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Des Moines Mayor Repeals Mask Mandate

Daily Digest

Friday, May 14

1:54 p.m. – Des Moines mayor repeals mask mandate

A mask mandate for Des Moines that was put in place in August has now ended.

The change is a response to new CDC guidelines that say people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to cover their faces in most situations.

In a statement Friday, Mayor Frank Cownie thanked residents and businesses who followed the rule. He also urged people who are not vaccinated to have it done before Independence Day gatherings take place this summer.

Masks are still recommended in places such as hospitals and in congregate settings and for people who are unvaccinated.

10:33 a.m. – Saturday is the deadline for artists of color to apply for Manifestival performance space

Saturday is the last day for artists of color to apply for a performance space at a Juneteenth festival.

The 515 Manifestival will focus specifically on artists of color from all across Iowa. Buffy Jamison, who uses they/them pronouns, is a co-creator of the festival. They say now is the time to support artists of color who were not considered essential workers during the height of the pandemic.

“Giving artists this platform, and making it a free event, is another way of giving them the opportunity to make money and the opportunity to be told by folks that yes, indeed, the arts are essential and are super important and always have been.”

Jamison says the Des Moines festival is open to all artists of color, but will have a Black focus. That’s why it will take place on Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating slave emancipation.

“It's so incredibly important to have a space like that, especially in times like this. We know that in times of great grief. And in times of civil unrest, there usually is a huge cultural boom.”

The event in Des Moines will be free to attend and available both in person and virtually.

10 a.m. - Three additional deaths, 253 new cases of COVID-19 reported Friday

7 a.m. Eastern Iowa auditor's election worker payments investigated

Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand announced Thursday that his office has launched an investigation into an eastern county auditor’s payments made to election workers last year.

Sand will examine potential overpayments to election workers that were approved by former Scott County Auditor Roxanna Moritz, Sand’s office said in a news release. Sand said the payments could amount to a misuse of Help America Vote Act funds made available through the Iowa Secretary of State Office, which is also helping with the investigation.

Scott County supervisors in December chided Moritz for increasing poll workers’ pay — without county board approval — from $10 to $12 an hour to $15 an hour for working the June primary during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moritz, who resigned last month, had previously told the Quad-City Times that she made a mistake and thought she had the authority to increase poll workers’ pay.

Entry via the Associated Press

Thursday, May 13

4:41 p.m. – Des Moines Black Liberation Movement calls out Iowa Democrats for not doing more to reduce the state’s prison population in response to health and safety concerns

The state’s prisons have long been overcrowded and understaffed. Following a deadly attack on two prison employees in March, Democratic leaders have called for more staff to be hired.

But Matè Muhammad, with Des Moines BLM, says Democrats should instead be pressuring the state to release more inmates. “We need decarceration. More prison guards is not an answer to a failed system. You cannot…there’s not any amount of guards that you can put in that their backs are going to be able to hold up a system that is just crumbling.”

Des Moines BLM released a statement Thursday demanding better conditions behind bars, including letting visitors return to the facilities and raising wages for inmate workers.

3:28 p.m. – Iowa DHS holds town hall in attempt to get more DHS employees vaccinated

Officials at the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) say they will continue efforts to encourage more employees at their facilities to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

According to state data, 36 percent of employees at DHS’s six facilities declined the COVID-19 shot as of last Friday. That’s the same percent that had declined it five weeks before.

“What we're hoping to do is that different people need different types of messaging, and, and a reason to kind of come on board,” says DHS Director Kelly Garcia.

Garcia says state officials are trying a variety of approaches to encourage employees to get vaccinated, like addressing their concerns directly at a town hall at Woodward Resource Center two weeks ago.

“What are they worried about -- fertility came up. They were worried about why it makes you ill if you get the second -- so why do some people have a really strong reaction to the shot. They had some really great questions,” Garcia says.

Recent polls have shown between 20 and 25 percent of Americans say they will not get the shot.

2:04 p.m. - Axne bill on corporate profit shifting clears U.S. House panel

Iowa Congresswoman Cindy Axne is sponsoring a bill designed to force big corporations to disclose how many jobs they outsource to other countries and if they’re using so-called tax havens in other countries to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

“In 2017, U.S. corporations booked $32 billion of profits in Bermuda, despite having 547 employees there. That’s something like an efficiency rate of $130 million per employee. Come on. I know Iowans are efficient when it comes to work, but that’s crazy,” Axne said. “That’s $32 billion in profits that’s been off-shored — they’re not paying taxes on that.”

Axne’s bill has cleared the U.S. House Financial Services Committee and similar legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Senate. Axne, a Democrat from West Des Moines, said it’s a fairness issue.

“The large, multinational corporations are shifting those profits around and avoiding taxes,” Axne said, “while our Main Street businesses are paying their taxes, and they’re struggling to make ends meet.”

If Axne’s bill becomes law, corporations with shareholders would have to publicly disclose details about operations on a country-by-country basis. Axne said it would show how many employees are based outside the United States and how much company revenue and profits are being claimed as being earned outside the U.S.

“Once you disclose this, there is an obvious understanding of how much money we’re missing out in taxes because businesses are taking advantage of opportunities that the everyday Iowan, the everyday American doesn’t even know about,” Axne said, “or even have a chance to do.”

Axne’s bill would work in tandem with tax changes the Biden Administration is seeking to reduce the incentives for corporations to shift profits to low-tax countries in order to avoid U.S. corporate taxes.

Entry via Mike Peterson for KMA, Shenandoah and O. Kay Henderson for Radio Iowa

11:52 a.m. – Iowa doctors encourage parents to vaccinate children as young as 12 against COVID-19

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine be given to kids as young as age 12, and Iowa doctors are encouraging parents in the state to vaccinate their children.

Some Iowa doctors say parents still have many questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. William Ching is a pediatric hospitalist at Unity Point Health St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids. He says since the vaccine is safe, if more children are vaccinated, it could help the population get closer to herd immunity.

“These things are game changers that will do so much to restore normalcy for our children and our families,” he says.

Ching also says the vaccine technology is a “dream,” and says that, in the trial, out of children who got the vaccine, zero contracted the virus and there were no serious side effects related to the vaccine.

And Dr. Joel Waddell, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Unity Point Health in Des Moines, says there’s more to consider with a vaccine, other than just protecting children against developing severe cases of COVID-19. It may also help with mental health and allow kids start to resume activities that offer a sense of normalcy, like visiting friends and family and even going to summer camps.

“I think that there is immediate benefit of giving this vaccine, and I think it’s going to loosen things up a little bit in terms of what activities are safe,” Waddell says.

Waddell and Ching made their comments on IPR’s Talk of Iowa.

10 a.m. - Five additional deaths, 305 new cases of COVID-19 reported Thursday

6:04 a.m. - AAA Iowa says the state gas supply is secure

While some gas stations in the Southern United States have temporarily closed, and pump prices are rising on the East Coast, there’s only one report of a Davenport-area convenience store running out of gas, though prices are climbing in many Iowa cities.

Meredith Mitts, spokesperson for AAA Iowa, says the state’s gasoline supply is secure in the wake of last week’s cyberattack on a pipeline’s computers. “Colonial Pipeline is working very hard to have the operation restored by the end of this week,” Mitts says. “Hopefully, what’s happening with those gas price surges and those shutdowns is going to be a very temporary thing and not reach us at all in the Midwest.”

The Russian ransomware group Darkside is reportedly responsible for the disruption of the pipeline providing fuel for much of the Southern and Eastern U.S. Mitts says it’s difficult to predict any ripple effects as a result of the cyberattack.

“Unfortunately, the situation is very fluid,” Mitts says. “With the gas shortage, it’s going to vary by region and we don’t yet know what the full impact is happening in the Midwest and in Iowa.”

Gas prices nationwide are averaging $3 a gallon, while in Iowa, the statewide average is $2.89, which is up almost a dime a gallon in the past week. A year ago, the average Iowa price was more than a dollar cheaper, at a $1.71.

Mitts says demand for gas is starting to rise in Iowa as we approach the warmer weather months. “People are more comfortable traveling,” Mitts says. “We are seeing a 60 percent jump from last year, but that’s still 14 percent below our pre-pandemic levels. As we get closer to normal, we aren’t quite back to what we were before the pandemic.”

The unofficial start of summer is coming in a few weeks with Memorial Day weekend, which Mitts says should mean a significant uptick in traffic.

Entry via Matt Kelley for Radio Iowa. Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City contributed to this report.

Wednesday, May 12

3:54 p.m. – New law ends sex abuse statute of limitations

Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed a bill into law removing Iowa’s time limit on filing criminal charges against people accused of sexually abusing children.

It takes effect immediately. Before this new law was enacted, survivors of childhood sex abuse had until their 32nd birthday to try to get charges filed against their abuser. Some survivors don’t come forward about their abuse until much later in life.

In a statement, Reynolds says the state is standing in support of survivors of sexual violence.

Advocates for sex abuse survivors say the state should also get rid of its time limit on filing civil lawsuits related to child sex abuse. That would help hold accountable organizations that have protected known abusers.

3:34 p.m. Reynolds says there’s no need to ‘fear COVID-19 any longer,’ despite warnings from health experts

Gov. Kim Reynolds says there’s no need to fear COVID-19 anymore.

She cited the state’s declining number of hospitalizations and the widespread availability of vaccines as reasons for Iowans to, “lean further into normal.”

Reynolds says she’ll be encouraging businesses to offer employees and customers “more normal” work, business, dining and entertainment experiences.

“There’s no reason for us to continue to fear COVID-19 any longer. We know how to manage it and individuals can be trusted to make decisions that will keep us on a path forward.”

While Iowa has made progress in reducing infection rates and getting people vaccinated, the pandemic isn’t over. The percentage of fully vaccinated Iowans is still far below what public health experts say is needed. Hundreds of Iowans are testing positive for COVID-19 each week, and some are being admitted to hospitals.

2:53 p.m. – Reynolds defends decision to cut federal unemployment benefits, says payments keep Iowans from taking new jobs

Gov. Kim Reynolds is defending her decision to end additional federal unemployment benefits as part of a push to “lean further into normal.”

Reynolds and business groups say the extra payments to unemployed Iowans are keeping them from taking new jobs at a time when businesses can’t find enough workers. Reynolds didn’t provide data to support that claim when asked at a news conference. She says there are more jobs open than people to fill them, which was true before the pandemic.

“These programs provided Iowans with crucial assistance when the pandemic first began. But more than a year later, they have served their purpose. Iowa is open for business. Jobs are readily available and employers are eager to hire. And it’s time to get back to work.”

Reynolds was also asked about the impact this could have on food banks, which are still seeing high levels of food insecurity. She says pre-pandemic unemployment benefits, food assistance and rental assistance will still be available.

12:52 p.m. – As demand wanes, state changes strategy for distributing COVID-19 vaccines

Iowa health officials say they’re shifting their strategy for distributing COVID-19 vaccines as demand for the shot continues to decline. The state accepted less than one-third of its COVID-19 vaccine allocation from the federal government this week.

Ken Sharp is an administrator with the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH). He told the State Board of Health that counties have largely stopped mass vaccination clinics because attendance is so low.

“We're transitioning really to kind of focused, small, we'll call them micro-clinics, that are going into communities where they are meeting people where they are. And we're seeing some very good progress there.”

Sharp said IDPH is also telling vaccine providers to prioritize vaccinating individuals over wasting doses. That’s based on federal guidance.

“Waste has become more acceptable and, in fact, a necessity, so that we can ensure the ongoing progress in getting individuals vaccinated.”

The state will also begin offering the Pfizer vaccine to all Iowa counties so they can vaccinate kids ages 12 to 17.

10 a.m. - Four additional deaths, 374 new cases of COVID-19 reported Wednesday

7 a.m. - ISEA wants teachers to be in on discussions for spending millions in federal pandemic relief

The state teachers union is calling on superintendents and school boards to include teachers and other school staff in discussions about how districts plan to use the latest batch of $770 million in federal pandemic relief.

State law limits teacher contract negotiations to a discussion of salaries, but ISEA president Mike Beranek said U.S. Department of Education guidelines require “all school employees” to be engaged in “meaningful consultation” in how federal funds approved in March are used.

“There is no ambiguity about this direction,” Beranek said, “and we want to want to make it perfectly clear that Iowa’s educators who bravely and consistently worked on the frontlines of this pandemic, who understand first hand what their students need will be at the table when the ideas for use are discussed and the final decisions are made.”

Allison Grier, a Spanish teacher at Newton High School, said this new batch of federal funds can be used in creative ways to address student needs and learning loss.

“These funds offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for innovation and for remediation,” she said.

Kelly McMahon, a kindergarten teacher at Hoover Elementary in Cedar Rapids, said the money can help address barriers to student success.

“This historic influx of money in our school communities can be a game-changer for so many students, families, and educators — if done right,” she said. “Now more than ever educators, parents, administrators, and other stakeholders absolutely must be at the table when discussions and decisions are being made about these funds. We can rise above the effects of this pandemic in ways we’ve never dreamed of.”

The latest round of pandemic relief funds from the federal government can be used to do things like hire new teachers, mental health counselors, and school nurses or to finance summer school programs.

Entry via O. Kay Henderson for Radio Iowa

6 a.m. – Majority of Iowa City councilors say they oppose abolishing police force, want to focus on restructuring instead

A majority of the Iowa City Council said Tuesday that they’re opposed to the possibility of abolishing the police department.

Councilor Laura Bergus prompted the conversation, after penning an opinion piece in the Cedar Rapids Gazette calling for abolition to be “on the table.”

Councilor Susan Mims says she’s totally opposed to the idea.

“Human nature is such that we can never be without…a police force. Now I am absolutely and totally open to the discussions we’re having and other suggestions and ideas that people can bring forth.”

Still, the city is in the process of what it calls restructuring the police, including efforts to divert certain calls to unarmed professionals instead of officers.

But Mayor Bruce Teague said the word abolish is politically dangerous.

“I am not at all in agreement with utilizing the word abolish,” Teague said. “Now, in the process, could there be some duties or some…things that they’re doing that might be abolished that is actually transitioned somewhere else? It’s restructuring.”

The city is planning more public meetings to get further feedback on its restructuring plan.

Tuesday, May 11

4:24 p.m. – Iowa Flood Center creating technology to forecast Missouri River flooding

The Iowa Flood Center is creating technology that will forecast Missouri River flooding and provide information on how it could affect individual homes, businesses and farms. Scientists hope the tech will better inform and prepare people for flooding.

Larry Weber, with the Iowa Flood Center, says during the 2019 flooding, people had very little information about how much water might inundate their property. “The depth of water at your house is a very important piece of information as you're trying to decide whether to evacuate your home. And if you do decide to evacuate, what belongings to bring with you or to take with you out of the home.”

Weber says the Missouri River Flood Forecast and Information System will use forecast models of flooding in real-time and Google Maps to display that information and make it readily available to people. The project is expected to be completed by the end of the year. It’s similar to a tool the flood center has for smaller rivers in Iowa.

12:20 p.m. - Iowans receiving unemployment will soon lose federal assistance

Next month, Iowans will stop receiving federal unemployment benefits put in place because of the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Tuesday that Iowa will stop participating in the programs June 12 because she said they are preventing workers from taking open jobs.

The federal programs add hundreds of dollars to unemployed workers’ weekly benefits and extend assistance beyond the 26 weeks provided through the state.

Reynolds said in a statement “it’s time for everyone who can to get back to work,” and that federal benefits are discouraging that.

JD Davis of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry agrees. He said the recovery for many manufacturers has slowed because they have trouble hiring enough people.

“We are very hopeful in a month's time when these additional benefits are no longer available that we will be seeing large numbers of people eager to return to the workforce,” Davis said.

Iowa State University economist John Winters said that some people likely will find work as they lose assistance, but others will stay out of the workforce because of long-term issues like a lack of affordable childcare.

“That's going to remain an issue, so again if you look at the people that are not working a month from now, or two months from now, I think childcare will probably be one of the most important reasons for that,” Winters said.

Democratic leaders in the legislature criticized Reynolds’ decision to leave the federal unemployment programs. House Minority Leader Todd Prichard, D-Charles City, said in a statement that the move will have consequences for families struggling to afford rent, food and childcare.

10 a.m. - 299 new cases of COVID-19 reported Tuesday

7 a.m. - Iowa to get $1.48B in federal coronavirus assistance money

Iowa will get $1.48 billion in aid under the federal government’s plan to help states hit by the coronavirus pandemic, according to new numbers released Monday.

The U.S. Treasury Department announced a state-by-state funding breakdown for President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, an effort to restore jobs lost during the pandemic and replenish the coffers of governments that saw huge declines in tax revenue.

The plan will distribute $350 billion to state, local, territorial and tribal governments.

The Treasury Department said governments can use the money to cover local public health costs, address the economic impacts of the pandemic and replace lost tax revenue. They can also spend it on premium pay for essential workers and water, sewer and broadband infrastructure projects.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has expressed concerns about certain expenditures not being allowed, which could force the state to repay money to the federal government.

“If we don’t know what the guidelines are, it makes it hard to spend the money, because we don’t want to spend it in the wrong way and have it clawed back,” she said.

Entry via the Associated Press

6:30 a.m. – Environmental advocates file petition to block large cattle operation near prized creek

A coalition of environmental advocates is asking a state board to overturn a decision to approve a large cattle feeding operation near a prized creek in northeast Iowa.

The Sierra Club of Iowa, the Iowa Environmental Council and other conservationists filed a petition Monday with the state Environmental Protection Commission in an effort to block a large cattle operation in one of the state’s most environmentally sensitive areas.

At issue is a plan by the company Supreme Beef to house more than 11,000 cattle near Bloody Run Creek in Clayton County. The stream is one of just a few dozen Outstanding Iowa Waters, designated for their water quality.

The advocates argue the company’s application to the state was “incomplete and incorrect” and that regulators didn’t adequately review it, due to political pressure and understaffing.

The cattle operation is estimated to produce more than 35 million gallons of manure a year.

6 a.m. - Iowa governor removes leader of nursing home for veterans

Gov. Kim Reynolds has removed the chief executive of the state’s nursing home for veterans and their spouses, months after praising his response to the coronavirus pandemic, her office said Monday.

Reynolds’ spokesperson, Pat Garrett, said Timon Oujiri was “relieved of his duties” as commandant of the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown last week. He offered no additional information on the leadership change at the facility, which is Iowa’s largest nursing home.

Reynolds appointed Oujiri as commandant in 2017, and the Iowa Senate confirmed him in 2018. In his role, he oversaw one of the nation’s largest state-owned nursing homes for veterans, with around 500 residents and 900 employees.

In December, the governor appeared with Oujiri at one of her news conferences and praised the work he had done protecting the home’s staff and residents during the pandemic.

“You and your team have done such an outstanding job,” Reynolds said. “Job well done.”

Oujiri, 63, returned the support, saying the governor had ensured the home had adequate personal protective equipment and testing supplies. He said then that 21 of the home’s residents tested positive for COVID-19 in 2020, and that five of them died.

In February, state inspectors found that the home was in compliance with federal infection control standards for COVID-19.

Messages left for Oujiri weren’t immediately returned. As of 2020, a state salary database showed that his annual salary was $126,000.

Commandants serve at the pleasure of the governor. It wasn’t immediately clear if Oujiri, a retired Army colonel, remained a state employee in any capacity.

Entry via the Associated Press

Monday, May 10

4:16 p.m. – Gov. Reynolds signs law ending voluntary school diversity plans

Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law Monday ending limits on open enrollment in five Iowa school districts. The voluntary diversity plans were meant to preserve diversity based on socioeconomic status and English language proficiency.

Des Moines, Davenport, Waterloo, Postville and West Liberty have these open enrollment limits. Under the new law, the open enrollment request deadline of March 1 is waived this year for students in those districts.

This was just one of several changes Reynolds proposed that she said would give parents more choices for their children’s education. Democratic lawmakers say it could speed up the departure of more affluent students, leading to bigger achievement gaps.

Reynolds’ proposal to expand charter schools in Iowa is awaiting her signature. But her push for a school voucher system is unlikely to advance this year.

3:37 p.m. – Iowa Senate panel advances Gov. Reynolds’ proposed tax plan

An Iowa Senate panel has advanced a wide-ranging tax plan proposed by Gov. Kim Reynolds. It would ensure income tax cuts take effect sooner, shift mental health funding from counties to the state, and phase out “backfill” payments to local governments.

Sen. Dan Dawson, R-Council Bluffs, says the bill will provide tax relief and boost the mental health system. “This bill is the pathway forward. There is no other train in this Capitol right now that’s going to leave the station and address all of these priorities.”

It’s the second week of legislative session overtime, and Republican leaders still have to agree on tax policy and the state budget before ending the session. Dawson called the House Republican plan that doesn’t address mental health funding “a lonely island.”

Mental health advocates are generally supportive of proposed changes to the mental health system. But they have some concerns about the state keeping its promise to fund those services in the future.

2:45 p.m. – Iowa City councilmember wants to discuss abolishing the city’s police department

In an opinion piece published in The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Councilmember Laura Bergus wrote that policing relies on a system of force and violence, which she says cannot be undone. “I just want to start the conversation, as I said in the piece, about imagining a future where public safety isn't provided by armed police. I believe that modern policing isn't a sustainable model.”

Bergus says she wants abolition to be a part of the city’s review of its preliminary plan to restructure its police department. The council is holding a meeting to discuss the plan Tuesday.

2:19 p.m. – New Dream Center proposed at Buena Vista University

The diversity and inclusion division of Buena Vista University has proposed a new center at the school for students of various immigration statuses. This includes students who are undocumented, have protected status or who are refugees. Stacey Cole is the superintendent of the Storm Lake Community School District. She says this is a good idea for all students, even those who aren’t in college yet. “Having a center like this in our community I think would offer such a great amount of support to all our students at the high school.”

Cole describes the Dream Center as a way to benefit the entire state, as it could encourage more students to seek higher education. Plans for officially opening it are still in the works, but Buena Vista University is looking at the Dream Center at the University of Utah as a model.

2:04 p.m. – Opioid-related deaths in Iowa increase in 2020

The number of opioid-related deaths in Iowa has increased 35 percent last year, according to state health data.

212 Iowans’ deaths involved opioids in 2020. The previous year, that number was 157.

Kevin Gabbert is the opioid initiatives director for the state health department. He says one major factor is the increase in the number of people mixing drugs like methamphetamine with powerful opioids like fentanyl. “You've got fentanyl, you know, which is, you know, anywhere from, you know, 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. And individuals using at a rate that they're used to, because of tolerance, that creates another whole set of problems.”

Gabbert says it’s unclear if the pandemic has played a role in the increase. But he says COVID-19 related factors like increased isolation from quarantine could have left some users less likely to be close to someone with overdose-reversal drugs on hand.

11 a.m. - Legislature votes for alcohol sales to begin at 6 a.m. on Sundays

The Iowa House and Senate have voted to let alcohol sales start two hours earlier on Sunday mornings, “creating uniformity across each of the days of the week,” Senator Craig Johnson of Independence said.

Under current law, a business has to get a special permit to sell alcohol on Sundays, and can’t sell booze before 8 a.m. The bill that passed the House and Senate last week would let Sunday sales begin at 6 a.m.

Before 1973, alcohol sales were not allowed in Iowa on Sundays. It wasn’t until 1992 that beer, wine and liquor could be sold before noon on Sundays.

Entry via O. Kay Henderson for Radio Iowa

10 a.m. - One additional death, 100 new cases of COVID-19 reported Monday

6 a.m. – Des Moines City Council to vote on changes to public comment policy

The Des Moines City Council will vote Monday evening on whether to extend the time for public comment during council meetings. But the proposal would also limit the number of people who can speak.

Public comment was limited to a total of 30 minutes last summer after some speakers interrupted the virtual meetings with racial slurs and obscenities. But activists who use the time to raise issues with city policies have complained it’s too restrictive. In one recent meeting, dozens of speakers were given just 25 seconds a piece.

The new rules allow for 2 minutes per person, but only 20 people per meeting. Anyone else would go on the next meeting’s agenda.

Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie said in a statement it would “improve the continuity” of the meetings.

The council plans to go back to in-person meetings in June.

Sunday, May 9

10:30 a.m. – Iowa colleges and universities host mix of virtual and in-person commencement ceremonies

Graduation season is underway, and colleges and universities are awarding degrees with a combination of virtual and in-person events.

Commencement will be all-online at the University of Iowa, but there will also be a separate in-person celebration for graduates and their families in Kinnick Stadium on Sunday. Vice President of External Relations Peter Matthes says the university wanted to give students options.

“Obviously this year has been difficult on everyone, and we want to provide a little taste of some normalcy, also recognizing that people have different comfort levels of how to participate.”

Over the weekend, Iowa State University awarded bachelor’s degrees in Jack Trice Stadium, where the virus is less likely to spread in the open air.

Drake University is also planning an outdoor commencement in its campus stadium. Around 1,000 students will be spread across the field with up to four guests each distanced in the stands. Registrar Jenny Tran-Johnson says 2020 graduates were also invited to take part.

“We really wanted to provide our students some type of closure to their college experience that was as similar to a normal commencement ceremony as possible.”

10 a.m. – One additional death, 155 new cases of COVID-19 reported Sunday

Saturday, May 10

10 a.m. - 3 additional deaths, 300 new cases of COVID-19 reported Saturday