in the state.

Wednesday, October 14

5:54 p.m. - White House Coronavirus Task Force says Iowa still has one of the highest rates of COVID-19 infections in the nation

The newest White House Coronavirus Task Force report says Iowa continues to have one of the nation’s highest rates of new COVID-19 infections.

The report was released on Sunday and was obtained by ABC News. It says 82 percent of Iowa’s counties have moderate to high levels of community transmission.

The state was reported to be seventh in the nation for new coronavirus cases, placing it once again in the red zone. Last week, it had nearly double the rate of new cases compared to the national average.

The report says it’s critical that Iowa increases mitigation efforts such as wearing masks, practicing physical distancing and avoiding crowds to slow the spread of the virus.

3:55 p.m. - Cedar Rapids Mayor recovers from COVID-19

Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart says he and his wife have fully recovered from COVID-19.

Hart received his positive test on September 23, one day after leading a city council meeting in person, during which he says he was able to socially distance from the few other attendees.

Hart says he’s not sure how he contracted the virus but says he and his wife both had minor symptoms.

Hart is one of the few mayors in the state to mandate face coverings in public and says wearing a mask is a small sacrifice to protect others.

3:51 p.m. - Report estimates 45,000 Iowans with felony convictions have voting rights restored

A new report from The Sentencing Project estimates about 45,000 Iowans with felony convictions have had their voting rights restored since 2016.

Thousands more Iowans with felony convictions are allowed to vote this year because Gov. Kim Reynolds signed an executive order in August restoring their voting rights. Most Iowans who completed their sentence, including probation or parole, may register to vote now.

But an estimated 34,000 Iowans are still disenfranchised because they’re in prison, on probation or parole, or are serving a special sentence.

The Sentencing Project estimates more than 11 percent of Black voting age Iowans are disenfranchised because of a felony conviction, while less than 2 percent of all voting age Iowans are disenfranchised for this reason.

Read the full report here.

2:36 p.m. - Infectious disease doctor warns Trump rally could become super-spreader event

President Donald Trump holds an outdoor rally at the Des Moines airport tonight. Infectious disease doctor Megan Srinivas from Fort Dodge is chair of the Biden COVID-19 council for Iowa. She says the event could become a COVID-19 super-spreader at a time when hospitalizations in the state have hit 473.

Officials at the Des Moines International Airport were told to plan for up to 10,000 people. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, who is planning on attending, encouraged Iowans on Twitter to do so too. Polls have shown President Donald Trump and Joe Biden locked in a tight race in Iowa despite Trump’s more than 9-point win in 2016.

10:00 a.m. - 1,180 new COVID-19 cases, 11 new deaths reported Wednesday as hospitalizations stay at a record high

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period.

9:24 a.m. - New report finds 15 percent of Iowa children are obese

A new report has found 15 percent of Iowa children from the ages of 10 to 17 are obese.

The report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found the state’s rate of 15.3 percent fell slightly from last year. It’s on par with the national average of 15.5 percent.

It found obesity disproportionately affects children of color and those from low income families.

Jamie Bussel is a senior program officer with the non-profit. She says the COVID-19 pandemic is deepening the racial and economic disparities found in the issue.

Obesity also puts children at a greater risk for developing conditions like type two diabetes, cardiovascular disease and asthma.

9:18 a.m. - Simpson College virtual event focuses on immigration

Simpson College focused on immigration Tuesday, as it hosted the first of three virtual events to spotlight Latino communities in Iowa. Immigration lawyer Ann Naffier spoke at the event aimed at Latinos in Des Moines specifically. She says even though Iowa is not close to any borders, immigrants want to come to the state.

The next two virtual conversations will discuss Iowa’s overall Latino population and then civic engagement.

Tuesday, October 13

5:13 p.m. - West Des Moines educator who died of COVID-19 was exposed to virus at school

The family of a West Des Moines educator who recently died of COVID-19 says she was exposed to the coronavirus while working at school.

Jennifer Crawford was a special education classroom assistant at Indian Hills Junior High in West Des Moines.

In a statement through a Des Moines law firm, Crawford’s family says she was told she should be tested after she was in contact with another person in the school who became ill. Crawford herself tested positive for the virus a few days later while out-of-state caring for a family member.

She died October 3 at the age of 53.

4:54 p.m. - Estimators predict slightly decreased revenue for Iowa this fiscal year

Iowa’s revenue estimators are predicting the state will bring in just a little less money this fiscal year than in the previous fiscal year that ended June 30.

They said there’s a lot of uncertainty because of the pandemic, the derecho, the upcoming election, and stalled federal efforts to provide more economic relief. The revenue estimators also acknowledged that billions of dollars of federal aid helped keep Iowa’s economy and state revenue afloat.

The revenue estimating conference also predicts 4 percent revenue growth in the fiscal year that starts next July. That estimate will be adjusted in December, and the governor will use it to propose a budget for next year.

4:06 p.m. - Sioux City Council will create diversity, equity and inclusion committee

The Sioux City Council voted unanimously Monday to create a committee that will advise it on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Mayor Pro Tem Dan Moore said the city will work to encourage engagement between people in the community.

The committee will have nine appointed voting members, a city council member and the city manager.

The idea for the committee came in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, which sparked talks between the city and the local NAACP.

10:00 a.m. - 580 new COVID-19 cases, 17 new deaths reported Tuesday

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period.

Monday, October 12

4:21 p.m. - Iowa City police receive complaints of residents ignoring COVID-19 guidelines as bars reopen

Iowa City police received multiple complaints of residents not following COVID-19 guidelines over the weekend, largely focused on downtown businesses.

This was the first weekend bars in Johnson County were allowed to reopen, after Gov. Kim Reynolds closed them earlier this fall due to a spike of cases among young people.

Complaints to police detail long lines of people not wearing masks as they waited outside bars.

The police department says officers are taking an “educational approach” to enforcement, and may report businesses with ongoing issues to state regulators.

2:33 p.m. - Native American woman running for Iowa legislature speaks on Indigenous People's Day and voting

Today is Indigenous People’s Day in Iowa and about a dozen other states. A Native American woman running for the Iowa legislature is using this day to remind people to vote.

Christina Blackcloud is a member of the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa. It’s also known as the Meskwaki nation. She is taking today’s recognition of Indigenous peoples to remind voters about Election Day. She is the democratic candidate for the 72nd District house seat and says Iowa needs more diverse representation. She will talk about the importance of diversity in politics at a virtual roundtable discussion tonight with other Native American elected leaders.

If elected, Blackcloud would be the first indigenous person to serve in Iowa’s State Legislature. She faces incumbent Republican Dean Fisher, who has represented the district since 2013.

12:08 p.m. - Iowa historian Tom Morain dies at age 73

Iowa historian Tom Morain has died. Morain was the former director of research at Living History Farms, administrator of the State Historical Society and a regular guest on Iowa Public Radio.

He wrote several books on Iowa history including “Prairie Grass Roots” about his hometown of Jefferson.

State Historical Museum curator Leo Landis says Morain was known as a storyteller who was skilled at connecting the past to people’s present lives.

Landis says Morain was a leader in making Iowa history more inclusive by sharing the stories of Iowa women and native people.

Morain died Saturday at the age of 73.

10:00 a.m. - 432 new COVID-19 cases, four new deaths reported Monday

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period.

9:36 a.m. - Mayor concerned president's rally will cause COVID-19 spread in Des Moines

Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie tells the Des Moines Register that he’s worried President Donald Trump’s rally scheduled for Wednesday at the Des Moines International Airport could cause COVID-19 to spread in the city. Des Moines does have a mask mandate. But The 6 p.m. rally will be held at the airport’s air national guard facility which is not under city control. A spokesperson for the Republican National Committee did not know how many tickets will be issued but she noted attendees will be encouraged to wear masks and socially distance and will have their temperatures checked and given masks when arriving. Trump has held other rallies where many of those in the crowd did not socially distance or wear masks.

9:30 a.m. - Visually impaired Iowans seek assistive technology for voting independently by mail

Blind and visually impaired Iowans are asking state officials to let them vote by mail independently.

Groups representing them have been asking the Iowa Secretary of State and lawmakers to allow them to use assistive technology for absentee ballots. Right now, blind Iowans are unable to vote from home without another person there to help.

Jane Hudson is the executive director of Disability Rights Iowa. She says there are more than 50,000 blind and visually impaired Iowans, and many people don’t want to go to the polls because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The secretary of state’s office says the legislature has to change the law for this to happen, but they declined to do that earlier this year. Advocates disagree, pointing to recent changes that were made to election procedures without full legislative approval.

8:00 a.m. - 2,579 new COVID-19 cases reported this weekend, alongside 27 more deaths

On Saturday, 1,315 new cases and 21 new deaths were reported. On Sunday, 1,264 new cases and six more deaths were announced.