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5,065 New COVID-19 Cases, 19 New Deaths Reported Friday

Daily Digest

Friday, November 13

3:43 p.m. - Recount in Lucas County affirms correction in 2nd Congressional District race

A hand recount of ballots from one precinct in Lucas County has affirmed the correction that election workers made after finding human error in their tally, according to the Des Moines Register.

The hand audit today and a machine recount Thursday yielded the same numbers as election night.

The correction of the error flipped the lead in the very close race for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District.

Unofficial results show Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks leading Democrat Rita Hart by 47 votes.

12:43 p.m. - Iowa City Community Schools and LULAC team up to make online transition easier for Latino and immigrant students

The Iowa City Community School District has teamed up with the local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) to make the transition to online learning easier for the Latino and immigrant community. The partnership will take its first step by implementing a new policy handbook.

The partnership started when community members shared their concerns and fears about online learning with LULAC. Marlen Mendoza, the president of Iowa City LULAC, then met with the school board to discuss issues about language barriers and access to technology. LULAC and the school board will begin their work together on updating the school discipline manual for online or hybrid learning.

Mendoza says the addition of COVID-friendly schooling made it difficult for some Latino students in the district to keep up. She also says she hopes this partnership will serve as a case study for other school districts to try out.

12:22 p.m. - Advocacy groups file workplace safety complaints on behalf of immigrant workforce

Eight worker advocacy groups have filed a federal complaint with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) about a lack of workplace safety in Iowa. Most of the situations they cited in the complaint occurred in facilities with a large immigrant workforce.

The groups are requesting a federal investigation of what they say is Iowa OSHA’s failure to respond to workplace safety complaints. Although the complaint addresses issues with Iowa OSHA from the past, the groups say conditions have worsened with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) signed on to the complaint citing the employees hardest hit by unsafe workplace conditions are from the Latino community. LULAC state political director Joe Henry says this formal complaint comes three days after a meat plant worker died of COVID-19.

Henry says LULAC has reached out to state leadership about its concerns but has not yet received an answer.

10:00 a.m. - 5,065 new COVID-19 cases, 19 new deaths reported Friday

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period. A previous version of this story inaccurately cited the number of tests reported in the past 24 hours at 4,885. There have been NEW NUMBERS reported since 10:00 a.m. Thursday.

Thursday, November 12

6:11 p.m. - Greene County approves mask mandate

After seeing a spike in coronavirus cases, the Greene County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution mandating face coverings.

The resolution says everyone must wear a face covering in indoor public settings like grocery stores and hardware stores, and outside when they can’t stay six feet apart.

Greene County Public Health Director Becky Wolf attributes the recent spike in cases partly to some people becoming complacent.

Wolf says the county had a two-week infection rate as low as five point eight percent a couple weeks ago, but Thursday the county’s rate is more than 24 percent.

5:28 p.m. - Hand recount in Lucas County will occur Friday

A machine recount of ballots in Lucas County has confirmed election night tallies. On Friday officials will conduct a hand recount of ballots from one precinct where human error was detected.

The auditor says test data had been reported from the precinct, instead of the actual results. The error was significant in the extremely close race for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District. Unofficial results show Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks ahead by just 47 votes.

Democratic candidate Rita Hart announced on Thursday she’ll be requesting a recount in all 24 counties in the second district.

4:24 p.m. - Gov. Kim Reynolds says coronavirus public awareness campaign is launching this week

Gov. Kim Reynolds is urging Iowans to “step up and practice personal responsibility” as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to surge in Iowa.

Reynolds says her public awareness campaign is launching this week, and the budget is about half a million dollars. The money is coming from federal coronavirus relief funds, according to her office.

Reynolds also announced the state is buying more coronavirus sample collection kits through the Test Iowa program, but Iowans continue to struggle to get tested with community spread and demand for testing higher than ever.

3:33 p.m. - Gov. Kim Reynolds announces purchase of 360,000 more coronavirus sample collection kits for Test Iowa program

Gov. Kim Reynolds says the sample collection kits will cost more than $3 million, but other materials to process the samples will be bought through the state hygienic lab.

The original year-long, $26 million no-bid contract for Test Iowa was signed in April. Reynolds says she expects those remaining test materials to last into early December, but Iowans are having trouble getting tested right now as cases surge, testing slots fill up, and some health care providers are limiting testing to only people who have symptoms. Reynolds says the five Test Iowa drive-thru sites are adding more appointments.

Reynolds also says there’s significant community spread across Iowa’s urban and rural areas, and everyone should try to stop the spread.

3:06 p.m. - Iowa State Board of Health to recommend Gov. Kim Reynolds to issue mask mandate

The Iowa State Board of Health has voted Thursday to recommend Gov. Kim Reynolds issue a statewide face covering requirement.

The policy making body for the Department of Public Health passed the motion in a vote of seven to two.

Board member Patti Brown, a Republican from Waukee, voted against the recommendation. She said she believes there’s not enough evidence to support the effectiveness of masks to issue a mandate.

The CDC issued an updated scientific briefing on Tuesday recommending people wear face coverings because they protect both the wearer and others around them from the virus.

Gov. Reynolds has repeatedly declined to issue a statewide mask mandate saying it is unenforceable.

11:00 a.m. - Gov. Kim Reynolds holds a press conference

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds Address | November 16, 2020, 6 p.m.

10:26 a.m. - Spectator capacity at the UNI-DOME will be limited for high school football semi-finals

Spectator capacity will be limited at the UNI-DOME in Cedar Falls for this week’s high school football semi-finals which begin Thursday, and next week’s finals.

UNI officials along with the Black Hawk County Health Department and the Iowa High School Athletic Association made the announcement in a news release Wednesday.

Ticket sales will be capped at 2,400 spectators per game or 15 percent of the Dome’s capacity.

These event adjustments are in response to rising coronavirus case numbers in Black Hawk County, as well as Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proclamation on Tuesday about large venues.

Tickets already purchased are still good for their assigned games. UNI is also taking steps to ensure that players’ close family members will be able to purchase tickets if they have not already done so as there will be no walk-up tickets sold.

In addition to multiple mitigation measures in place, the release says “athletes and spectators traveling for the playoffs should be advised that both Cedar Falls and Waterloo have mask mandates in effect.”

10:00 a.m. - 4,517 new COVID-19 cases, 30 new deaths reported Thursday

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period.

9:26 a.m. - Candidate Rita Hart to request full recount of counties in 2nd Congressional District

Former Democratic State Sen. Rita Hart will request a full recount of all 24 counties in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District.

The race is considered one of the closest in the country. Hart’s competitor Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks leads in the unofficial results by just 47 votes.

Human error by election workers in two different counties flipped the lead during the tallying process. Hart’s campaign says a full recount is needed to alleviate any doubt about the results, which remain unofficial until the state canvass on Nov. 30.

Wednesday, November 11

1:15 p.m. - 2nd Congressional District race remains too close to call

The race for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District remains too close to call. Nonetheless, Republican State Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks is claiming victory. According to the state’s preliminary results updated just after midnight Tuesday night, Miller-Meeks has a lead of just 47 votes over former Democratic State Sen. Rita Hart.

In a press conference with reporters Tuesday, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate reiterated that the state will not certify a winner until November 30.

An administrative recount is scheduled for Thursday in Lucas County, after human error was detected in the tally there. The candidates have three days after a county’s canvass to request their own recount.

12:44 p.m. - Iowa cases of COVID-19 nearly tripled the national rate last week

The newest White House Coronavirus Task Force report has found Iowa had nearly triple the national rate of new COVID-19 infections last week.

Last week, Iowa had 621 new infections per 100,000 people, compared to the national average of 209 cases per 100,000.

The report is dated Sunday and was obtained by ABC News on Tuesday. It found Iowa once again has one of the highest rates of new cases and test positivity rates in the country which places it in the red zone. According to the report, 96 percent of counties have high levels of community spread.

The report recommends the state take immediate action like mandating masks to decrease mortality rates among Iowans as hospitalizations continue to hit record levels. It also says Iowans should not gather with individuals outside of their households without a mask, but ideally, not at all until case and test positivity rates are in the yellow zone.

11:11 a.m. - Evictions disproportionately affect women of color

More than 50 Iowa organizations have signed a letter to Gov. Kim Reynolds asking for more funding to help prevent evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Evictions disproportionately affect women of color, and these groups are hoping the state will address that disparity.

Reynolds had initially allocated $22 million to the Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Program this year, then an additional $9 million. The Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence has taken the lead in asking the governor to add more funds. The Coalition and its allies say the money is quickly depleting and as the pandemic surges on, more people may be at risk of losing their homes. The coalition’s director of community engagement Lindsay Pingel says this is especially a concern for women of color.

Pingel says the coalition and the rest of their allies are concerned there will be more housing insecurity after the CDC’s federal eviction moratorium ends at the end of the year.

10:00 a.m. - 4,764 new COVID-19 cases, 26 new deaths reported Wednesday

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period.

Tuesday, November 10

5:49 p.m. - Cedar Rapids schools to go to all-online learning

Cedar Rapids schools will go all-online starting Thursday, Nov. 12 while the district asks the Iowa Department of Education for a two-week virtual learning waiver. Cedar Rapids joins dozens of school districts where COVID-19 is making it hard to continue in-person.

Like other districts, Cedar Rapids is suffering from a shortage of substitutes who can fill in for teachers and especially bus drivers who are sick or in quarantine because of the coronavirus.

Superintendent Noreen Bush says nearly all the cases in the district are traced to spread in the community. She says even young students are following rules and wearing face masks to protect classmates at school.

Bush says she hopes two weeks of online school will allow COVID-19 case numbers to stabilize so students can go back in-person after Thanksgiving.

5:01 p.m. - Hundreds of migratory birds killed by cars

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources estimates hundreds of migratory waterfowl were killed by cars in northwest Iowa after they tried to land on wet roads they likely mistook for wetlands.

The ducks and geese were migrating south when they hit a mix of heavy rains and wind in northwest Iowa last night. Conservation Officer Steve Griebel counted at least 200 dead waterfowl along Highway 20 between Sioux City and Highway 71, but he says there are many more in Plymouth and Cherokee counties.

Since waterfowl are abundant across the country, the DNR says this bird kill isn’t big enough to have a huge impact on the population.

4:53 p.m. - Three Ames elementary schools to start virtual learning

Three Ames elementary schools will go online Wednesday, Nov. 11 while the district requests a virtual learning waiver for those buildings and for all students through eighth grade.

The Iowa Department of Education says 24 waivers have been granted to districts across the state so far this month and more are pending.

Ames superintendent Jenny Risner says the number of teachers and staff exposed to the coronavirus has surged in the last week and the district is running out of substitutes.

4:33 p.m. - Drake University to move to all-virtual instruction earlier than planned

Drake University is moving to all virtual instruction earlier than planned, due to the surge in coronavirus cases in Iowa. Beginning Wednesday, Nov. 11, the school will teach all courses online until the end of the fall semester.

Drake University was slated to move online Nov. 30 after the Thanksgiving break, but in a statement Tuesday, president Marty Martin said it can’t wait.

Martin says infection rates on campus are “manageable” but the concern is for the greater community. The decision comes the day after the three major hospital systems in Des Moines pleaded with Iowans to stop the spread, which is pushing hospitals and health care providers to their utmost capacity.

The school is offering free testing to all students, and is encouraging them not to go home until they know they don't have COVID-19. Once they know they are healthy, they are encouraged to go home immediately.

Cases in Iowa have grown exponentially in recent days, despite public health experts issuing stark warnings to state leaders about what was coming.

3:50 p.m. - Johnston Community Schools to ask state for virtual learning waiver

Johnston Community Schools is joining a growing number of districts asking the state for permission to move classes online as coronavirus spread drives absentee rates higher.

While Johnston waits for an answer, sixth through twelfth grades will go virtual starting Wednesday, Nov. 11. Pre-K through fifth grades will go virtual starting Friday, Nov. 13.

Board member Steven Hopper says Johnston cannot keep up with the number of teachers in quarantine.

Des Moines Public Schools received word Tuesday that the Iowa Department of Education has agreed to their plan to begin virtual learning next week.

Department director Ann Lebo says 24 requests for virtual learning have been approved so far since the start of November.

3:17 p.m. -Gov. Kim Reynolds' new public health emergency declaration mandates masks in certain settings

New COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations continue to spike across the state, reaching record levels, and Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed a new emergency declaration.

Under Reynolds' new proclamation, people over the age of two at social gatherings will be required to wear a mask if there are more than 100 people for an outdoor event, or 25 people for an indoor event.

Masks will also be required in salons, barbershops, massage parlors, tattoo shops and tanning facilities, unless face services are being performed.

Gov. Reynolds said the new measures are necessary to ensure businesses can continue to operate.

The mandate goes into effect Wednesday, Nov. 11, and Reynolds says Iowans who do not follow the new mandates could face misdemeanor charges.

3:01 p.m. - Lucas County to recount votes from election night

Iowa’s Secretary of State is ordering a recount of votes in Lucas County after the results for one precinct were left out of election night totals.

With the nearly 300 votes included, Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks pulled ahead in the extremely close second district congressional race. Before this, Democrat Rita Hart had pulled ahead after Jasper County resolved discrepancies in its unofficial results, but it’s still too close to call a winner.

Lucas County Auditor Julie Masters says her office discovered the problem while preparing to certify the results. She says it was human error and she takes full responsibility.

Later this week, Lucas County plans to start a machine recount of the whole county, and a hand recount of the affected precinct.

12:12 p.m. - Iowa Department of Education approves Des Moines Public Schools remote learning waiver

The Iowa Department of Education has approved a waiver for Des Moines Public Schools to switch to all-online classes starting Monday, Nov. 16 and going through the end of the month.

DMPS is one of several districts including Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Johnston and West Des Moines that are asking for state approval to temporarily go virtual because of worsening pandemic conditions.

Department of Education director Ann Lebo says 24 remote learning requests have been approved since the start of the month and more are pending.

11:57 a.m. - Update on 2nd Congressional District race

The still-unofficial margin in the incredibly close race for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District has shifted yet again: Republican state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks now leads former Democratic state Sen. Rita Hart by 49 votes. That’s according to the Iowa Secretary of State’s tally of preliminary results, which was updated shortly before 11 a.m. Tuesday.

Which candidate is in the lead has switched multiple times as subsequent rounds of late-arriving absentee ballots and provisional votes are tallied and as election officials correct any discrepancies.

The race is considered one of the closest in the country and even slight shifts can significantly affect the unofficial tally.

The Associated Press has not called a winner in the race.

11:10 a.m. - Update on 2nd Congressional District race

Preliminary state numbers show Republican State Senator Mariannette Miller-Meeks is now in the lead in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District by a mere 49 votes, as of Tuesday morning.

She is facing off against former Democratic State Senator Rita Hart in what is considered one of the closest races in the country.

10:00 a.m. - 4,441 new COVID-19 cases, 27 new deaths, 1,135 total hospitalizations reported Tuesday

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period.

9:52 a.m. - Preliminary state numbers show State Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks now slightly leading in 2nd Congressional District Race

Preliminary state numbers show Republican State Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks is now in the lead in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District by a mere 34 votes.

She is facing off against former Democratic State Sen. Rita Hart in what is considered one of the closest races in the country.

The shift is due in part to late-arriving absentee ballots, which had to be returned to county auditors by Monday, but there may also be an irregularity in the tally in Lucas County. Iowa Secretary of State Paul will hold a press conference there Tuesday morning to discuss unofficial results from one precinct.

9:42 a.m. - Waterloo Mayor tests positive for COVID-19

During a Monday City Council meeting via Zoom, Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart announced that he has tested positive for COVID-19, and he is self-isolating at home.

Hart disclosed that he had transported a sick family member to a hospital emergency room last week, and it took more than three hours for that person to see a doctor.

He told council members his symptoms include feeling tired and sore, but he has not had a fever. He added that he has not seen a health care provider for any services.

All seven Waterloo City Council members voted Monday to approve an extension of a mask mandate in the city. The 12-week extension comes as Black Hawk County reported 220 new cases Monday with one additional death for a total of 108.

9:36 a.m. - Growing number of school districts ask to switch to all-online learning

A growing number of school districts are lining up to ask permission from the Iowa Department of Education to switch to all-online learning as COVID-19 cases continue to spike.

West Des Moines schools will apply for a waiver to take the district online through Thanksgiving. Waukee will ask to go online at three schools where students have been in-person full-time.

Waukee Superintendent Brad Buck says there’s not much spread happening at school but absence rates are still climbing for students and teachers.

The positivity rate in the county where a school is located must be over 15 percent before a district can go virtual, and 84 of Iowa’s 99 counties are now past that mark.

Monday, November 9

5:36p.m. - Emergency use of COVID-19 vaccine likely won't be authorized until at least December

University of Iowa experts say Iowans will need to wait awhile before they can get a COVID-19 vaccine. This comes as drug maker Pfizer announced Monday that early analysis of its vaccine trial shows it’s more than 90 percent effective.

The results were obtained through an ongoing trial with 44,000 participants, including 270 people enrolled through the University of Iowa.

Carver College of Medicine Executive Dean Pat Winokur, who oversees UI’s trial, says while the early results are promising, the FDA likely won't authorize emergency use of the vaccine until at least December.

Winokur says Pfizer still needs to submit its final safety data to the FDA.

Winokur says state and local health officials will then need to determine who gets priority for the vaccine, as it will take awhile for the company to ramp up production.

1:58 p.m. - Republicans plan a conservative approach for the next legislative session

Republicans in the Iowa House have re-elected their top leaders as the party prepares to take an expanded majority into the next legislative session.

Rep. Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, was re-elected as House Speaker. Rep. Matt Windschitle, R-Missouri Valley, will return as Majority Leader.

In a statement, Grassley said House Republicans will take a conservative approach to the state budget while also working on issues such as workforce, childcare and broadband.

After gaining seats in the election, Republicans will hold a 59-41 majority in the Iowa House.

1:47 p.m. - Mask mandate in Harrison County goes into effect Monday, Nov. 9

Starting Monday, people in Harrison County are expected to comply with the county’s face mask mandate.

The western Iowa county’s regulation says people need to wear a mask in public and indoors, like in a grocery store, a pharmacy or a school.

The mandate technically went into effect last Wednesday when it was published in local newspapers, but Harrison County’s public health administrator said the county wanted to give people time to adjust.

Harrison County’s two-week infection rate is above 22 percent as of Monday afternoon The county’s regulation will expire when it sees a positivity rate under 10 percent for 14 consecutive days.

After 30 days, the county’s board of health and board of supervisors could decide whether or not renew it.

12:25 p.m. - Hand audit for 2nd Congressional District is underway in Jasper County

A hand audit of votes from one precinct is underway at the Jasper County Courthouse Monday.

The outcome could have an impact on the race for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District. Democrat Rita Hart is currently ahead by 163 votes in the preliminary count.

The audit was called after election workers detected a clerical error that incorrectly awarded some 300 extra votes to the Republican candidate, Mariannette Miller-Meeks.

Secretary of State Paul Pate was on-site Monday and says the process will ensure the ultimate results are accurate.

The AP has not yet called a winner in the race for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District.

10:00 a.m. - 4,212 new COVID-19 cases, three new deaths reported Monday

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period.

9:39 a.m. - Des Moines Public Schools asks for virtual learning waiver as COVID-19 surges in Polk County

Des Moines high schools will bring students back under the district’s hybrid plan for first the time Tuesday, Nov. 10, but the district is also asking state education officials for a virtual learning waiver as coronavirus cases surge in the community.

With the two-week infection rate for Polk County at 16 percent, the Des Moines school board agreed the district should go back to all-virtual learning, but only if the Iowa Department of Education gives the okay.

Until then, the district will finish transitioning to hybrid learning when high schools go back in-person this week.

Board member Dwana Bradley says there are signs that more virtual learning would only worsen academic disparities for students of color.

If DMPS is granted a waiver, all grades would likely go virtual next Monday, Nov. 13 through Thanksgiving.

9:24 a.m. - Organic farmers experience great challenges and increased interest this year
Organic farmers accustomed to selling directly to consumers through community supported agriculture or farmers markets saw a rare combination of increased interest and greater challenges this year. The pandemic caused later openings and certain restrictions at many markets, but people quarantining at home and fearing disruptions in the food supply reached out to local farmers, sometimes for the first time.

Iowa State University organic specialist Kathleen Delate says some farm operators got creative, like Grade A Gardens in Johnston.

It seemed to go well, she says, and similar accommodations could be necessary again next season. Delate is organizing the 20th Iowa Organic Conference on Nov. 23 which will be all virtual this year. She made her comments on IPR’s Talk of Iowa.

Sunday, November 8

11:00 a.m. - Machine recount in Jasper County does not change the preliminary results for 2nd Congressional District race
A machine recount of all Jasper County votes has affirmed the preliminary results in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District. The state’s unofficial tally now shows former Democratic State Sen. Rita Hart with a 163 vote lead over Republican State Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks.

The recount was called after election workers found a clerical error that gave Miller-Meeks some 300 extra votes.

Jasper County auditor Dennis Parrott says he stands by the results of the recount.

Miller-Meeks’ campaign has questioned the auditor’s operations and is demanding more information about the clerical error. All results are still unofficial and the AP has not called the race.

10:00 a.m. - State sets another record for hospitalizations; Iowans admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 in last 24 hours

On Sunday, the state reported that 992 Iowans were hospitalized with COVID-19, and that 181 of those individuals had been admitted in a 24-hour period ending Sunday at 10 a.m. Both of those numbers are new records.

As hospitalizations continue to trend upward, Gov. Kim Reynolds is asking Iowans to help do their part to get the pandemic under control by social distancing, wearing masks and avoiding gathering in large groups.

Over the course of the weekend, 8,462 new cases were reported alongside 27 more deaths.

*All number reflect a 24-hour reporting period.