Sioux Center, Iowa — Governor Kim Reynolds said on Friday that some “Test Iowa” COVID-19 screening sites will be reallocated to different cities, including Sioux Center, in the coming days.

The Test Iowa site in Sioux City closes this evening (Friday, May 22nd). Woodbury County has been a national coronavirus hot spot, but Reynolds says by now one out of 11 residents of the county had been tested.

(As above) “A majority of their tests are already being done by a local health care provider, so they are still going to have access to testing. This just gives us an opportunity to take that Test Iowa site and actually move it up to Sioux Center, which is still relatively close and in the area, so they’ll have access to significant testing,” Reynolds says. “We just, as we look at the numbers and we look at the numbers tested and we start to see a decline, then that gives us an opportunity to reallocate and relocate some of our Test Iowa sites.”

Test Iowa is a statewide initiative to expand COVID-19 testing. Testing criteria now allows any Iowan to be tested, regardless of symptoms or potential exposure to the virus. To be tested, Iowans must first complete an assessment at www.testiowa.com and schedule an appointment at a test site.

Test Iowa’s mobile testing model makes it possible to quickly operationalize a temporary test site in a community where virus activity is increasing or access to testing is limited. Testing is rapidly scaled up to identify positive cases, conduct contact tracing, and determine scope of the virus in the community. Over time when test volume decreases, sites are moved to other communities where there is a need.

In addition to Sioux Center, new Test Iowa sites will be set up next week in Marshalltown, Council Bluffs and Burlington.

For the schedule of Test Iowa locations and times, visit coronavirus.iowa.gov.

Statewide Iowa — The Iowa Department of Agriculture says an agreement that is designed to help small-size meat processing facilities is moving ahead. Iowa Ag Secretary, Mike Naig, says it involved lockers with fewer than 25 employees.

(As above) “We’ve got a new cooperative interstate shipment program that will allow them to sell products across state lines for the first time,” according to Naig. “They’ll remain a state inspected locker — but they’ll be able to sell across state lines. And we think this is just a great opportunity that will have a long-lasting impact for these folks.” 

Without this agreement meat processed at a small-town butcher shop would have to be inspected a second time by FEDERAL inspectors before it could be marketed anywhere beyond Iowa’s borders. Naig says the deal was in the works long before the COVID-19 issues with the meat supply chain.

(As above) “We started this process last year, last June. And it was a result of the small meat locker and some processors that came to us and asked us about this project, this proposal. And, we looked into it, started to work with the USDA on it.”

Naig says the current coronavirus impact on the supply chain has helped push this forward as livestock producers are trying to be creative for marketing their livestock. The capacity of the large processors dropped with COVID-19 outbreaks and that has led to some producers euthanizing their animals as they have no place to take them.

(As above) “It is not terribly widespread yet, but each day that the plants don’t run at full capacity is a day that we are adding to that backlog,” Naig says. “The situation continues to improve with our packing plants, I think we are running right around 72 to 73 percent of our normal capacity. So, it’s going to take us some time to get back up to that normal capacity that we know we need.”

Iowa is the seventh state, to enter an agreement. Those lockers that enter the agreement will still have periodic visits from federal inspectors.

May 21, 2020 - 3:38 pm - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — The director of the state Department of Education says Iowa’s schools are getting a new option, to offer on-site courses and activities this summer, instead of just online learning.

Ann Lebo says they’re ironing out ways to enable schools statewide to safely proceed toward reopening to students.

(As above) “Starting June 1st, school districts and non-public schools may begin offering summer learning activities for students, such as summer school, academic enrichment programs and activity-based camps like STEM, robotics and drama, among others.”

It won’t be like the pre-pandemic era, though. Lebo says students and staff will be screened upon arrival, briefed on hygiene, classes will be smaller and they’ll be distanced.

 

 

May 21, 2020 - 3:25 pm - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced Thursday that the “Test Iowa” screenings for COVID-19 will be open to anyone who wants a test.

(As above) “Later today, we’ll be opening the criteria so that anyone who thinks they should be tested can be,” Reynolds said late this morning. “This is especially important as more Iowans return to work, so if you’re interested in being tested, please go to www.TestIowa.com and take the assessment, so this change will be effective by the end of the day.” 

There are currently eight “Test Iowa” locations in Iowa and testing had been limited to people with symptoms or who’d been around someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19, as well as Iowans with so-called “essential” jobs in health care settings or manufacturing and meat packing plants.

(As above) “More than 3000 Iowans have been tested at ‘Test Iowa’ sites since Monday and more than 700 appointments are already scheduled for today,” Reynolds says.

When Reynolds announced the Test Iowa program in April, she said it would expand the state’s testing capacity by three-thousand tests per day and it has yet to reach that target. Reynolds says the Test Iowa program currently has enough kits to test 200-thousand people, but it’s not clear how Test Iowa appointments will be prioritized and scheduled now that anyone who wants a test can register for one.

(As above) “You know, we’re going to learn as we ramp up and continue to offer this opportunity to more Iowans,” Reynolds says. “There’s going to be some bumps in the road, but that’s to be expected.” 

The governor hinted that more testing sites will be established.

(As above) “We’ll be announcing next week, early next week another phase that will be opening up that will provide Iowans access to testing,” she says.

The Governor made her comments during her daily press conference late Thursday morning.

Northwest Iowa — The four northwesternmost Iowa counties have seen a net increase of 31 cases of COVID-19 in the 24-hour period ending at noon on Thursday, according to the latest statistics from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Lyon County reported one more case, for a total of 20. Sioux County is up twenty-seven cases at 180. O’Brien County is up two at 23. And Osceola County is up one for a total of 30.

Again, these numbers are raw numbers and do not take into account how many people have recovered.

No deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in these counties.

Due to extensive testing in Sioux County, the density of cases in that county has surpassed the density of cases in Osceola County. Sioux County is now at 516 cases per 100,000, and Osceola is at 497 per 100,000. The other two counties in our area are in the 160s for density.

Total numbers of cases from other counties around the area and their change from the previous report (5/20/2020):

Iowa:
Plymouth 98 up 9
Cherokee 9 unchanged
Buena Vista 133 up 10
Clay 9 down 1
Dickinson 8 unchanged

Minnesota:
Jackson 36 unchanged
Nobles 1414 up 18
Rock 20 unchanged

South Dakota:
Minnehaha 3195 up 13
Lincoln 211 up 2
Union 69 up 1

Statewide Iowa — The number of initial claims in Iowa, filed between Sunday, May 10th, and Saturday, May 16th, was 13,040, according to information released by Iowa Workforce Development. There were 12,011 initial claims by individuals who work and live in Iowa, and 1,029 claims by individuals who work in Iowa and live in another state.

The number of continuing weekly unemployment claims was 187,375.

Unemployment insurance benefit payments totaled $50,962,509.01 for the same week.

The industries with the most claims during the period were: Manufacturing (4,679); Self-employed, Independent Contractors, etc. (1,251); Health Care & Social Assistance (1,216); Retail Trade (827); and Accommodation & Food Services (785).

A total of $106,809,600 in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefits was paid during the week of May 10th-16th. Since April 4th, a total of $651,345,000 in benefits has been paid. That’s down about a million dollars from the May 3rd through 9th total of $7,589,384.85.

Employees and employers who have questions regarding returning to work should review the Frequently Asked Questions for each group on the IWD website.  They have recently updated these questions regarding the various scenarios as businesses reopen and employees are recalled.  Employers should visit https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/sites/search.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/files/content-files/FAQs%20Employers%2005.0520.pdf

Employees can find answers at https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/sites/search.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/files/content-files/FAQs%20Workers%2005.18.20.pdf

For more information on the total data for this week’s unemployment claims, please visit  https://www.iowalmi.gov/unemployment-insurance-statistics

Doon, Iowa — A man who is a registered sex offender in Illinois now faces a felony charge in Lyon County, Iowa for failing to register as a sex offender when moving to a Lyon County residence.

According to court records, a Lyon County Deputy became aware that 54-year-old Bryan Stroud was living at a residence in Doon. According to those records, when the deputy ran Stroud through the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, he learned that Stroud was allegedly an absconder or non-compliant sex offender in the State of Illinois.

According to the court documents, when they deputy made contact with Stroud, he allegedly admitted to the deputy that he had been living in Doon since August of last year. Iowa law requires a convicted sex offender to inform the Sheriff in the county in which they reside of an address change with in five business days of moving.

Subsequent to the deputy’s investigation, Stroud was placed under arrest and taken to the Lyon County Jail, accused of a Sex Offender Registration Violation, 2nd or Subsequent Offense, which is a Class D Felony.

Statewide Iowa — State officials will start identifying child care centers where there are outbreaks of COVID-19.

Iowa Department of Human Services director Kelly Garcia says new guidelines require child care providers to report positive cases of the virus among children and staff.

(As above) “We’re balancing both the public health aspects and the overall well-being of children,” Garcia says. ” We also know how important is acceptable child care is to help parents return to work or continue to work.”

On May 15, the state’s criteria for qualifying for a COVID-19 test was changed, so children who go to child care and child care center employees may get tested if they had coronavirus symptoms that were not diagnosed as something else. Garcia says once an outbreak is identified, a child care provider will be asked to close anywhere from two days to up to two weeks, depending on the number of children who are enrolled.

(As above) “We will work closely with (the Iowa Department of Public Health) to determine the appropriate time frame and to ensure robust hygiene and cleaning before any reopening occurs,” Garcia says. “We will ensure all staff and children have access to testing.”

Eight weeks ago, state officials required parents to drop their children off without entering facilities and all kids in child care must have their temperatures taken every morning to ensure those with a fever go home.

(As above) “Over the past few months, we’ve worked to equip our child care providers with disinfectant and thermometers. This isn’t a role we typically fulfill, but it was absolutely the right thing to do,” Garcia says. “We’re providing financial support to ensure child care providers are able to close and deep clean, should they need to, and we’re providing them additional financial support because we know that there was a child care shortage in Iowa before the pandemic and we need to ensure access to child care long after the pandemic is over.”

Child care centers were not among the businesses Governor Kim Reynolds ordered to close in March. The governor said essential workers need child care services to continue operating, so they could continue to work.

Garcia says later this week her agency will issue new guidance for how summer camps should operate during the pandemic.

Statewide Iowa — Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate is distributing half a million dollars in federal grant money to county auditors, to help with the expense of safety measures for the June 2nd Primary.

Pate, who is chairman of the National Association of Secretaries of State, says all states were offered this kind of federal financial support for primaries.

(As above) “We did ask them to waive the match. You know, they sent this money to the state and said: ‘Oh, by the way, there’s a 20% match,'” Pate says. “Well, most state legislatures have adjourned, so how do you get the match to be able to draw the money to use it for the election? Fortunately, most states have figured out ways to deal with that.” 

Pate has redirected money in his office budget to come up with the state “matching” funds needed to qualify for the federal grants. Last week, Iowa National Guard soldiers delivered masks, gloves and hand sanitizer for use at polling places on June 2nd. Pate’s office has also sent social distancing markers and face shields to all 99 counties for use at the polls. Pate has encouraged Iowans to vote early, with an absentee ballot, but those who wish may still vote at a polling place on June 2nd.

(As above) “Iowans like choices,” Pate says. “They want to choose whether they can vote in person at a polling location, they want to know if they can vote absentee or at the courthouse or curbside and that’s my job to make sure they have those.”

Pate cautions, though, that with fewer Primary Day polling places and all the public health precautions of the pandemic, like fewer voting booths at each location, it will take longer than five minutes to vote.

Northwest Iowa — The four northwesternmost Iowa counties have seen a net increase of two cases of COVID-19 in the 24-hour period ending at noon on Wednesday, according to the latest statistics from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Lyon County actually reported one less case, for a total of 19. Sioux County is up three cases at 153. O’Brien County is unchanged at 21. And Osceola County also reports no additional, cases for a total of 29.

Again, these numbers are raw numbers and do not take into account how many people have recovered.

No deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in these counties.

Total numbers of cases from other counties around the area and their change from the previous report (5/19/2020):

Iowa:
Plymouth 89 unchanged
Cherokee 9 unchanged
Buena Vista 123 up 2
Clay 10 up 1
Dickinson 8 up 1

Minnesota:
Jackson 36 unchanged
Nobles 1396 up 2
Rock 20 unchanged

South Dakota:
Minnehaha 3182 up 17
Lincoln 209 up 4
Union 68 up 6