State COVID-19 Guidance for K-12 Schools Lacking
On June 25, the Iowa Department of Education (DE) released COVID reopening guidance to k-12 schools for the upcoming school year. After significant push back from education leaders, teachers, and parents, the department quickly offered to take more input.
At just two pages, many Iowans are concerned the guidelines are inadequate given the pandemic and more thorough recommendations should be given to keep students and teachers safe and healthy. Many concerns have also been raised about the DE not recommending schools require masks for students or teachers even if social distancing is not possible.
The Iowa State Education Association, which represents Iowa teachers, said the state’s guidance is inconsistent with CDC guidelines, common sense, and good public policy. They’ve recommended the DE develop guidance based on health expertise, educator voice, access to protection, and equity. The National Education Association has also released guidance on reopening schools.
On July 1, schools will be submitting their online learning plans, called Return to Learn. Schools will have to be ready for instruction in August by either in a classroom or online which will require access to the internet and a computer for students.
COVID-19 Public Health Proclamation Extended to July 25
The Governor has extended the Public Health Disaster Emergency through July 25th which impacts many businesses around Iowa. Some highlights from the latest proclamation are:
- Restaurants, bars, wineries, breweries, distilleries, country clubs, fraternal clubs, and wedding receptions can remain open at full capacity but groups or tables of people must continue to be spaced 6 feet apart. All customers must have a seat at a table or the bar.
- Gyms need to continue to keep equipment spaced 6 feet apart. While attending classes, customers must be 6 feet apart.
- Salons and barbershops must continue to keep customers 6 feet apart.
- Theater and live performance venues need to continue to keep groups of people 6 feet apart.
All businesses need to make reasonable efforts to maintain social distance and increase hygiene practices. The Iowa Department of Public Health has guidelines for businesses. Guidelines can be found here, https://idph.iowa.gov/Emerging-Health-Issues/Novel-Coronavirus/Business-and-Organizations.
ACA Protects Iowans with COVID-19 and Pre-Existing Conditions
During COVID-19, the Affordable Care Act has protected 1.3 million Iowans with pre-existing conditions. Without the law, people recovering from COVID-19 who try to purchase an individual health insurance policy could have been turned down, charged higher premiums, or had follow-up care excluded from coverage.
Last week, opening briefs were filed with the US Supreme Court in a case backed by the Trump Administration and others to repeal the ACA. Because the economic crisis stemming from the pandemic is driving millions of people onto coverage programs supported by the ACA, the Center for American Progress estimates that over 227,000 Iowans will lose their health insurance coverage if the law is repealed.
Before the ACA, people who lost their jobs and wanted to keep their employer’s health insurance could do so under a law known as COBRA. It’s still on the books, but it requires full premium payment, plus an administrative fee. The high cost means many can’t afford to use it.
Due to ACA instability at the federal level, Iowa House Democrats offered legislation this session that would have expanded affordable COVID-19 health coverage and provided Iowans protection from being denied insurance coverage because of having COVID or a pre-existing condition.
That COVID-19 healthcare package was proposed as an amendment to the state budget (HF2643), but it was blocked from debate by the Majority Party.
Other Iowa News
TAX FILING DEADLINE APPROACHING: In March, the Department of Revenue extended filing and payment deadlines for several state tax types. This includes extending the deadline for tax returns and tax due for individual income tax, corporate income tax, and several other taxes due after March 19th until July 31st of this year. The federal tax filing deadline was extended until July 15th, 2020. The Iowa Department of Revenue is reminding taxpayers that Estimated tax payment deadlines have not been extended. Second quarter installments of tax year 2020 for taxpayers that pay on a quarterly basis are due June 30, 2020. Additional information on state taxation and changes because of COVID-19 can be found on the Iowa Department of Revenue’s website at https://tax.iowa.gov/COVID-19.
SUMMER STUDENT FOOD 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. To find a location in your community go to: https://www.fns.usda.gov/meals4kids
SUMMER BOAT SAFETY: Summer is in full swing and many Iowans are out on the water. The Department of Natural Resources has the following boater safety tips to help Iowans have fun and be safe on the water. Kids 12 and under must wear a life jacket but it is recommended that everyone wear a life jacket. There must be a lifejacket on board for every person plus a throw away jacket in case of an emergency. Check water conditions before heading out, have a sober driver, and carry a fire extinguisher on board. When leaving the water, help stop aquatic hitchhikers by draining all equipment and wash off all plants, animals, mud, and dry the boat before moving it to another waterway.
HEALTHY IOWANS REPORT: The 2020 Healthy Iowans Progress Report has been released by the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the results were mixed. Some positive changes include a decrease in the number of child deaths (ages 1-4) in the state, more young adults (ages 18-44) received a routine medical check-up, the number of opioid-related deaths decreased and more children in rural Iowa were able to receive health services through the use of telehealth. The report also highlighted some negative trends occurring in the state. First, there has been a significant increase in the rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), with gonorrhea and chlamydia rates spiking. Also, suicide deaths among all ages has risen, and increased by 18% in those aged 15-19. Finally, the rate of confirmed child abuse cases has increased by 33% since 2016. The Healthy Iowans Progress Report is created through a partnership with almost 100 private and public groups who strive to make Iowa a place where everyone has an opportunity to live a healthier, more productive life. Read the full report.