Iowa schools are closed for the rest of the school year, and many businesses remain closed through April 30 by order of the governor as the state works to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. We'll be posting updates from Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Public Health and other news as it becomes available here for the week of April 26 - May 2.
Get caught up on the most important headlines from from April 19-25 here.
- Do you have questions about how the outbreak is being handled in Iowa? Fill out this form, and we'll try to answer as many of your questions as we can with our reporting.
- Find more information from the Iowa Department of Public Health here.
- Find a map of cases across the U.S. here.
Editor's Note: This post has been updated to reflect the new reporting maps and data released by state health officials on Tuesday, April 14.
11:38 a.m. - 757 additional COVID-19 cases, 5 more deaths announced
The Iowa Department of Public Health announced 757 new, confirmed cases of COVID-19 Saturday for a total of 8,641 positive cases with limited testing. There have also been five additional deaths, bringing the death toll in Iowa to 175.
In Friday’s press conference, Gov. Kim Reynolds said that the state will report a large number of cases this weekend as a high volume of tests processed this week.
Eighty-seven percent of the new, positive cases today are in the 22 counties where restrictions remain in place, and 493 of the new cases today are from Black Hawk, Dallas and Woodbury counties.
3:04 p.m. – Restaurants unsure about re-opening, despite the lifting of emergency restrictions
Some Iowa restaurants have the option to re-open their dining rooms Friday, as Gov. Kim Reynolds begins lifting emergency restrictions brought in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But just because they can, doesn’t mean they will.
To welcome dine-in customers, restaurants would have to meet social distancing requirements and limit seating to half their legal capacity. In Adair, Zipp’s Pizzaria owner Jim Zimmlerline says it took some time to adapt to 100 percent take-out. But now it’s working well and customers naturally assumed social distancing. “They stayed apart on their own, it wasn’t like, ‘oh hey let’s get all up here and all talk together and stand in line like where somebody’s going to cut in front of us.’ Everybody stayed their distance without us having to tell them.”
When he saw Iowa’s peak for COVID-19 cases hasn’t yet arrived, Zimmerline says he felt continuing with take-out only would be the safest option for customers and staff.
2:33 p.m. – Orchestra Iowa cancels performances through June 30
Cedar Rapids’ Orchestra Iowa has canceled all performances through June 30. In a statement, the organization says that ticket holders will receive communication from the Paramount Theatre’s box office about options moving forward. “These are unprecedented times for Orchestra Iowa, and we would be immensely grateful to those who choose to donate the cost of their tickets,” the organization wrote on Facebook. “Your support truly means the world to us.”
1:53 p.m. – COVID-19 testing program delayed
Gov. Kim Reynolds said at a press conference Friday that some Iowans have experienced delays getting COVID-19 results from the new Test Iowa initiative because of a backlog in the data entry process.
The state’s $26 million COVID-19 testing program run by Utah-based Nomi Health has opened drive thru sites in Des Moines and Waterloo so far.
Reynolds said the program’s tests are processed at the State Hygienic Lab, which is still validating Test Iowa’s equipment, and this has caused reporting delays. “This is a short term issue while the lab is transitioning to accommodate not only a higher volume of test on an ongoing basis, but as they work through the validation of the test Iowa process.”
Reynolds said she expects Iowans who are waiting on their test results to get them this weekend.
1:40 p.m. – Places of worship to resume holding in-person services
Starting Friday, places of worship across the state are now allowed to resume holding in-person services. And according to the governor’s most recent executive order, they are not required to adhere to occupancy caps like some restaurants, fitness centers and malls are.
At a press conference Friday, Iowa Department of Public Health Deputy Director Sarah Reisetter said they’ve issued guidelines for religious institutions that wish to open up. “Places of worship must ensure social distancing of employees and congregants. Hand washing and hand sanitizing supplies should be readily available, and thorough cleaning should be conducted on a regular basis especially for high touch surfaces like door handles and armrests.”
Reisetter said congregants should consider wearing a face covering and people in high risk categories should stay home.
The guidelines also clarify that weddings and funerals are considered to be religious services. But wedding receptions and funeral visitations are not and must be limited to ten people.
11:53 a.m. - State announces 740 new cases, 8 more deaths
State officials have confirmed 740 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 7,884 cases. Nearly 70 percent of these new confirmed cases are from Black Hawk, Dallas, Polk and Woodbury counties.
Eight additional Iowans have passed away from the virus. So far, 170 people across the state have died from the virus, and 2,899 people have recovered.
State and national labs have conducted more than 37,000 negative tests to date.
11:00 a.m. Gov. Reynolds hosts press conference
5:06 p.m.– Tyson Fresh Meats temporarily pauses production in Dakota City, Nebraska
The mayor of Sioux City says Tyson Fresh Meats is making a positive step. The company is temporarily pausing production at its Dakota City, Nebraska beef plant Friday through Monday to deep clean the entire facility.
People in the larger Sioux City metro area work at the Tyson plant, which employs 4,300 workers. Woodbury County, Iowa and Dakota County, Nebraska have more than 1,600 COVID-19 cases between them.
Sioux City Mayor Bob Scott says he spoke with a Tyson leader who had informed him they were going to close. “I think obviously they’ve got some issues there. They understand that. They are addressing it, and I think that’s positive.”
Scott joined four other mayors this week in releasing a statement calling for local and state health departments to report specific locations where COVID-19 outbreaks have happened. Neither of the county health departments nor Tyson have said how many cases are connected to the beef facility.
4:38 p.m. – Iowa Board of Regents meet to manage loss of $263 million in revenue
Iowa’s three public universities and the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics are dealing with $263 million in lost revenue and added expenses from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The university presidents told the Board of Regents at their online meeting Thursday that the cost of things like room and board refunds and new protective equipment have thrown their budgets out of balance.
Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen says lost revenue from cancelled events is also adding up. “Our usually bustling campus has gone quiet as conferences, seminars, athletic events and other performances have been called off.
The Iowa Board of Regents is creating an advisory board to recommend ways to cut costs across the university system. That could include a moratorium on new construction or allowing students to take online classes from another campus.
3:42 p.m. – State to continue pandemic relief grants for small businesses even as they re-open
As Gov. Kim Reynolds prepares to partially lift business restrictions related to COVID-19, the state reports it is continuing to award grants to help small businesses work through the pandemic.
The state has handed out more than $50 million in grants so far, up to $25,000 each. More than 2,600 businesses have received money, but that only meets a fraction of the need. The Iowa Economic Development Authority said earlier this month that nearly 14,000 businesses had applied for relief.
Reynolds says allowing some businesses to partially reopen like restaurants and retail stores means they can begin to recover from the impact of forced shut downs. “The virus will continue to be in our communities and unfortunately people will still get sick until a vaccine is available. Keeping businesses closed for weeks or months longer won’t change that fact and it simply is not sustainable.”
No more applications are being taken but the state is using funding from the federal CARES Act to provide additional relief to businesses.
3:29 p.m. – COVID-19 continues to spread within Iowa’s state prisons
The Department of Corrections announced Thursday that an incarcerated individual at the Clarinda Correctional Facility has COVID-19. It’s the second state prison to have a confirmed case.
Danny Homan heads AFSCME Council 61, which represents correctional officers and other public workers in Iowa. He says IDOC isn’t adequately protecting employees or detained people. “The Department of Corrections is not supplying the proper personal protective equipment for staff. These cloth masks that they’re handing out, they’re trying to pass them off as personal protective equipment. They’re not! They are not effective.”
Previous confirmed cases had been limited to the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Coralville, where 18 incarcerated individuals and six staffers have tested positive.
3:19 p.m. – State Patrol sees an increase in motorists stopped for driving over 100 miles per hour
The Iowa State Patrol is reporting what they say is an alarming number of motorists being stopped for driving in excess of 100 miles an hour.
Public information officer Sergeant Alex Dinkla says the patrol has seen a 52 percent increase over a four year period for speeds of between 135 and 150 miles per hour. He says the number one excuse for speeding is that “[They] didn’t think [we] were out here actually working, actually out here checking and monitoring, traffic. That’s quite the contrary, we have to protect and we have to serve the citizens of the state of Iowa so therefore our troopers are out on the road, we are out watching and trying to make sure people stay safe out on the roads”
Dinkla says the fines for excessive speed are hefty and can range from $300 to $500.
1:50 p.m. – Secretary of State Paul Pate rolls out initiative to get younger Iowans to staff polling locations
Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate has rolled out an initiative to get younger Iowans to staff polling locations for the June primary. But this comes after some top county elections officials say they’ve already got their usual older poll workers ready to go.
Pate’s office says most poll workers are in their 60s and 70s. These people have a higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19, so Pate wants younger people to step up, to “minimize the risk.”
Linn County will use about 150 poll workers in June. County auditor Joel Miller says they’ve already been hired for the most part. Most are over age 60. “We’re not going to displace people that have already signed up. What we will do if we get new recruits, we will certainly retain that information and reach out to them and try to get them lined up for the fall election.”
Because of COVID-19, officials are encouraging people to request absentee ballots so they can avoid the polls. Counties will have fewer polling places and fewer workers.
1:31 p.m. – 14 deaths and 302 more COVID-19 cases announced
The Iowa Department of Public Health reported Thursday that 302 more people tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the state to 7,145 total confirmed cases.
Fourteen more people have died of the illness which is the largest number of reported deaths in one day. That puts the total number of deaths at 162.
Because of a delay in the reporting system, those are the most recent statewide numbers as of 10 a.m. Wednesday.
The number of people hospitalized with the virus is up to 335. Nearly 2,700 people with confirmed cases have recovered.
1:27 p.m. – Gov. Reynolds defends TestIowa results
Gov. Kim Reynolds says she is confident the COVID-19 tests provided by a Utah company for the TestIowa program are giving accurate results.
The Salt Lake City Tribune reports that some medical experts believe the TestUtah program using the same tests may be giving a high number of false negatives.
Reynolds says the TestIowa samples are being processed by the State Hygienic Lab which is also working on validating their accuracy.
“They’re in that process right now. We are still ramping up, and I feel confident that we’ll be able to demonstrate that to Iowans,” Reynolds said.
TestIowa sites are currently operating in Des Moines and Waterloo. Reynolds has said sites are planned to open next week in Woodbury and Scott counties. At full capacity, the program is intended to provide up to 3,000 tests per day.
11:00 a.m. - Gov. Reynolds hosts press conference
10:19 a.m. - Iowa Workforce Development says refusing to return to work for fear of getting the coronavirus will disqualify Iowans for unemployment benefits
Gov. Kim Reynolds was asked about that last week. “If you are an employer and you offer to bring your employee back to work and they decide not to, that’s a…voluntary quit and so therefore they would not be eligible for the unemployment money.”
But Iowa Legal Aid litigation director Alex Kornya says state law is more nuanced. If employers aren’t providing any coronavirus protections, it’s possible that someone who quits for safety reasons could still get unemployment payments. But it’s a “roll of the dice” that depends on judicial proceedings.
The state says some COVID-19 related issues will allow Iowans to keep getting benefits. They include testing positive and experiencing symptoms, having a member of your household test positive, and a few other circumstances.
8:45 a.m. – Iowa unemployment numbers continue to climb
The coronavirus continues to drive unemployment numbers higher in Iowa. Last week, 28,827 workers filed initial claims for unemployment assistance, including people who work in Iowa but live in another state. That’s slightly more than last week.
According to Iowa Workforce Development the manufacturing sector had the largest number of layoffs, followed by the health care and social assistance category. More than 170,000 people are currently enrolled in unemployment assistance. The total benefits paid last week in Iowa topped more than $50 million.
8:43 a.m. – Tyson Fresh Meats pauses production to deep clean entire plant
Tyson Fresh Meats will temporarily pause production Friday through Monday at its beef facility in Dakota City, Nebraska. The company says it will deep clean the entire plant.
In a statement, Tyson said it's working to screen employees for COVID-19 this week, with help from the Nebraska National Guard. It also says workers will be compensated while the plant is temporarily closed.
People from the Sioux City metro area work at this plant, which employs 4,300 people and sits on the Nebraska side of the Missouri River. The Sioux City Journal reported last week that a Sioux City man who died from COVID-19 worked at the Tyson plant.
Woodbury County, Iowa and Dakota County, Nebraska each have more than 700 confirmed cases of COVID-19. It’s unclear how many are connected to the Tyson plant.
5:45 p.m. - The $26 million that Iowans are paying for the Test Iowa program does not include the cost of staffing the coronavirus testing sites
The state has separate contracts with local hospitals to administer the coronavirus tests, a spokesman for the governor confirmed to IPR.
Providers from UnityPoint Health and MercyOne have been staffing the Test Iowa locations, with support from local law enforcement and the Iowa National Guard. It’s not clear how much more the staffing will cost the state, in addition to the $ 26 million already allocated for the year-long program.
Gov. Kim Reynolds has touted the Test Iowa initiative as a boon for the state. But she’s offered limited details about the administration of the program, which is still well short of meeting the stated goal of 3,000 tests per day.
Reynolds’ administration entered a no-bid contract with a Utah-based company to launch the effort, after it was recommended to her by Iowa native and actor Ashton Kutcher.
4:37 p.m. - Suspension of Iowa’s legislative session extended to May 15
Top lawmakers voted Wednesday to extend the suspension of Iowa’s legislative session to May 15. Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen asked Republican leaders what they’ll do to keep people safe from getting coronavirus when the session resumes. Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver says they’re working on a plan.
Whitver says they’re also consulting with the governor’s office and public health officials about when lawmakers should return. “Watching for when we think it’s safe and responsible is the first part. The second part is when we have the information we need to get our work done.”
He says the state is still evaluating federal aid to figure out how that can be used, and they need more information about hits to Iowa’s tax revenue before forming a new state budget.
3:45 p.m. – Earl May sees increased interest in garden seeds and plants
Since mid-March, interest in garden seed and plants has quadrupled at the Midwest headquarters of Earl May in Shenandoah.
Director of marketing for the company, Deanna Anderson, says online orders came in at an astonishing pace. “It was an interesting time for us, it was kinda fun back to the catalog days for us. We really liked that and we love sharing our knowledge with our customers and hope that they continue for the next several years.”
Anderson says onion sets and seed potatoes flew off the shelves. Now that it’s warmer, she says tomato plants are popular. She says many customers say they‘re planting a garden for the first time or haven’t had one for several years.
2:13 p.m. – Gov. Reynolds defends decision to re-open parts of Iowa
Gov. Kim Reynolds is defending her decision to re-open parts of the state, saying half of Iowa shouldn’t be punished for coronavirus cases in other counties.
Reynolds says additional testing and online assessments through Test Iowa allowed her to “drill down” into virus activity on a county level. She announced this week certain businesses in 77 counties can reopen Friday.
“And so I shouldn’t punish half of the state when we’ve got a significant spike in eight areas,” Reynolds said.
Test Iowa isn’t close to meeting its daily testing goal yet. Public health experts are concerned there isn’t enough testing to know the full scope of virus activity, and people can travel between counties and infect each other. COVID-19 cases are still on the rise, and Iowa reported the most deaths and hospitalizations in a single day Wednesday.
A top state public health official also downplayed a warning from a team of University of Iowa experts that loosening social distancing measures could lead to a second wave of infections.
“A model is a model, it’s a forecast. It’s an estimate of what we might see,” said Sarah Reisetter, deputy director of the Iowa Department of Public Health. “We appreciate the work the university has done in providing that information to us. As the governor has started to open things up in a few counties, you’ll notice that social distancing and a lot of the guidance we’ve already provided—they’re part of that reopening.”
1:31 p.m. – State announces 467 new cases, 12 more deaths
The Iowa Department of Public Health reported 467 additional COVID-19 cases Wednesday for a total of 6,843 confirmed cases.
Twelve more deaths were reported, the most in a single day, bringing the total number of coronavirus deaths to 148. Lag time in the state’s reporting system means these are the known numbers as of 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Three hundred twenty-three Iowans were hospitalized, and more than 2,400 Iowans have recovered, according to the state.
1:25 p.m. – Child abuse reports down, but advocates worry abuse is being overlooked
Child abuse reports have decreased since schools closed due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. But child advocates are concerned this could mean some abuse is being overlooked.
A report from the state ombudsman’s office this month found child abuse reports to the Department of Human Services fell more than 16 percent from February to March. That’s when schools across the state closed.
Amanda Goodman is the Executive Director of the Family and Children’s Council of Black Hawk County. She says she’s concerned numbers are down because many people who make reports are school employees. “I've encouraged all the teachers and administrators to reach out to families once a week not only talk to the parents, but ask the child and give them that safe place.”
Goodman is encouraging everyone to keep in contact with their neighbors and report any suspicious activity to authorities.
1:09 p.m. – Domestic violence prevention advocates concerned about household abuse during pandemic
Advocates say they’re concerned the COVID-19 pandemic is making it more challenging for people trying to get out of an abusive household.
Mary Ingham is the Executive Director of Crisis Intervention Services, which serves 15 counties in north central Iowa. She says they’ve seen more people reach out through email and text messages because they’re unable to get away from an abusive family member. “Two months ago, most people could find a time that they could be alone, you know, when their partner is gone, or maybe they're running errands, and people just don't -- aren't moving like that anymore.”
Ingham says people should regularly check in with friends and family to make sure they’re safe. And they can contact victim services programs to find support and safe housing.
11:25 a.m. – Wartburg College furloughs employees and reduces hours for some employees
Like other colleges and universities, Waverly’s Wartburg College has faced unprecedented challenges in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Buildings have been closed, events have been canceled, and learning has transitioned to formats other than in-person.
Assistant Director of Marketing and Communication Emily Christensen says because the college’s needs have diminished, the president and his cabinet will be implementing furloughs and reducing the number of hours for certain employees.
Christensen says the furloughs will begin Friday, May 1. This will affect 80 fulltime and regular part-time employees. In addition, the cabinet is taking a 5 percent pay cut and the president is reducing his salary by 10 percent from May through July.
Wartburg hopes to recall all furloughed employees by July 31 but acknowledges the recall could come sooner or later. The college employs 500 people.
11:00 a.m. - Gov. Reynolds hosts press conference
8:30 a.m. - Iowa Legal Aid recommends Iowans experiencing garnishments should notify their bank or employer
Gov. Kim Reynolds last week temporarily banned debt collectors and banks from seizing funds from Iowans’ bank accounts and wages.
Reynolds’ order pausing all garnishments, except those related to family support, is in effect until May 27.
Alex Kornya is litigation director for Iowa Legal Aid. He says before this order, there appeared to be an uptick in garnishments as COVID-19 was being detected in the state.
Kornya says there could be a lot of difficulties with implementing this pause on garnishments.
“It’s important that people who are currently under a continuing garnishment try to contact their bank or employer and let them know that this proclamation has been issued which stops ongoing and new garnishments. So that should be enough for most employers and banks to just voluntarily release funds,” he says.
Iowa Legal Aid is recommending those with existing garnishments to notify their bank or employer about the governor’s order to get their money released.
5:11 p.m. – Representatives of 10 Christian denominations in Iowa say they’re concerned about Governor Kim Reynolds’ decision this week to lift a restriction on religious gatherings
The order going into effect this weekend exempts services from the state’s prohibition on gatherings of 10 or more people, while asking congregations to practice social distancing. Church leaders from around Iowa signed a joint statement asking “all congregations, their leaders, and their members to prioritize the safety and well being of each other” by avoiding in-person religious gatherings for the time being.
The leaders signing the statement represent Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal, Mennonite and other Christian denominations in the state.
4:27 p.m. – Worker at the Bridgestone tire plant in Des Moines has tested positive for COVID-19
The company says the illness was confirmed April 23 and the person has been isolating at home since then. The factory will stay open for now, though those who were in close contact with the worker have been told to self-quarantine.
The plant which makes tires for agricultural equipment reopened April 13 after closing for three weeks as a precaution against the virus. Bridgestone says the 1,400 workers at the facility are screened before going to work and wear face masks on the job.
3:17 p.m. - Iowa physicians ask COVID-19 patients to monitor their oxygen levels at home.
Doctors are reporting that some patients’ oxygen saturation is dropping dramatically, but the effects are being overshadowed by other symptoms.
It’s a condition some providers are calling “silent hypoxia”, because covid patients apparently aren’t feeling the effects of low oxygen levels like they normally would.
University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics hospitalist Brad Manning describes it as an “odd” aspect of the disease caused by the new coronavirus, which may obscure how sick some covid patients are.
“Usually when somebody requires intubation, needs to be put on a breathing machine, they are very short of breath, they can’t speak to you, they are in great distress, they’re breathing very quickly. Whereas these patients, when their oxygen saturations are low enough to require intubation, may be talking on their phone to their loved ones or are able to have a conversation with their doctor,” Manning said. “It’s very odd.”
Manning says people with confirmed COVID-19 should ask a doctor or loved one to help them monitor their symptoms. Oxygen levels can be checked at home with a device called a pulse oximeter. “Hopefully you’re communicating with your doctor so that somebody is keeping track of whether you sound more sick to them,” Manning added. “Because what I fear is that people are getting very sick at home, and then by the time they get to the emergency room, their chances of recovering from this are significantly decreased.”
Manning says this hypoxia isn’t truly asymptomatic; based on his experience at the UIHC, patients who experience low oxygen levels related to the virus generally already know they’re sick. But the effects can seem to blend in with other covid-related symptoms like fever, fatigue, and lightheadedness.
Therefore, Manning says people without a confirmed case of COVID-19 don’t need to worry about this, and don’t need to rush to buy a pulse oximeter, especially at a time when hoarding practices have limited access to other sorely-needed medical supplies."
2:54 p.m. - University of Iowa disease researchers recommend keeping social distancing measures in place
The report by seven public health experts says prevention measures should remain in place, or a second wave of coronavirus infections is likely. The Des Moines Register first obtained the document after the state initially refused to release it.
The researchers write they found evidence in state-level data of slowing infection and death rates due to Iowa’s social distancing policies, but no evidence that the peak has been reached.
They say there’s still “considerable uncertainty” in how many cases and deaths Iowa could have, with potential deaths ranging from 150 to more than 10,000.
The report says “great caution is needed at this early stage before loosening of potentially insufficient containment measures is considered.”
2:45 p.m. - Gov. Kim Reynolds lifts restrictions on religious gatherings
The governor’s new public health emergency declaration lifts the restriction on religious and spiritual gatherings effective May 1 for all of Iowa’s counties.
Gov. Reynolds said churches are now required to take reasonable public health measures to prevent the spread of the virus. But they do not have an occupancy cap as restaurants, fitness centers and malls do.
The Roman Catholic Dioceses of Sioux City, Davenport, Des Moines and Dubuque today said they will maintain a statewide suspension of public Masses at this time, despite the governor's declaration. In a joint statement, the state's bishops said that in the absence of a vaccine or widespread testing and contact tracing, "we simply are not at a place where we can resume our previous prayer practices."
Previously, spiritual gatherings were limited to 10 people, prompting many religious organizations to hold services online or through drive-in settings.
2:41 p.m. - Gov. Kim Reynolds announces second drive thru COVID-19 testing site in Waterloo
At a press conference Tuesday, Gov. Reynolds said that a drive thru testing site in Waterloo will open Wednesday at Crossroads Mall in Black Hawk County. The first drive thru site opened in Des Moines last weekend.
Reynolds said Iowans who fall into certain categories will be prioritized for testing.
“Testing for now is prioritized for essential workers and people who are current, who currently have symptoms of COVID-19 have been in contact with someone who has the virus or have recently been in an area where it's more widespread,” Reynolds said.
Black Hawk County has had the most confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state due to an outbreak at a Tyson meat packing plant.
Iowans can take an online assessment to determine if they qualify to be tested at TestIowa.com.
2:35 p.m. - State announces 508 COVID-19 cases, 9 more deaths
Iowa officials have announced an additional 508 new confirmed cases of COVID-19. This brings the state’s total count to 6,376 with limited testing still in place.
More than 2,100 Iowans have recovered from the illness so far.
Nine more people in the state have died from the virus, bringing the total number of deaths in Iowa to 136.
The state has also confirmed outbreaks at seven additional long term care facilities. The total number of centers with confirmed outbreaks now at 23.
State and national labs have performed 33,447 negative tests to date.
11:00 a.m. - Gov. Reynolds hosts press conference with updates on COVID-19 in Iowa
9:58 a.m. - Iowa's Ride canceled for 2020
The organizers of a new cross-Iowa bike ride say they will not hold their inaugural event this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Iowa’s Ride organizers say they made their decision out of concern for the safety of participants, law enforcement, volunteers, and people in towns along the route. A post on the ride’s Facebook page says they also got recommendations from local and state officials not to hold the ride.
It had been scheduled for July 12-18, and would have gone from Dubuque to Rock Rapids. The ride was created by former staffers of RAGBRAI, who left their former positions in a dispute with the Des Moines Register’s parent company.
9:01 a.m. - As Gov. Kim Reynolds takes steps to re-open parts of the state, cases of the coronavirus in Black Hawk County continue to spike
As of Monday, more than a fifth of Iowa’s total confirmed cases are in Black Hawk County. Local officials say the surge isn’t over yet. And they’re seeing more health care workers test positive too, which officials said is “becoming a very scary situation.”
Dr. Sharon Duclos, of Peoples Community Health Clinic in Waterloo became emotional speaking with reporters Monday. “As I encourage my staff to come to work every day and be compassionate and help people, it’s my biggest fear is I’m going to lose of them. And that I have to carry on my shoulders.”
Hospital officials said providers seem to be contracting the virus both through community spread and patient interactions. They’re considering bringing in staff from other parts of the state to meet the need.
4:41 p.m. – A Linn County official expresses concerns about the partial re-opening of four counties that border it
Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker says residents of counties with different policies could impact each other as they travel for work or essentials. “I can tell you that this new approach to reopening our economy at such great speed can only work if we remain vigilant, and apparently remain within the borders of our own counties as much as possible. However Linn County is a major hub for our region.”
Walker is urging Iowans to operate as if every person they come into contact with has the virus, even if they’re from one of the counties that will start to reopen. A Linn County Public Health representative says residents should stay home, wear face masks and wash their hands to avoid a spike in infections.
Linn County is reporting more than 600 coronavirus cases and 35 deaths, as well as four long-term care facility outbreaks.
3:55 p.m. – Northwest Iowa mayors request more transparency around COVID-19 data sharing
The mayors of Sioux City and Sergeant Bluff issued a statement Monday with the mayors of North Sioux City, South Dakota and South Sioux City and Dakota City in Nebraska. There has been a spike in COVID-19 cases in the Sioux City Metro area, so they’re calling on state and county public health departments to be more transparent in reporting information on COVID-19.
The five mayors said in a statement that they are asking county and state public health departments to cite specific locations where outbreaks or a spread of the coronavirus have happened. The letter also asks businesses to take responsibility for an outbreak that happens in their facilities. Woodbury County, Iowa and Dakota County, Nebraska each have more than 600 cases of COVID-19. But officials have declined to point to a reason for the spike. Woodbury County’s Siouxland District Health Department has cited Iowa law constraints as a reason for withholding information.
Last week, Siouxland District Health reported the first death in Woodbury. The Sioux City Journal reported the man had been an employee of a Dakota City Tyson Fresh Meats plant. Tyson says it has confirmed cases at some of its locations, but has declined to single out the plant.
3:43 p.m. - Infectious disease experts say the state is acting too soon
Gov. Kim Reynolds says easing restrictions on churches and some businesses is part of learning to live with the virus until a vaccine is available.
But Dr. Eli Perencevich, a professor of internal medicine and epidemiology at the University of Iowa, says the latest surge of cases across the state suggests COVID-19 is not yet under control.
Perencevich says if someone with the virus visits an open part of the state before showing symptoms, it could spread quickly. Reynolds says she is not restricting movement from county to county. But she says older Iowans and others at a higher risk of severe illness should continue to stay home.
3:18 p.m. – Linn County begins publishing demographic data of individuals diagnosed with COVID-19
Across Iowa, people of color make up a disproportionate number of the state’s confirmed coronavirus cases. But newly released data shows this trend is even more pronounced in Linn County than at the statewide level.
According to county numbers, as of Monday, more than 28% of the county’s confirmed cases are among black residents. Overall, about 6% of the county’s residents are black, according to Census data.
The county is home to many Central and East African refugees, many of whom work in meatpacking and manufacturing facilities, which have been hard-hit by the virus.
It’s not clear the extent that this may be driving Linn County’s trends. But the county isn’t alone; across the country, people of color appear to be more likely to get the virus and more likely to die from it.
2:26 p.m. – Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds is moving ahead with plans to reopen parts of the state where cases are trending downward
Starting May 1st restaurants, retail stores and shopping malls can partially reopen in 77 counties, including some next door to recent hot spots. Reynolds says the businesses will be limited to 50 percent of their normal customer capacity. “It allows our other communities to open up. And everybody eventually wants to do that, we want to just make sure that we’re doing it in a responsible and safe manner.”
In the 22 other counties, business restrictions will continue until at least May 15th. Reynolds is not limiting travel between the two groups of counties but says if case numbers start to rise in areas that are reopened, restrictions could go back into effect.
2:24 p.m. – The Sioux City farmers market will open May 6, but vendors will be taking extra precautions this year because of COVID-19
Farmers markets like Sioux City’s will have a different feel when they open for the season. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a proclamation last week allowing farmers markets to move ahead, but with limited operations.
The Sioux City Farmers Market normally has music, tables to sit at and chalk for kids to draw with. Roger Caudron, with the farmers market board, says there will be none of that when they open May 6.
They’ll only have food and farm vendors under the governor’s order. Caudron says vendors will wear gloves and masks and they’ll be spaced farther apart. One of those vendors is Heartland Coffee and Nosh. Owner Stacy Orndorff says employees will sanitize their hands each time they take cash and they’ll make sure customers keep a distance. “We’re going to put dots out with numbers of them that are six feet apart so customers can line up on the dots.”
Orndorff says employees will hand out food in a tent behind their truck so customers can space themselves out more.
1:02 p.m. – Additional COVID-19 cases announced
The Iowa Department of Public Health announced an additional 349 positive cases Monday, for a total of 5,868 positive cases. There have been an additional 1,668 negative tests for a total of 32,282 negative tests to date, which includes testing reported by the State Hygienic Lab and other labs. The number of positive cases will continue to grow as Test Iowa sites open and additional surveillance testing of large businesses and nursing home staff continues.
According to IDPH, an additional 9 deaths were also reported, for a total of 127 deaths from COVID-19 in Iowa. The additional 9 deaths were reported in the following counties:
- Black Hawk County, 2 older adults (61-80 years)
- Bremer County, 1 elderly adult (81+)
- Dubuque County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Polk County, 3 elderly adults (81+)
- Poweshiek County, 1 elderly adult (81+)
- Washington County, 1 elderly adult (81+)
300 individuals are currently hospitalized and 2,021 Iowans have recovered.
At this time, 1 in 82 Iowans have been tested.
12:50 p.m. – Sioux City Community School District deploys Wi-Fi hotspots for equality of continued learning
Sioux City students have been doing voluntary learning from home. With that, Superintendent Paul Gausman says COVID-19 has put a magnifying glass over some of the biggest inequities in education. That includes connectivity.
Gausman says around 20 percent of the school district’s students don’t have regular access to the internet. So the district recently started sending school buses and vans equipped with Wi-Fi to six mobile home parks and apartments. The vehicles stay there for three hours a day, Monday through Friday. The district had already boosted the Wi-Fi signal at seven schools, so people can access the internet from the parking lots.
12:31 p.m. – Iowa Legislature will continue suspension of session
On Monday, House and Senate leadership announced that the suspension of the legislative session will be extended through May 15.
“I appreciate the governor’s leadership through this public health emergency and I fully support her decision to begin to safely reopen the Iowa economy,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny. “Prior to the pandemic, Iowa had the best economy in state history. As we begin to set the stage for a return of the Iowa Legislature, I look forward to working with the House of Representatives and Governor Reynolds to put policies in place to rebuild the economy to that level.”
11:30 a.m. - Gov. Reynolds hosts press conference
10:46 a.m. – Additional COVID-19 cases announced
The Iowa Department of Public Health announced an additional 384 positive cases Sunday, for a total of 5,476 positive cases. There have been an additional 1,356 negative tests for a total of 30,614 negative tests to date, which includes testing reported by the State Hygienic Lab and other labs. The number of positive cases will continue to grow as Test Iowa sites open and additional surveillance testing of large businesses and nursing home staff continues.
According to IDPH, an additional 6 deaths were also reported, for a total of 118 deaths from COVID-19 in Iowa. The additional 6 deaths were reported in the following counties:
- Black Hawk County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Clinton County, 1 elderly adult (81+)
- Des Moines County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Johnson County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 1 elderly adult (81+)
- Linn County, 1 elderly adult (81+)
286 individuals are currently hospitalized and 1,900 Iowans have recovered.
At this time, 1 in 87 Iowans have been tested.
Notable headlines from April 19 - 25:
- 112 Iowans have died due to complications associated with COVID-19 as of Saturday, April 25
- There were 5,092 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Iowa as of Saturday, April 25
- Gov. Kim Reynolds announced that the state will begin to relax some closures in the upcoming (current) week on the same day as the highest increase in cases and deaths from COVID-19
- The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs announced more than $191,000 in awarded grants to artists in need during the COVID-19 pandemic
- The state launched a new site, TestIowa.com, for Iowans to self-screen their condition and support prioritized COVID-19 testing at new in-person remote test sites
- Black Hawk County experienced a dramatic surge in cases, as the Waterloo Tyson meatpacking plant announced a major outbreak of cases
- UnityPoint Health announced cuts to staff hours and pay
- After inmates began testing positive for COVID-19, the Iowa Department of Corrections announced they are working to reduce the prison population
- Some summer events announcd cancellations, including RAGBRAI and the Winnebago National Rally