Rural Iowa

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Incarcerated Iowans and their family members say the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility has struggled to meet their basic human needs, as a coronavirus outbreak batters the prison. Locked in their cells 23 hours a day, some inmates say they’ve been unable to take showers for days at a time, or have waited hours for officers to bring them drinking water.

Nik Anderson via Flickr Creative Commons

The mayor of Muscatine has implemented a mask mandate in an effort to limit coronavirus exposure, at a time when other communities in eastern Iowa are seeing a spike in cases. Effective 6 a.m. on Monday July 6, residents will be required to wear a face covering “when in any indoor or outdoor public setting." Still, questions persist about the legal authority of local officials in Iowa to issue such orders.

Charlie Neibergall / AP Photo

Depending on where someone lives, it may seem like the COVID-19 lockdown is a long-forgotten moment from the past. In certain parts of Iowa, many residents can be found roaming the streets without masks and without physical distancing. In other areas, stores require patrons to mask-up before entering. As cases in Iowa continue to grow, host of Talk of Iowa Charity Nebbe speaks with guests about the disparate experiences with COVID-19 throughout the state.

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

The families of three workers who died after contracting the coronavirus in a Tyson meatpacking plant in Waterloo are suing the company. In a lawsuit filed Thursday in Black Hawk County, the families allege fraudulent misrepresentation, gross negligence and wanton disregard for worker safety.

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

Meatpacking plants continue to be a driving factor in coronavirus outbreaks across rural America. In Iowa, refugees from Myanmar are among the hardest-hit, as nearly the entire community works in the plants. Many feel they don’t have options, other than to work in facilities where social distancing is extremely difficult.

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Iowa hospitals could lose $1.4 billion in revenue between March and September due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report commissioned by the Iowa Hospital Association.

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The Iowa Department of Corrections is drastically limiting how many new incarcerated individuals are entering the prison system, due to the continued spread of the new coronavirus within some prison facilities. IDOC is urging county sheriffs to continue holding Iowans who would otherwise start their prison sentence. In the meantime, that’s leading to a backup in some local jails.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

Lindsey Moon / IPR File

Iowa now has over 120 confirmed cases of COVID-19 spread across more than two dozen counties with numbers increasing every day, and across the state, hospitals are preparing for a possible influx of patients.

Katie Peikes / IPR file

A year ago, water from the West Fork of the Little Sioux River overtopped a levee and flooded the western Iowa town of Hornick. The town is still recovering, and waiting for future flood mitigation.

Katie Peikes / IPR file

It’s been a year since massive flooding along the Missouri River devastated western Iowa communities. Many are still trying to recover. And forecasters say there's a good likelihood of minor to moderate flooding again this year.

Natalie Krebs / IPR

In some parts of Iowa when you call 911, there’s no guarantee that an ambulance will be available, and this is a big problem in rural areas, where volunteers are scarce. That’s because emergency medical services are not considered essential, like fire or police.

Katie Peikes / IPR file

Low-income communities hit hard by natural disasters recover more slowly than wealthier communities do, according to a new report from the Iowa Policy Project.

Katie Peikes / IPR

Students from western Iowa’s Denison High School walked out of their classes in protest Tuesday morning, calling for an outside investigation into racism and diversity issues in the school. This comes after Denison Community Schools placed a teacher on leave for using a racial slur in class discussions last week. 

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This story contains language that may be offensive.

A powerful businessman in an eastern Iowa community called on three female councilmembers to resign in an expletive-filled rant. But the officials are holding on to their posts. 

Amy Mayer / IPR

Travel back just two short months to a quintessential scene: it’s a farm so close to suburban sprawl you can practically see the retail developments from the gravel road. A large American flag hangs from the door of a big, white barn. Classic red tractors surround an area filled with folding chairs as music is piped in and volunteers in Amy for America T-shirts work the crowd with clipboards in hand.

This is LaVon and Craig Griffieon’s family farm in Ankeny and on this day it’s the site of Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s campaign event announcing her proposals for agriculture.

Katie Peikes / IPR

A community in western Iowa is using state flood recovery money to build a berm around town in hopes it will protect people from future flooding. Officials have put their original plan for a protective trail on hold for now.

Census workers in Iowa will have a photo ID badge, said spokesperson Sam Fettig. Residents can also verify that a person works with the Census by calling the agency's Chicago office at 1-855-579-7998.
U.S. Census Bureau

Although the 2020 Census is months away, census workers are getting a head start by travelling the state to update the Census Bureau’s address list. Workers in Iowa and across the country are going to hundreds of neighborhoods looking for new housing developments and apartment buildings, or old ones that may have been torn down.

John Pemble / IPR

South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s newest plan released Friday morning aims to expand access to healthcare in rural areas. Buttigieg is the latest in a string of Democratic presidential candidates to release policy proposals this week meant to improve rural life.

Katie Peikes / IPR file

Southwest Iowa communities are still struggling to recover from this spring’s flooding.

Kate Payne/IPR file

Organizers in the southeast Iowa community of Burlington don’t anticipate any flooding issues to impact the city’s RAGBRAI plans. That’s after the Mississippi swamped parts of the town's downtown earlier this year

Roey Ahram/Flickr Creative Commons

Iowa 1st District Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer is sponsoring legislation aimed at increasing pay for rural doctors serving Medicare patients. Advocates say a federal government policy of reimbursing doctors at lower rates in smaller and more remote communities is contributing to provider shortages. 


A new analysis shows Iowans may face higher risks of certain health issues due to nitrate pollution in drinking water. Across the country, thousands of cases of certain cancers and birth defects may be linked to the contaminant, researchers found.

Rural communities are some of the most politically disenfranchised when it comes to climate policy, and last year’s National Climate Change Report showed they’re also among the most at risk when it comes to the effect of climate change. This could mean stronger storms, more intense droughts and earlier freezes.

Kate Payne/IPR

An eastern Iowa conservation group is taking an unconventional approach to tracking rare turtles on its land. Iowa Public Radio tagged along with a man who’s trained his hunting dogs to find the reptiles for researchers. Counting the creatures will help conservationists manage the land better.


Iowa averages around seven bicycle crash fatalities per year. Tragically, three cyclists have lost their lives in the past two weeks alone. What can we do as drivers and cyclists to prevent these tragedies, and what can Iowa lawmakers do to protect the Iowans we share our roads with?