COVID-19 Vaccines Continue to Ramp Up in Iowa
How many doses does Iowa have, where to get one, and who qualifies?
Iowa received an extra 33,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine last week from the Biden Administration. On February 27, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine (also known as Janssen) received emergency use authorization by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). With this authorization, the White House distributed the entire 3.9 million-dose inventory to the states. Since all the doses were distributed right away, Iowa will not receive a next shipment of this vaccine until the end of this month. However, President Biden announced that he purchased 100 million extra doses from the drug manufacturer that should be distributed to the states by July.
Along with the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the state is still receiving shipments of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. As of the middle of this week, over 293,000 series have been completed (residents who have already received both doses).
Who Qualifies for a Vaccine?
- Health care workers
- Residents and staff at long-term care facilities
- Adults age 65 and older
- First responders, including police, firefighters, child welfare social workers and others
- Teachers, staff and other school employees
- Child care workers
- Essential employees that work in environments where social distancing is difficult, including food processing, agricultural production, distribution and manufacturing. If you’re eligible to receive a vaccine because of your job, your employer will inform you about the details.
- Individuals with disabilities who are living in a home setting, and their direct care staff. Your case manager will help coordinate your vaccine.
- Starting this week, Iowans who are 64 years of age or younger with complex medical conditions now qualify for the vaccine. The CDC’s list of conditions can be found here.
How to Make a Vaccine Appointment
There is still a limited supply of the vaccine, so not all counties or providers are able to accommodate this new group. Some counties are still working on vaccinating Iowans over the age of 65, teachers and staff at K-12 schools, child care staff, and essential workers. To see if you qualify for a vaccine and to find a provider near you, please visit: vaccinate.iowa.gov.
New CDC Guidelines for Vaccinated Individuals
There is light at the end of the tunnel. Based on what the CDC knows so far about COVID-19 vaccines, people who have been fully vaccinated can start to do some things that they had stopped doing because of the pandemic. If you’ve been fully vaccinated:
- You can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.
- You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
- If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.
According to the Biden Administration, there will be enough vaccines for anyone over the age of 16 who chooses to receive one by the end of May. Until that time, it is essential to continue these mitigation measures to stop the spread of the virus:
- Wear a mask or face covering
- Practice social distancing with those outside your household
- Clean your hands frequently with soap and water
- Stay home if you feel sick
- Get tested if you are exposed to, or have symptoms of COVID-19
Voter Suppression Bill Signed into Law; Lawsuit Filed Hours Later
Instead of working together on COVID relief and vaccine distribution, Governor Reynolds signed the bill that was fast-tracked through the Iowa Legislature that makes it more difficult for Iowans to vote.
Less than 24 hours later, a lawsuit was filed challenging the bill. In the previous 2020 election, Iowa had a record turnout with more than 1.7 million casting their vote in a free and fair election. The lawsuit challenges sections which do not make Iowa’s elections more secure, a false reasoning that was used by Majority Party lawmakers as the need for the bill.
House File 590 makes it harder to vote both in person and by mail, by lowering the number of early voting days by more than a week, closing polling locations early, and shortening the amount of time to request an absentee ballot. The lawsuit points out correctly that “the bill is largely a grab bag of amendments and new restrictions that lack any unifying theme other than making both absentee and election day voting more difficult for lawful Iowa voters.”
New Rent and Utility Assistance Soon Available for Iowans
Rent and utility assistance through the Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program will soon be available for Iowans through the Iowa Finance Authority (IFA).
Specified for Iowans who are unemployed or have experienced a reduction in household income due to COVID-19, IFA is still waiting for federal guidance before they can start accepting applications however they have an eligibility precheck available now. Those who qualify can fill out an application to see if they meet the initial eligibility criteria. Those that meet the criteria will be able to sign-up to be notified when applications are open. More information on eligible households and the eligibility precheck can be found on IFA’s website, iowafinance.com/iowa-rent-and-utility-assistance-program.
Residents in Polk County must apply for the Polk County program. Renters are eligible for up to 12 months of rental assistance through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. At this time only rental assistance is available, the program will expand to utility assistance at a later time. IMPACT Community Action Partnership is currently scheduling appointments for individuals and families who have been unemployed continually for the last 90 days and need rental assistance. Households must also be past due on their rent to qualify. Polk County residents can call 515-518-4770 to schedule an appointment. More information can be found on IMPACT’s website, impactcap.org/erap.
House Committee Micromanaging Iowa School District
This week, Republican lawmakers called in officials from the Ames School District to a House Government Oversight Committee in an unprecedented review of school curriculum. The lawmakers were reacting to right-wing blogs, hearsay, and innuendos from community members they refused to name.
The discussion centered around many false claims about a Black History Month event at the school district, including indoctrination, racism, dog-whistle accusations of Marxist leanings, and assertions of human rights violations. There was no evidence provided to show that laws were broken or any human rights violations occurred. The school district officials pointed out that students were allowed to opt-out of the curriculum.
Bill to Help Students Access Asthma Medications
Asthma impacts millions of Americans and, according to the American Lung Association, 41,600 Iowa children. Asthma is also a leading cause of school absenteeism with over 10 million days missed annually.
Because asthma attacks can occur anytime and often without warning, children should have access to medication. However, if an asthma attack happens at school, sometimes a child’s medication has run out, or they have forgotten it that day. A delay in medication can lead to emergency situations.
Stocking asthma medication at school has been successful in other states, and Iowa schools already stock Epi-pens for serious allergic reactions. House File 771 has passed the House, and the bill requires schools to stock and dispose of asthma medications. The bill also requires school staff to be trained in the signs and symptoms of asthma. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Law Now Gives Students a Break for Financial Aid
The Governor signed a bill this week that would affect student eligibility under the All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship program. The financial assistance program is available to students at a Regent institution, a community college, as well as private colleges, with a priority of funding is provided for kids from foster care.
The law would now protect a student who needs to defer their participation in the program for up to two years due to perhaps a health condition or to care for a member of a family, but also in cases where a student needs to fulfill military obligations. The law would affect the 2021-22 school year. Students can contact their financial aid office for more details or contact the Iowa College Student Aid Commission:
Other Iowa News
COVID RELIEF EXPANDS HEALTH CARE COVERAGE AND LOWERS COSTS: This week, the Federal Government passed a COVID-relief bill that will expand subsidies in ACA marketplaces to cover more middle-class families during 2021 and 2022. Under this bill, Iowans will not have to pay more than 8.5% of their income for an ACA marketplace silver plan. Also, individuals below 150% of the poverty level will pay no premium cost. Any individuals receiving unemployment during 2021 will be treated as if their income was 133% of poverty level and they can purchase an ACA silver plan for zero premium. Unemployed Iowans who choose to use COBRA to continue their existing employer-sponsored health care could receive a 100% subsidy rather than pay full coverage cost. This year, 1,436 Iowans enrolled in a new ACA plan during the ACA’s special enrollment period. This has more than doubled Iowa’s ACA marketplace enrollment in 2019 and 2020. Iowans can enroll in ACA plans due to the COVID-19 emergency through May 15th. For more information, visit healthcare.gov.
STATE ESTABLISHES AUTOMATED TRACKING SYSTEM FOR SEXUAL ABUSE EVIDENCE: A new automated tracking system for sexual abuse evidence collection kits was established in a bill that passed the Iowa House this week. The system will be within the Crime Victim Assistance Division under the Attorney General’s Office and will track the location of a kit, allow updates on the tracking of kits by anyone with custody of a kit, and allow victims to track kits, including anonymously. The Iowa House also passed a bill that will help assure that sexual assault victims are treated with dignity. House File 603 will establish a Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner Program in the Victim Assistance Program to train, certifying, and help sexual assault forensic examiners and sexual assault nurse examiners.
MORE OPPORTUNITIES FOR HUNTERS WITH DISABILITIES: This week the House passed House File 551 which expands hunting opportunities for persons with disabilities. Hunters can receive an any sex deer tag and for the use a shotgun, muzzleloader, or straight wall cartridge in any season except bow-only season to fulfill their any sex deer tag. Currently hunters with disabilities must use the correct method of take for each season. The bill now goes to the Senate for their consideration.
FAST REINSTATEMENT FOR SMALL BUSINESS: Iowa’s Fast Track Filing system is adding a new service to help Iowa businesses get reinstated in a matter of days. Small Business reinstatements are required when a business is dissolved after missing a deadline for a required filing or failing to maintain a registered agent. Under the previous system, reinstatements were processed solely on paper, which necessitates manual data entry, cashiering and correspondence. Now those functions are handled jointly online, and correspondence is via email. Since 2018, more than 500,000 business filings have been processed through Fast Track. To take advantage of the Fast Track Filing go to: https://filings.sos.iowa.gov/Account/Login?ReturnUrl=%2f.