392 New COVID-19 Cases, 3 More Deaths Reported Friday

Follow the latest Iowa news in our Daily Digest, a liveblog where you can catch up on the headlines in five minutes and find more reporting from our news team about the stories you care about. 

COVID-19 Information:

Friday, June 19

5:30 p.m. – Prosecutors drop five out of six charges against a leader of the Black Lives Matter protests in Iowa City

The Johnson County Attorney has agreed to drop most of the charges against Mazin Mohamedali in exchange for him pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.  

That stems from his actions on June 3, leading a crowd of protesters in obstructing public streets, as part of their efforts to draw attention to police brutality and systemic racism. 

The march ended that night when officers used tear gas and flash bangs to break up the protesters as they approached an I-80 interchange, The march ended that night when officers used tear gas and flash bangs to break up the protesters as they approached an I-80 interchange, a use of force that local elected officials condemned. 

Earlier this week the city council pledged to restructure the local police department, so that fewer armed officers respond to nonviolent situations. 

4:51 p.m. – Cedar Rapids City Council approves resolution in support of Black Lives Matter activists

The Cedar Rapids City Council approved a resolution in support of local Black Lives Matter activists Friday, but they noted that some of the group’s demands may be outside of their legal authority. Councilmembers said that state and federal law may preempt their ability to decriminalize low level marijuana offenses or make police union negotiations public. 

The council is unanimously committed to the group’s priorities and to getting more guidance on the scope of their authority over the next two months.

Black Lives Matter activists in Iowa City and Des Moines have also pushed for and achieved policy changes and commitments at the local and state level.

3:31 p.m. – Woodbury County to recognize original route of U.S. Highway 20 from 1926

Woodbury County supervisors this week signed on to a national effort to recognize the original route of U.S. Highway 20 from 1926.

Signage will be placed along county and state maintained roads to formally designate and guide tourists along the 1926 route. It runs from Boston, Massachusetts to Newport, Oregon. Thirteen Iowa counties are a part of it.

Woodbury County’s community and economic development director, David Gleiser, said the signage will cost the county around $3,300.  

2:55 p.m. – Two men in custody for assault of Darquan Jones

Des Moines police say two men are in custody for the assault of Darquan Jones last month.

Jones, who is Black, says the men who beat him used racial slurs and dragged him to a nearby creek before people in a nearby apartment intervened. He suffered multiple facial fractures and a broken arm.

Jesse Downs and Dale Millard will both be charged with one count of willful injury, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Jones’ father and the Des Moines NAACP had called on investigators to consider hate crime charges.

No additional arrests are expected in the case.

12:48 p.m. – Communities across Iowa celebrate Juneteenth

Communities across Iowa are celebrating Juneteenth, a day marking the end of slavery in United States. The holiday has gained broader awareness following widespread protests against racism and police violence.

Des Moines hip-hop artist, MarKaus, is an organizer of the annual Iowa Juneteenth Observance. Speaking on IPR’s River to River, MarKaus said Juneteenth deserves to be celebrated alongside other national holidays.

Markaus says there will be no Juneteenth parade in Des Moines Saturday, so organizers are holding a virtual Neighbor’s Day with musical performances streamed online by DSM TV Live.

10:59 a.m. – Hola Iowa to launch new project with Iowa Commission of Latino Affairs

Twenty Latinos in Iowa will be featured in the publication Hola Iowa for a new collaboration with the Iowa Commission of Latino Affairs. The Latinos You Should Know project will spotlight the “20 Latinos of 2020.” Hola Iowa is a bilingual publication that covers the Latino community in Iowa and Western Illinois and has teamed up with the commission to make the initiative happen.

Nominations will be accepted soon. The publisher of Hola Iowa, Tar Macias, says the feature will come out in either October of this year, or early next year.

Read more on this story from IPR's Kassidy Arena.

10:13 a.m. – State makes free counseling available

As Iowans continue to grapple with effects of the coronavirus, the state is making free remote counseling available.

Teresa Zilk is a media specialist for the COVID Recovery grant. She says they want to reach Iowans “from all walks of life.” Those who lost their jobs, are now constantly home with their families, people with disabilities, and Iowans struggling with anxiety surrounding all this uncertainty.

Spanish language services are available, and counselors can also refer people to other services. All Iowans can seek free confidential counseling at covidrecoveryiowa.org.  

 10:00 a.m. - 392 new COVID-19 cases, 3 new deaths reported Friday

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period. 

Thursday, June 18

6:14 p.m. – African American Museum of Iowa to collect artifacts for exhibit on activism

Thousands of Iowans have taken to the streets as part of the Black Lives Matter movement, successfully spurring policy changes at the local and state level.

The African American Museum of Iowa sees this as a historic moment. They’re hoping to preserve artifacts and experiences from this time for an upcoming exhibit about 21st century activism, which will also feature #MeToo and LGBTQ rights movements.

The museum plans to collect protest signs to add to the collection. Iowans can reflect on their own experiences by filling out an online questionnaire, by the end of the month.

3:22 p.m. – Black Lives Matter activists pressure Gov. Kim Reynolds to restore felon voting rights immediately

Black Lives Matter activists in Iowa are pressuring Reynolds to restore felon voting rights immediately with an executive order. They say the tens of thousands of Iowans who could be impacted need time to prepare for the November election by registering to vote and getting an ID.  

Reynolds said there’s a lot of time, and she stressed the importance of getting the language right. Reynolds repeated she wants to keep pushing for a constitutional amendment as a permanent solution after the Republican-led Iowa Senate declined to advance that effort. 

1:43 p.m. – Gov. Kim Reynolds announces new economic advisory board to respond to COVID-19 fallout

Reynolds has announced several CEOs and others as members of a new economic advisory board to respond to the economic fallout of the coronavirus. 

She said it’s part of the “recovery” phase of the coronavirus pandemic in Iowa. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have been declining for weeks. But some areas of the state are just starting to see spikes in virus activity as confirmed cases increase dramatically in places like Dickinson and Story counties. Reynolds said three new Test Iowa sites will open next week. 

Reynolds also said she’ll no longer hold televised news conferences to give live updates on the state’s response to the coronavirus  

11:21 a.m. – Iowa DREAMers celebrate DACA decision

The U. S. Supreme Court has ruled against the Trump administration and upheld the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, more commonly known as DACA.

The decision was close, but by a ruling of 5-4, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to allow DACA recipients, referred to as DREAMers, to stay in the country without fear of deportation. According to the American Immigration Council's website, there are about 2,500 DACA recipients in Iowa.
DACA recipients must apply for their status and be deemed qualified before they are allowed to work legally and pay taxes. 

Read more about this story from IPR Reporter Kassidy Arena.

11:00 a.m. - Gov. Reynolds hosts press conference

10:00 a.m. - 355 new COVID-19 cases, 7 new deaths reported Thursday

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period. 

9:30 a.m. – Just over 9,500 workers filed for unemployment in Iowa last week

Iowa Workforce Development reports just over 9,500 workers filed new unemployment claims last week, including people who work in Iowa but live out-of-state. That’s about the same as the previous week.

Most claims came from the manufacturing industry and self-employed workers.

The total number of Iowans continuing to receive unemployment benefits declined to about 155,000. That’s down from a peak of nearly 190,000 in early May.

Wednesday, June 17

4:02 p.m. – University of Iowa releases information on plans to resume classes this fall

The University of Iowa has released updated information on the school’s plans to resume classes this fall, with a blend of in-person and online instruction.

Unlike the other two regents universities, which are starting a week early, UI intends to start classes on August 24. All classes after Thanksgiving will be held virtually.

The school will coordinate with local public health officials on contact tracing and disease investigation, and will make testing available.

The university will also provide all students, faculty and staff with masks and a face shield. While inside campus buildings, all are required to wear face coverings, unless alone in a private office.  

10:00 a.m. - 219 new COVID-19 cases, 9 new deaths reported Wednesday

These numbers represent a 24-hour reporting period. 

7:50 a.m. – Iowa City City Council approves plan to restructure city police department

The Iowa City City Council has approved a plan to consider how to restructure the city police department in response to local Black Lives Matter activists.

Advocates across the country are urging officials to redirect funding for law enforcement to address broader issues like poverty or mental health.

At a special meeting Tuesday, Iowa City Councilmembers voted to develop a plan to have unarmed professionals respond to nonviolent calls for service.

The council adopted a number of other resolutions pushed by local activists, including banning the use of tear gas on peaceful protesters and establishing a peace and reconciliation commission to address systemic racism.

Read more of this story from IPR's Kate Payne. 

Tuesday, June 16

5:20 p.m. – Vice President Mike Pence tours Winnebago facility in Iowa

Pence was in Iowa Tuesday, touring the Winnebago facility in Forest City and speaking to workers in the plant’s parking lot. The vice president praised the RV company for its temporary shift to making face shields. “It’s men and women like you and companies like this that are getting America rolling again. I mean it was companies in essential industries that literally never stopped who transformed themselves to be a part of the solution for our health care workers and for our families,” said Pence.

Pence had lunch with Gov. Kim Reynolds and her husband, as well as State Sen. Randy Feenstra, before visiting Winnebago.

4:48 p.m. – Sioux City’s two hospitals record lowest combined number of COVID-19 patients

Sioux City’s two hospitals recorded their lowest combined number of COVID-19 patients Tuesday since they started releasing the data in early May.

In a joint statement, MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center and UnityPoint Health - St. Lukes say they’re caring for 47 COVID-19 patients. The two hospitals recently said they’ve served nearly 400 COVID-19 patients from more than 10 counties in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.

Woodbury County is the most populous county in the Sioux City metro area.  It has had more than 3,000 total COVID-19 cases ever since the first case in the county was reported in late March, but it has been seeing a decrease in new ones. Five additional cases were reported Tuesday. Nearly 2,5000 have recovered.

4:23 p.m. – Annual Veteran Honor Flights cancelled for 2020

Veterans who fly to Washington D.C. to see their service memorials on so-called Honor Flights will have to wait until next year. The national board of directors has canceled all trips until 2021 due to concern over COVID-19.

Co-Chair of the Sullivan Hartog Davis Flight in Waterloo, Frank Magsamen said the trips began in 2005 to take World War II veterans to see their newly dedicated memorial. “They are still participating in this both the World War II and the Korean. The numbers have certainly reduced and 80 percent now are from the Vietnam War,” Magsamen said.

In the Quad Cities, Director Steve Garrington said there are 700 veterans on their waiting list for four flights a year. He said they are considering adding a fifth if they can find enough volunteers. 

12:11 p.m. – Turkey farmers ask for pandemic relief

Turkey farmers in Iowa haven’t received any pandemic relief money from the federal government. Yet some have had empty barns as there’s been little demand for the most common product: breast meat for cold cuts. Now, Iowa’s governor, agriculture secretary and U.S. senators are asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to offer some money to the industry.

Sen. Chuck Grassley says the pandemic relief program set aside money for USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation. He says that should now be used to help turkey, egg and other poultry farms.

Farmer Ron Kardel, of Walcott, is chair of the National Turkey Federation, which he says \wants provisions to help farmers stay viable until they can resume full production.

Read more of this story from IPR’s Amy Mayer.

11:04 a.m. - Vice President Mike Pence is in Iowa today

11:00 a.m. - Gov. Reynolds will issue order on felon voting rights

Gov. Kim Reynolds will issue an executive order that automatically restores felon voting rights before the November election.

“We’re working on that right now, sitting down with various groups, listening to what they think is important what is contained in that executive order,” Reynolds said today in Osage, “and then I’ve got my legal team working on it.”

Iowa is now the only state that permanently bars paroled felons from voting unless the governor approves their voting rights application.

Read more of this story.

10:00 - 120 new COVID-19 cases, 9 new deaths announced Tuesday

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period. 

9:33 a.m. – An Iowa emergency support fund has received an overwhelming number of applications due to COVID-19 costs

The Central Iowa Immigrant Emergency Support Fund has assisted about 100 families with COVID-19 related costs who don’t qualify for federal relief. But more than 200 are still on the waiting list.

The fund began with a grant from the Greater Des Moines Community Foundation and has continued with help from the American Friends Service Committee of Iowa, Al Exito and Proteus of Central Iowa. Johnny Alcivar is the Workforce Program Director of Proteus. He says even more immigrant families will need support after the expected second-wave of COVID-19.

Alcivar says although the fund has provided more than $80,000 the total sum requested from everyone on the waitlist adds up to almost $150,000.

Monday, June 15

4:04 p.m. – Supreme Court decision protecting LGBTQ employees from discrimination has Iowa impact

The United States Supreme Court has ruled LGBTQ employees are protected from workplace discrimination. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court granted discrimination protection to gay, lesbian and transgender individuals. 

One Iowa is an advocacy organization based in Des Moines that works on advancing equality for LGBTQ individuals. Executive director Courtney Reyes said Iowa leads the way in equality, as it was one of the first states to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. “When you have the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, rule that this should be the law of the land, it really helps affirm that Iowa is on the right side of this, ” said Reyes.

Reyes said there were 14 anti-LGBTQ bills in the legislature last session, and Iowa still needs to work on civil rights for LGBTQ individuals.  

Read more of this story from IPR's Kassidy Arena. 

3:04 p.m. – Gov. Kim Reynolds commits to sign an executive order restoring felon voting rights, activists say

Reynolds has committed to sign an executive order restoring felon voting rights, according to activists who met with her at the Capitol Monday. This comes after state lawmakers failed to pass a constitutional amendment before the end of the legislative session.

Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, D-Des Moines said Reynolds plans to issue an order in time for it to take effect for November’s general election. He said it’s a positive step, but only a temporary solution. “There will be an executive order, but at the same time we have to push in January for the legislation so that we get it permanently.”

Abdul-Samad said Reynolds did not discuss whether she would require felons to pay restitution before they can vote. Her office did not respond to questions about the meeting. 

Read more of this story from IPR's reporter Grant Gerlock.

10:00 a.m. - 162 new COVID-19 cases Monday

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period. 

9:35 a.m. – Under The Golden Dome: Last-minute legislation

During the last week of the 2020 legislative session, a series of changes about absentee voting passed in the Senate, but the House changed the bill dramatically. A proposal titled "More Perfect Union" was drafted and passed unanimously in both chambers during one afternoon. And in the last 24 hours of the session a newly-introduced abortion restriction amendment passed. Also, the budget was amended with a new requirement about how county auditors must contact voters when there is incorrect voter identification information on absentee ballot request forms.

Listen to the final episode of this season of IPR’s legislative podcast “Under The Golden Dome.”

8:01 a.m. - Black Lives Matter protesters in Cedar Rapids got a public pledge of support from a city councilmember over the weekend

Demonstrators led by the group Advocates for Social Justice marched on Saturday, urging local officials to address their demands.

Those priorities include decriminalizing low level marijuana offenses and abolishing qualified immunity, which can shield government officials from personal liability.

After being questioned by an organizer, Councilmember Dale Todd told the crowd of hundreds that he supports the demands. The group has also collected hundreds of signatures on a petition urging the city council to act on their demands.

Read more about the protests in Cedar Rapids from Kate Payne.

Sunday June 14

7:30 p.m. – Iowa Senate fails to pass constitutional amendment to restore felon voting rights

The Iowa Senate has finished its work for the year without advancing a constitutional amendment to restore felon voting rights, setting the effort back at least two years.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has said the constitutional amendment was one of her top priorities, but Senate Republicans failed to pass it, even after reaching a compromise in which Reynolds signed a bill to add restrictions on who could get their voting rights back.

Reynolds’ office hasn’t confirmed if she’s pursuing an executive order to restore felon voting rights.

Read more of this story from IPR’s state government reporter Katarina Sostaric.

2:00 p.m. - Iowa lawmakers completed the 2020 legislative session Sunday after taking several weeks off because of the coronavirus pandemic

Lawmakers debated through Saturday night to approve a budget agreement and last-minute policies related to abortion and voting rights.

Republican leaders agreed to a nearly $7 billion mostly status quo state budget as revenue is expected to take a hit from the economic fallout of the pandemic. The budget included a typical increase for Medicaid and a cut to Iowa’s public universities.

Republicans also approved some changes to absentee voting that Democrats worry could restrict access to mail-in voting. They also introduced and passed a 24-hour abortion waiting period in one night.

These proposals go to Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds’ desk for her signature.

Senate Republicans also failed to advance a constitutional amendment to restore felon voting rights. House Republicans failed to advance an abortion-related constitutional amendment.

Read more from IPR's state government reporter Katarina Sostaric. 

10:00 a.m. - 328 new COVID-19 cases announced Sunday

On Saturday, 385 more positive cases were confirmed, for a total of 713 new positive cases over the weekend. Nine more people died Saturday of the virus. These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period.

5:30 a.m. - GOP lawmakers enact 24-hour waiting period for abortion

Iowa’s Republican-led legislature passed a bill mandating a 24-hour abortion waiting period on Saturday night and early Sunday morning, just a few hours after first introducing the proposal and as the House GOP failed to get enough support to pass an abortion-related constitutional amendment.

Read more of this story via Katarina Sostaric.