A Special Thank You to Iowa Workers
As we continue to go through some tough days, I am still filled with hope. In our communities we’ve seen countless people step up to support one another, whether it’s delivering meals, preparing lunches for students, taking the time to donate blood, making masks for hospitals and neighbors, or even delivering messages of kindness. Please continue to reach out to those who may need the extra support right now. We are all in this together!
Remember to practice social distancing and stay home as much as possible. Limiting contact with others is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Many Iowans are still risking their lives by spending long hours doing essential work. We owe them a debt of gratitude for the countless sacrifices they are making to keep Iowans safe.
Based on projections, we still have at least two weeks before Iowa hits the high peak for this virus. Some factories and long-term care facilities are experiencing significant COVID-19 outbreaks. While workers are still being asked to do their jobs, there needs to be assurance of proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), sick leave, and job security. In response to the growing outbreak of Coronavirus at these work facilities, Democratic lawmakers have filed an OSHA complaint to protect employees and their community.
Workers should contact their local or state officials if they feel the proper precautions aren’t being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
New COVID-19 Social Restrictions for Northeast Iowa
As COVID-19 cases continue to increase, Governor Reynolds has issued another emergency public health declaration for only parts of Northeast Iowa, including Allamakee, Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Clayton, Delaware, Dubuque, Fayette, Grundy, Howard, Jones, Linn, and Winneshiek counties. The new stricter stay-home policy for northeast Iowa limits gatherings to only members of the same household, however she still has NOT ordered a Shelter-in-Place.
Here are the key points in the new proclamation for those counties:
- Prohibits social, community, recreational, leisure, and sporting gatherings to only people who live together in the same household
- Continues to limit weddings, funerals, and other spiritual or religious gatherings to no more than 10 people
- Does not include child care, medical care, or other necessary supports
- Employers should but are not required to evaluate if employees can work from home and take reasonable steps to enable them to work from home
- Businesses remaining open shall take reasonable precautions to protect the health of employees and the public
- This proclamation DOES NOT close any businesses within the region
- The order went into effect at 11:59 p.m. on April 16, 2020 and continues until 11:59 p.m. on April 30, 2020.
The Iowa National Guard set up six Regional Medical Coordination Centers to help gather real-time including health care facility status information to help health care providers make more informed treatment decisions based on immediately available resources like open hospital beds, available staffing, personal protective equipment, and other critical health care assets.
Governor Orders Schools Close for the School Year
Governor Reynolds has announced that all school districts and nonpublic schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year and will offer continuous learning to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. This also includes the cancellation of spring sports activities.
The announcement included the following:
- Waiving the instructional time requirements for the remainder of the 2019-2020 regularly scheduled academic year for schools that continue to provide continuous learning through one of two approved options, voluntary educational enrichment opportunities, required educational services, or a combination of the two.
- Requiring schools to submit a Return to Learn Plan to the Iowa Department of Education by July 1 outlining ways they will address disruptions to learning as a result of COVID-19. This could include summer school, enrichment activities or other opportunities to address the needs of learners.
- Waiving the school start date that schools start no earlier than Aug. 23, allowing school districts and nonpublic schools to make local decisions about the length of their 2020-2021 academic year.
- Cancelling Spring sports activities. An announcement on summer sports activities and when other school-sponsored activities can resume will be made by June 1.
Vast Majority of Public Schools Providing Resources to Students
Even though schools are now closed for the rest of the school year, Iowa school districts and nonpublic schools were given two choices to provide continuous learning. They could provide required on-line courses to students with attendance and grades, or provide resources that would be optional for students to learn at home.
The resources would not be required to be completed and would not be graded. Some districts have laptops for students in some grades but not others, so they are allowed to provide a combination of required learning for some grades, but not all.
Of the 327 Iowa school districts, 87% chose to provide resources, leaving only 13% providing required courses on-line or a combination. Of the 179 accredited nonpublic schools that submitted plans, 41% will offer resources, and 59% will provide required educational services or offer a combination of the two. However, schools can change their plan if their ability to provide required on-line learning changes.
Resources for Students Available
The large number of public schools are providing resources to their students. However, parents can also provide educational resources to their kids through the following:
Need for More COVID-19 Testing in Iowa
Iowans are still waiting for needed COVID-19 testing to ramp up. Being able to test faster and more efficiently for coronavirus is critical to reopening Iowa’s economy.
It was announced by the Governor last week, that the State is planning to launch “Test Iowa” which will conduct large-scale testing with capabilities for over 3,000 tests per day, as well as contract tracing. However, no details have been provided about the new initiative.
The Department of Public Health did however release additional data and demographics on COVID-19 cases. The new data shows COVID-19 is hitting minority communities at a much higher rate and that many outbreaks are impacting long-term care facilities including workers and residents, as well as workers at factories. To see more go to: https://coronavirus.iowa.gov.
How to Get Tested for COVID-19
To get tested for COVID-19, call your primary doctor. Currently, a doctor does not have to get approval from the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDhttps://coronavirus.iowa.govPH) if they are using a test from a national reference laboratory. However, if the doctor uses a test from the State Hygienic Lab, a person can only be tested if they meet the following criteria from the CDC:
- All hospitalized patients (of any age) with fever and respiratory illness.
- Older adults (>60 years of age) with fever and respiratory symptoms (cough, difficulty breathing) and chronic medical conditions (e.g., diabetes, heart disease, immunosuppressive medications, chronic lung disease, or chronic kidney disease).
- Persons of any age with fever or respiratory illness who live in congregate setting (i.e., long term care facilities, dormitories, residential facilities, correctional facilities, treatment facilities)
- Healthcare workers, essential services personnel, first responders and critical infrastructure workers with fever or respiratory illness (ex. healthcare workers, fire and EMS, law enforcement, residential facility staff)
Again, because there is a shortage of tests across the state and nation, there is no wide-spread testing, and you won’t be able to get tested without exhibiting symptoms or fit into any of the above categories. This continues to be a problem because a lot of Iowans who have the virus do not show any symptoms at all. Until everyone can be tested for the virus, it will keep circulating throughout the state.
Major COVID-19 Updates
UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS: 46,356 more workers filed for state unemployment benefits in the last week. While it dropped from last week’s record, it’s third highest weekly total in state history. Iowans will begin receiving an additional $600 weekly benefit starting this week. The federal CARES Act expanded unemployment benefits to the self-employed, independent contractors, nonprofit employees, gig economy workers, those who have exhausted other unemployment insurance and those who may not have sufficient work history to qualify for a regular state claim. Go here to file a claim: https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/file-claim-unemployment-insurance-benefits.
STIMULUS CHECK PAYMENTS: With millions of Americans still eagerly awaiting their federal stimulus checks to help them weather the coronavirus recession, people will soon be able to find out when they can expect to get their money after the government on Wednesday launches a tracking tool called “Get My Payment” link: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment
CULTURAL ARTS EMERGENCY GRANT PROGRAM: The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs has set up an emergency grant program for Iowans that work in the arts, cultural, and creative industries who have experienced a loss in revenue due to COVID-19. People can apply for a grant through June 15. More information and the application can be found here, https://iowaculture.gov/arts/grants/iowa-arts-emergency-relief-fund/program-guidelines
SMALL BUSINESS ASSISTANCE: Small businesses can apply for a sales tax deferment through April 30th at www.iowabusinessrecovery.com. Iowa Economic Development Authority is in the process of awarding grants for the targeted small business sole operator fund. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has several programs to help businesses that have experienced loss of income due to COVID-19. Details about all the programs can be found here, https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options Over 22,000 Iowa businesses have received forgivable loans through the paycheck protection program. Unfortunately, the program has exhausted all of the funds appropriated by Congress. Congress is working on more funds for the program.
FACE COVERINGS RECOMMENDED: With new data from the CDC on how COVID-19 is spread, they are now recommending that people wear a cloth face covering to cover their nose and mouth in community settings. This is to protect people around you if you are infected but do not have symptoms. If you wish to help with the production of protective masks, please be sure to reach out to your local hospitals and health care facilities to ensure they are accepting donations. For more guidance go to: https://idph.iowa.gov/Portals/1/userfiles/7/Homemade%20Mask%20Design%20Guidance%203_28_20.pdf
STUDENT LUNCH LOCATIONS: The USDA’s Summer Food Service Program has 303 approved Grab and Go meal sites in Iowa to provide meals and snacks to children who might go without while schools are closed due to COVID-19. To find a location in your community go to: https://www.fns.usda.gov/meals4kids