Help Prevent the Spread of COVID-19
New Public Health Measures Announced
Iowa is seeing another surge in COVID-19 cases. There have been too many preventable deaths and the virus is spreading quickly in communities across Iowa because some state leaders have not followed the guidance of public health officials and the White House Coronavirus Task Force’s recommendations. This week, the Governor did take some additional action to mitigate the spread of the virus including the following:
Mask Use: Indoor spaces open to the public & state executive branch buildings
- Masks required when individuals are within 6 feet of one another for 15 minutes or longer with certain exceptions
Gathering Restrictions: Social, community, business, or leisure gatherings
- No more than 15 people indoors and 30 people outdoors
- These restrictions apply to wedding receptions, family gatherings, conventions, and other nonessential gatherings but do not apply to gatherings that occur during the ordinary course of business or government
Sporting and Recreational Events: Youth and adult group sporting and recreational gathering are prohibited except for high school, college, and professional sports
High School Sports & Extracurriculars: Sporting, recreational, and extracurricular events
- Only two spectators permitted for each high school athlete, performer or competitor, and must wear a mask and maintain 6 feet distance from other spectators
- Students can be closer than six feet and are not required to wear masks
Restaurants and Bars: Restaurants or bars, including a wedding reception venue, winery, brewery, distillery, country club, or other social or fraternal clubs
- Closed to in-person services at 10:00 pm
- No bar seating
- Masks required when not seated (while playing games, dancing, etc.)
- Six feet distancing between groups
- Groups limited to 8 people unless larger group is all same household
- Seated when eating or drinking and limit congregating
Fitness Centers: Fitness centers, health clubs, health spas, gyms
- Group fitness activities are prohibited
Casinos & Gaming Facilities: Masks required except when seated to eat or drink
Closer/Prolonged Contact Establishments: Bowling alleys, pool halls, bingo halls, arcades, indoor playgrounds, children’s play centers
- Closed to in-person services at 10:00pm
- Mask required when not seated to eat or drink
- Ensure that groups and individuals are six feet apart at establishment
- Groups limited to eight people unless larger group is all same household
Nonessential/elective Surgeries: A hospital must reduce its in-patient, nonessential surgeries to a level that uses at least 50% fewer beds than it did on average during September 2020.
Protecting Iowans while Ensuring Economic Security
Now more than ever, the state needs to quickly change the approach to the pandemic to stop community spread, protect those on the frontlines, and get our economy rolling again. That means ensuring every Iowan has access to on-demand, rapid testing in all 99 counties, helping those businesses devastated by COVID with relief and providing PPE to businesses and schools so they can stay open.
Iowa’s economy won’t recover until the pandemic is under control. Iowans have to feel safe returning to normal activities like going to school, work, restaurants, bars, indoor events, and even going to the doctor.
The persistent community spread is making life difficult for Iowans, especially our small businesses. We need to help small businesses fully reopen safely and help them stay open with clear guidelines and PPE. We also need robust testing in the workplace to prevent outbreaks and financial security for businesses and workers with positive COVID cases.
Kids Learning & Growing Safely
We all agree that it’s best for kids to be back in school full time, but with COVID cases rising 42 districts have received a waiver since Nov. 1st, and many more have applied because of the pandemic. Teachers and school leaders have been working overtime in extremely difficult circumstances.
It’s time for the state to partner with local school leaders to get more children back in school safely with robust, on-demand testing, dollars for PPE and mitigation measures, long-term funding, and high-quality child care when school isn’t an option.
Current Assistance Available to Iowans
Iowa residents who are behind in rent or mortgage payments may be eligible for the Iowa Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Program. Iowans can receive up to four months of rent, a maximum of $3,200, or four months of mortgage assistance, a maximum of $3,600. Eligible applicants must be experiencing a loss in income due to COVID-19. The application deadline is December 4th. For more information visit, https://www.iowafinance.com/covid-19-iowa-eviction-and-foreclosure-prevention-program/
Iowans who have experienced a loss of income due to COVID-19 and are at a risk of utility disconnection may also be eligible for utility assistance. The Iowa Residential Utility Disruption Prevention Program provides eligible applicants up to $2,000 in assistance. Applications are due on November 20th. More information can be found here, https://www.iowafinance.com/iowa-residential-utility-disruption-prevention-program/
Many Iowa small businesses have experienced losses due to COVID-19. The Iowa Economic Development Authority has a website set up for small business owners. The website is updated with both state and federal resources. Business owners are encouraged to visit www.iowabusinessrecovery.com for COVID-19 related programs and information.
Iowans Struggle to Find COVID Testing Options
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage on across the state, Iowans are looking for options to get tested. Iowa’s positivity rate for COVID-19 continues to make it one of the worst places in the world for community spread. As Iowans look for options, new reports indicate that free testing at Test Iowa sites are currently booked in many areas, leading to longer waits and growing frustration. Iowans can also look for test options or appointments at their health care provider, but those tests could put many in financial strain. Iowans can also register for free tests at some grocery stores and pharmacies. Iowans who would like to get tested can use some of the following options:
As Governor Reynolds continues to struggle to get a hold on testing and virus activity, Minnesota just announced a free in-home saliva test for everyone in their state after a successful pilot program, making Iowan’s struggles even more frustrating and deadly. According to Johns Hopkins University Minnesota rolling seven-day positivity rate is 14.9% while Iowa’s is 51.4%.
2021 Affordable Care Act Open Enrollment Begins
Iowans can purchase or change their Affordable Care Act (ACA) individual health coverage on the open market beginning November 1, 2020 through December 15, 2020 for their 2021 insurance coverage. During this open enrollment period, Iowans may call 1-800-318-2596 or visit www.healthcare.gov for information regarding enrollment and to calculate applicable tax credits.
Local insurance agents, assisters and Iowa’s navigator are available to help Iowans review which insurance plan may best fit their needs. Iowans can find local help by visiting https://localhelp.HealthCare.gov/ .
Medica, Oscar, and Wellmark Health Plan of Iowa will be offering ACA-compliant individual health insurance plans to Iowans for plan year 2021. Medica and Wellmark Health Plan of Iowa will serve Iowans in all 99 counties while Oscar will serve Iowans in Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Butler, Cerro Gordo, Chickasaw, Dallas, Delaware, Dubuque, Floyd, Franklin, Hancock, Jackson, Jasper, Jones, Madison, Marion, Mitchell, Plymouth, Polk, Warren, Woodbury, and Worth counties.
Iowans who currently have coverage through the exchange and do not choose a plan for 2021 by the end of open enrollment will be re-enrolled into the same or similar plan.
Iowans Across the State Honor Veterans
Veterans Day was Wednesday, November, 11 and though it looked different this year due to the pandemic, Iowans were still able to celebrate those who have fought for our freedom. The annual Iowa Veterans Day Remembrance Ceremony was held online, but the Iowa Veterans Cemetery was open for visitation as usual.
Last session, the Legislature passed various bills to help Iowa’s veterans and their families. The Veterans Home Ownership Program was given an appropriation to provide $5,000 to veterans to be used for house down payments and closing costs, and a bill was signed into law that prohibited a county recorder from charging fees to examine and copy the public records needed to complete and file claims for veteran’s benefits.
For more information regarding future events for veterans, please visit: https://va.iowa.gov/.
Wreaths Across America Event
To show support and remembrance for our veterans, Iowa will be participating in the Wreaths Across America event on December 19, 2020. This event started in 1992 when 5,000 remembrance wreaths were donated and placed at the headstones in Arlington National Cemetery. Now, wreaths are placed at more than 1,200 locations across the country and overseas.
The Iowa Veterans Cemetery will place wreaths on every headstone and memorial. To learn more about this event, and how to raise funds to sponsor wreaths, please visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.
OSHA Accused of Failing to Protect Workers
Iowa Labor and Civil Rights groups have filed a complaint against Iowa’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The groups, representing meatpacking, construction, transportation, health care, the dairy industry and nursing homes among others
The suit cites examples of failures by Iowa OSHA to conduct on-site inspections or investigate unsafe conditions during the coronavirus pandemic. As of the beginning of October, 148 complaints have been filed with Iowa OSHA regarding COVID-19 safety conditions at workplaces. 97% of the complaints were closed without any investigation. When investigations did occur, the only citation issued was a $957 fine for a record keeping violation.
The complaint maintains that Iowa OHSA failed in its mission to protect workers in six ways: By not following its own procedures on inspections, by conduction inadequate on-site inspections, having inadequate enforcement policies, having too few inspectors, by failing to provide information to workers who complain and by making it difficult for workers to file complaints.
The full complaint is available here.
Other Iowa News
FREE LUNCH PROGRAM EXTENDED FOR ENTIRE SCHOOL YEAR: Waivers and flexibilities will allow free meals to all children throughout the entire 2020-21 school year under the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). This unprecedented step from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) ensures healthy meals are available to all students, regardless of circumstances. Nutritious meals mean one less thing for parents and students to worry about as they manage both in-school or remote learning scenarios during the COVID-19 outbreak.
UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS STILL AVAILABLE: Iowans can still apply for unemployment if they were laid off due to COVID-19. People can apply for unemployment here, https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/. For people looking for work, Iowa Workforce Development has temporary job openings posted on their website at: https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/temp-jobs.
IOWANS OVERWHELMINGLY VOTE TO KEEP UNION REPRESENTATION: Teachers, nurses, law enforcement officials, and snowplow drivers were among the 95% of Iowa public employee unions who voted to recertify their local union in October. After Iowa Republicans passed legislation in 2017 to take away the voice of Iowans in their own workplace and severely restrict public employee unions, this was the third time bargaining units were forced to vote on recertification under new stringent regulations.
SUPPORT IOWA SMALL BUSINESS AND TOURISM THIS HOLIDAY SEASON: As COVID continues to change our travel plans, Iowans can also plan for the future while supporting Iowa tourism. The Iowa Tourism Office has an online portal where people can buy gift cards to support local restaurants and attractions. For more information or to purchase a gift card visit: explore.traveliowa.com/giftcards.