In this file photo, a worker at a meat processing plant stands side by side other workers.
Courtesy of Oxfam America / file

Black Hawk County officials say more than a thousand employees of the Tyson plant in Waterloo have tested positive for the coronavirus. That’s more than double the total that state officials reported earlier this week. The announcement comes the same day the company resumed limited operations at its pork plant in Waterloo, which was idled for two weeks following public outcry.

Guilherme Cunha / Unsplash

As Gov. Kim Reynolds has started to ease restrictions across parts of the state, some rural counties have seen an increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases, making some local officials concerned about reopening.

Markus Spiske/Unsplash

Many childcare centers across the state have been forced to shut their doors because of COVID-19. For those who are still open, declining enrollment numbers, staff layoffs and difficulties in acquiring and affording necessary supplies has left providers facing tough decisions about the future of their childcare businesses, just as some Iowans begin returning to work.

Jack Cohen / Unsplash

Summer is just around the corner and this year it comes with a great deal of uncertainty. As businesses begin to reopen, how do you decide what level of risk you’re comfortable with?

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe is joined by Dr. Rossana Rossa, an infectious diseases specialist, to discuss how Iowans are going to have to make hard choices about whether to partake in recreational activities over the coming months.

Kenny Lab at Kabara Cancer Research Institute /

Analyzing the genetic code of the new coronavirus is giving researchers a new way to track the virus, as it spreads and mutates over time. The approach can help fill in the gaps of traditional “boots on the ground” epidemiology, which relies on case investigation and contact tracing.

Alex Boyd / Unsplash

Some nursing homes in the state are facing a rash of COVID-19 cases within their facilities, and they’ve closed their doors to visitors. This includes visits by family members. 

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer and his guests discuss how nursing home residents are missing the extra care usually provided by someone in their family, why the virus thrives in these facilities, and what might be done to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.  


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John Pemble/IPR file

The $26 million that Iowans are paying for the Test Iowa program administered by Nomi Health 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 Gov. Kim Reynolds confirmed to IPR.

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The COVID-19 pandemic may be presenting more obstacles for victims of domestic violence to get help.

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Courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

University of Iowa public health experts submitted a report to state leaders recommending they keep social distancing measures in place days before the governor announced she will allow religious services and some businesses to start back up.

Madeleine King/IPR file

As Gov. Kim Reynolds takes steps to re-open parts of the state, confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in Black Hawk County continue to spike. Local public health officials said that as of Monday, the county had 1,346* documented cases, accounting for more an a fifth of Iowa’s total cases.

stu_spivack / Flickr

*This program originally aired on March 6, 2018.

The human brain has substantially different dietary needs than other organs, and new research suggests that diet may play a large role in the development of dementia, obesity, and even ability to sleep.

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with neuroscientist and nutritionist Lisa Mosconi, whose new book, Brain Food: The Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power, explains how diet affects brain power and health.

martin/ x1klima / Flickr

Incarcerated Iowans are voicing fears that the new coronavirus may “run like a wildfire” through the state’s correctional facilities. Statements from individuals currently held in Iowa prisons that were shared with Iowa Public Radio raise concerns about the Iowa Department of Correction’s ability to control the spread of the virus, at a time when confirmed case numbers are ticking up and testing remains limited. Some Iowans serving time warn that widespread outbreaks of the disease could lead to “panicking” and a critical breakdown in the “social adhesive” that makes life behind bars possible.

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Under normal circumstances, a cancer diagnosis can be life altering. But with cases of COVID-19 straining medical systems across the state and with new expectations for social distancing in place, the way in which cancer treatment is received and supported is creating new challenges for some Iowans.

Grinnell Regional Medical Center

Grinnell Regional Medical Center is in Poweshiek County, which has just over a dozen confirmed cases of COVID-19. But it’s also directly south of Tama County, which has no hospital and more than 200 confirmed cases from outbreaks at a long term care facility and meat packing plant. 

Grant Gerlock / IPR file

The Black Hawk County Board of Health is formally calling for the temporary closure of the Tyson meat processing plant in Waterloo. Local public health officials say an outbreak at the facility has led to soaring increases in cases of the new coronavirus. At an emergency meeting Tuesday, board members approved a resolution, saying that current conditions “will exacerbate — rapidly — the infection of its employees, their households, and the communities in which they reside." The board is urging the company and Gov. Kim Reynolds to take action to protect Tyson workers.

Courtesy of Larry Potter

After two weeks of hospitalization, Larry Potter became the first Iowan diagnosed with COVID-19 to be released from Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids after spending time on a ventilator.

In this file photo, a worker at a meat processing plant stands side by side other workers.
Courtesy of Oxfam America / file

For years, refugees who have survived political persecution, hunger and war in Latin America, Southeast Asia and East and Central Africa have come to Iowa to build a new life. After raising their children in camps, some have been able to buy homes and climb their way into the American middle class, a college education for their kids no longer an unthinkable fantasy. For many, this became possible because of the steady work and the higher than minimum wages at the state’s meat processing plants and manufacturing facilities. Now some of those places are becoming hotspots of COVID-19, as the highly contagious virus tears through production lines where advocates say stringent social distancing is not possible.

Jack Sharp/Unsplash

Social distancing and self-isolation are the new normal under the COVID-19 pandemic, and this reality is changing every fiber of society, including the way substance abuse support is handled and administered.

Katarina Sostaric / IPR file

Democratic U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer said she’s disappointed that Gov. Kim Reynolds has not issued a “shelter-in-place” or “stay-at-home” order, despite promising to do so three weeks ago.

“In my district in particular, we make the country’s food. It is our meat processing. It is General Mills where we make cereal. It is so much a big part of that, I knew we had to do everything we could to keep those essential workers safe. I’ve been disappointed at the lack of urgency here from the state,” Finkenauer said.

Michael Leland / IPR File

Most of Iowa’s counties now have at least one confirmed case of COVID-19, and in many of the state’s rural counties, there’s just a handful of cases. But this has given some a false sense of security that rural areas could be more protected against the virus. 

CDC / Unsplash

A new report has found Iowa’s decreased spending on public health has made it more vulnerable to emergencies.

Madeleine King/IPR file

The new coronavirus is now spreading faster in Louisa County than anywhere else in Iowa. Cases have increased exponentially in the rural community, following reports that workers at a local meat processing plant tested positive. The outbreak is laying bare the complexities of providing care in rural communities; the county is home to many foreign-born residents and has no hospital.

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Courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Latino and black Iowans make up a disproportionate amount of known COVID-19 cases, according to data the state released this week.

On Wednesday, 17.3 percent of the 1,995 Iowans confirmed to have coronavirus were Hispanic or Latino, while just 6.2 of the state’s population identifies as Hispanic or Latino.


Iowa officials said Tuesday six long-term care facilities are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks, which the Iowa Department of Public Health defines as three or more residents testing positive for the new coronavirus.

The state reported 202 positive cases across the six facilities as of Tuesday.

Lindsey Moon / IPR

The largest hospital in the state is drastically cutting back on visitors starting Wednesday, as part of efforts to reduce the risk of spreading the new coronavirus. Officials at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics have called the step unprecedented but necessary.

Jamelah E. via flickr creative commons /

The Cedar Rapids nursing home where more than 100 residents and staffers have tested positive for COVID-19 has a history of not meeting federal standards for infection control and prevention. An Iowa Public Radio analysis shows state inspectors found a pattern of issues at Heritage Specialty Care dating back more than a decade. One expert told IPR the reports show the facility wasn’t adequately prepared for the new coronavirus.

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Katarina Sostaric / IPR

A top state public health official said Thursday Iowa is starting to “flatten the curve,” but some infectious disease experts do not see the rate of COVID-19 infections slowing in the state.

The goal of social distancing is to flatten the curve, or avoid a spike in infections, so the health care system isn’t overwhelmed.

Science in HD / Unsplash

It’s known that there’s a shortage of COVID-19 testing in Iowa, but how does that factor into the state’s death count? Here's what to know about how Iowa is counting deaths from COVID-19.

Courtesy of Steve Reno

Some older Iowans who spend part of the year in Florida are having to decide where they’ll be safer from the new coronavirus. Now’s the time when many are choosing whether to come back to Iowa or ride out the crisis where they are.

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Olivia Sun / The Des Moines Register via AP, pool

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Monday that two more long-term care centers are working to contain outbreaks of COVID-19 among residents and staff. She did not name the centers, but said one is in Tama County and another is in Washington County. That follows news last week that an outbreak was in progress at Heritage Specialty Care in Cedar Rapids.