CLICK FOR THE LATEST STATE OF IOWA COVID-19 STATISTICS

Thursday, May 28

Northwest Iowa county with meat plant sees coronavirus spike
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – A northwest Iowa county that is home to a meatpacking plant has seen nearly 500 coronavirus cases in the past week but state officials and the company say they can’t confirm an outbreak at the facility. The state health department reported 493 cases since Friday in Buena Vista County, where a Tyson pork processing plant is located in Storm Lake. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds says Wednesday the state hasn’t confirmed an outbreak related to the plant but that testing is underway. A Tyson spokeswoman says the company is awaiting complete data. Iowa posted 595 new cases statewide Wednesday. There were 21 more deaths for a total of 485.

Wednesday, May 27

Daughter says Iowa failed to protect her dad, 86, from virus
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – The daughter of an Iowa nursing home resident who died suddenly in a coronavirus outbreak says the state could have done more to stop the spread and protect vulnerable citizens such as her father.Roger Coe, 86, died Friday at the Crystal Heights Care Center in Oskaloosa after the virus quickly spread through the home.áThe center said Monday that 48 residents and 13 employees have tested positive over roughly the last two weeks.Sherrie Coe of Fort Collins, Colorado, said her father was known for wheeling himself to the nurses’ station every day and playing his harmonica for anyone who would listen. She says his death is sad and tough to take because she believes it could have been prevented with stricter mitigation strategies.

Iowa governor to allow evictions, large events to resume
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – Gov. Kim Reynolds says she will lift a moratorium on evictions and allow gatherings of more than 10 people to resume as she removes more restrictions meant to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Reynolds also said she would also allow casinos, amusement parks, speedways, arcades and bowling alleys to reopen in the coming days. Large gatherings for social functions and sports competitions will also be allowed to resume. The continued reopening comes as COVID-19 deaths in Iowa have increased to 471. Advocates for low-income tenants have warned that scores of tenants who have lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic could face eviction in coming months.

 

Tuesday, May 26

Tyson Foods worker, 44, dies after long battle with COVID-19
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – An employee at the Tyson Foods plant in Waterloo, Iowa, died Monday after battling the coronavirus during a six-week hospitalization that was chronicled and widely followed online.Jose Ayala, 44, died at St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids. His friend and co-worker Zach Medhaug says it was painful to watch his friend succumb to the virus.áAyala had received treatment at three hospitals since April 12, and his ups and downs had gained a following on social media in the six weeks since then. Advocates say that Ayala is at least the fifth employee at the Tyson plant in Waterloo to die after contracting the coronavirus.

Iowa sees Sunday surge of COVID-19 deaths, confirmed cases
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Iowa saw a surge of COVID-19 deaths and coronavirus cases over a 36-hour period, with 10 additional deaths and 436 new cases confirmed. The state’s online dashboard by midday Monday showed 459 total deaths since the state’s first COVID-19 death two months ago. The state had reported 449 by midday Saturday. Figures also showed 17,555 in total have tested positive for the virus, with 342 of those cases confirmed Sunday and another 94 confirmed by midday Monday. The dashboard showed 9,355 had recovered. The numbers were released as the mayors of seven Iowa cities penned an editorial appearing in the Des Moines Register calling on federal officials to approve federal aid for cities.

Efforts underway to get food from US farms to the needy
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – One of the many troubling aspects of the coronavirus pandemic has been seeing farmers have to destroy crops and euthanize livestock at a time when millions are losing their jobs and demand is soaring at food banks. However, some states have begun spending more money to help pay for food that might otherwise go to waste and the U.S. Agriculture Department is spending $3 billion to help get farm products to food banks. New York dairy farmer Chris Noble says it’s gratifying to find a way to avoid dumping milk and get nutritious products to people who need them.

Monday, May 25

Iowa father, 35, recovering after nearly dying of COVID-19
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – A 35-year-old Waterloo husband and father is recovering after nearly dying last month of the coronavirus. Doctors at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics warned his family last month that Elvir Alicajic was likely within hours of succumbing to the virus. But after plasma and dialaysis treatments, Alicajic’s condition improved and he soon woke up from a medical coma. Alicajic has been transferred to Allen Hospital in Waterloo, where he is regaining the ability to walk on his own and hopes to leave soon. Alicajic’s friend and neighbor says the experience has been shocking and scary for everyone involved, and left the family with “outrageous” medical expenses.

Iowa reports 17,213 virus cases, 449 deaths tied to COVID-19
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Iowa health officials are reporting 263 more coronavirus cases and five additional deaths related to the virus outbreak in the state. The Iowa Department of Public Health said Sunday there have now been 17,213 cases of COVID-19 and 449 deaths linked to the virus in the state. The new deaths were reported between Tuesday and Saturday. For some infected people, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe illness or death. But for most people, it causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks.

Friday, May 22

Iowa to expand coronavirus testing to anyone who wants one
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds is expanding the state’s coronavirus testing program to include anyone who believes they need a test. Reynolds says additional testing is important as more Iowans return to work. She said Thursday Iowans can go to the TestIowa website and fill out the assessment. Previously the state restricted testing to essential workers. Reynolds on Wednesday announced the opening of movie theaters, museums and zoos on Friday and bars next week. The state posted 19 additional deaths Thursday boosting the state total to 400 and recorded more than 400 new positive cases in the last 24 hours.

Meatpacking safety recommendations are largely unenforceable
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Federal recommendations meant to keep meatpacking workers safe as they return to plants that were shuttered by the coronavirus have little enforcement muscle behind them. That is fueling anxiety that working conditions could put employees’ lives at risk. Extensive guidance issued last month by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls for meatpacking companies to erect physical barriers, enforce social distancing and install more hand-sanitizing stations, among other steps. But the guidance is not mandatory. OSHA’s general guidance plainly says the recommendations are advisory and not a regulation or a new legal obligation.

Iowa unemployment claims drop but remain at historic level
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Fewer people filed for unemployment last week in Iowa compared to the week prior, but remained historically elevated as the country deals with the economic fallout of coronavirus pandemic. A report released Thursday the by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed 13,040 new claims filed between May 10 and May 16. That was drop from the previous week, when 16,735 people filed unemployment claims in Iowa. Officials say more than 187,000 have filed for unemployment since the outbreak began, and nearly $51 million in unemployment insurance benefits has been paid out. Those industries with the most claims last week included manufacturing, which saw nearly 4,700 claims, health care and social assistance, with 1,216 claims and retail, with 827.

Thursday, May 21

Meatpacking safety recommendations are largely unenforceable
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Federal recommendations meant to keep meatpacking workers safe as they return to plants that were shuttered by the coronavirus have little enforcement muscle behind them. That is fueling anxiety that working conditions could put employees’ lives at risk. Extensive guidance issued last month by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls for meatpacking companies to erect physical barriers, enforce social distancing and install more hand-sanitizing stations, among other steps. But the guidance is not mandatory. OSHA’s general guidance plainly says the recommendations are advisory and not a regulation or a new legal obligation.

Governor: Iowa movie theaters, zoos and museums to reopen
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds says movie theaters, museums, zoos and wedding reception venues can reopen on Friday. The Republican governor also announced Wednesday that state campground restrooms, showers and cabins can reopen in time for Memorial Day weekend. Camping will be allowed for tents and all campers, but playgrounds, shelters and visitor centers will remain closed. Reynolds says she’s confident that the state’s coronavirus testing capabilities are sufficient to deal with any outbreaks that occur. Her push to reopen sectors of the economy comes despite the state still registering hundreds of new COVID-19 cases and a dozen new coronavirus deaths per day.

Wednesday, May 20

Governor: Iowa OSHA acted appropriately on Tyson complaint
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – Gov. Kim Reynolds says Iowa regulators acted appropriately when they declined to inspect a Tyson Foods pork plant in Perry before hundreds of workers tested positive for the coronavirus. Iowa Occupational Safety and Health records show the agency received an April 11 complaint alleging the virus was spreading on the production floor and in the cafeteria. The agency didn’t contact Tyson until April 20 and closed the inquiry April 28 after determining Tyson’s safety efforts at the plant were satisfactory. Iowa OSHA declined to inspect the plant, citing federal guidance at the time that said most coronavirus complaints don’t require on-site visits.

COVID-19 data sharing with law enforcement sparks concern
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – The coronavirus has sparked concerns about how private medical information is being used. An Associated Press review shows that health officials in at least 35 U.S. states are sharing the addresses of those who test positive for coronavirus to first responders who request it. Ten of those states also share names. Law enforcement officials say first responders use the information to take extra precautions that help them avoid contracting and spreading the disease. But civil liberty and community activists have expressed concerns of potential profiling in African American and Hispanic communities that already have an uneasy relationship with law enforcement.

Reynolds considers allowing more Iowa public activities
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds is considering whether to allow additional activities to resume as her current proclamation prohibiting large gatherings and operation of some businesses expires next Wednesday. Reynolds recently allowed restaurants, fitness centers, malls and hair salons to reopen with limits but she continued the closure for many other businesses. They include bars, casinos, movie theaters and amusement parks. Reynolds said Tuesday she’ll make some announcements on Wednesday and more next week. State data shows more than 300 new positive coronavirus cases and 12 additional deaths bringing the state totals to 15,296 known positive cases and 367 deaths.

Tuesday, May 19

COVID-19 data sharing with law enforcement sparks concern
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – The coronavirus has sparked concerns about how private medical information is being used. An Associated Press review shows that health officials in at least 35 U.S. states are sharing the addresses of those who test positive for coronavirus to first responders who request it. Ten of those states also share names. Law enforcement officials say first responders use the information to take extra precautions that help them avoid contracting and spreading the disease. But civil liberty and community activists have expressed concerns of potential profiling in African American and Hispanic communities that already have an uneasy relationship with law enforcement.

Regulators sat on complaint as outbreak at Iowa plant grew
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – Regulators declined to inspect an Iowa pork plant after receiving a complaint alleging insufficient efforts were being made to halt the spread of the coronavirus. One state senator says that decision failed workers and allowed an outbreak to grow. An April 11 complaint to the Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration says employees at the Tyson Foods plant in Perry, Iowa, worked “elbow to elbow” and that social distancing was near impossible. Records show Iowa OSHA waited nine days before contacting Tyson, which took eight days to respond. The agency described Tyson’s voluntary safety efforts as “satisfactory.” A week later, the state announced 730 workers tested positive.

Iowa reports 2 cases of virus related syndrome in children
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Public health officials are reporting two cases in Iowa of a new inflammatory disease in children associated with coronavirus infections. State Epidemiologist Dr. Caitlin Pedati said Monday the state learned of two potential cases on Friday in children in eastern Iowa. They are stable and state officials are working with local officials to learn more. The condition was highlighted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week as a newly identified inflammatory syndrome in children. Also, Iowa public health data released Monday indicates that the rate of coronavirus deaths have slowed to 19 in the last three days after surging last week.

Group seeks money to bury refugee, 36, who died of COVID-19
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Advocates are raising money to pay for the burial of a 36-year-old Congolese refugee who died of the coronavirus earlier this month in Des Moines. Embarc Iowa, a refugee services organization, said that Wiuca Iddi Wiuca died May 4 after a sudden illness and two weeks in the hospital.The group says advocates need to raise thousands of dollars to have Wiuca buried this week at an Ankeny cemetery, adding that a traditional burial in the Congolese community is extremely important. Wiuca leaves behind two adult siblings who, like him, were resettled to Des Moines last year from a refugee camp in Tanzania. They had fled war in Congo in 1996.

Monday, May 18

Iowa health officials report 351 deaths, 14,651 virus cases
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – State health officials reported five more deaths and 323 additional cases of coronavirus on Sunday. The Iowa Department of Public Health said 351 people have died from COVID-19 in the state and 14,651 have tested positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus. For some infected people, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe illness or death. But for most people, it causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks.

Iowa rebuilds PPE stockpile after deals with unusual sources
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – Iowa has rebuilt its stockpile of personal protective equipment after a dire shortage that prompted the state to buy replenishments from some unusual sources. Records show Iowa’s executive branch has signed $45 million worth of emergency purchase orders for isolation gowns, masks, face shields, goggles and other equipment from mid-March through April. That includes $7.2 million in contracts for gowns and goggles with a Des Moines business that has never previously sold either and is known for making Republican campaign signs. The deals include 590,000 masks that were purchased directly from China and to be flown to an Ankeny warehouse.

U. Iowa researchers project hundreds more COVID-19 deaths
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – University of Iowa researchers privately warned that the coronavirus would continue spreading through the state even before Gov. Kim Reynolds relaxed social distancing policies, a move they said would exacerbate the problem. In a report to the Iowa Department of Public Health on April 27, the university experts said that Iowa had not reached a peak and reopening the state economy before then would “result in a rapid rise of cases.” In a paper dated May 4, they found that the virus was still likely growing. They said that Iowa’s school and business closures and other steps had strongly mitigated the spread of infection but nonetheless were not “sufficient to prevent uncontained spread.”

Friday, May 15

Only 4,000 have received results under Iowa testing program
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – Gov. Kim Reynolds says only 4,000 people have gotten results under Iowa’s $26 million coronavirus testing contract but that will increase now that the equipment has been validated. Reynolds said the the State Hygienic Lab has determined that the machines purchased for the TestIowa program are 95% accurate in detecting the virus in samples and 99.7% accurate in determining its absence. She says the validation will allow TestIowa to soon process 3,000 tests per day as originally envisioned. She said it would also allow the tests to be processed faster and the state to broaden the criteria of who can qualify for a test.

More than 16,700 Iowans file unemployment claims last week
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – More than 16,700 Iowans filed unemployment claims last week in the wake of efforts to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. A report released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed 16,735 new claims filed between May 3 and May 9. That was drop from the previous week, when nearly 25,000 Iowans filed unemployment claims. The new report came in the same week the state began to allow the reopening of some businesses that had been closed to limit the spread of COVID-19. Nationally, nearly 3 million laid-off workers applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week.

Thursday, May 14

In ‘modified quarantine,’ Iowa governor pushing to reopen
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – Restaurants, salons, barber shops and gyms in Iowa will be allowed to reopen Friday under new health rules intended to slow the coronavirus. Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday that she’s lifting an order that closed restaurants in 22 counties, including the largest metropolitan areas. She says she’ll also allow fitness centers, salons, tattoo parlors, barber shops and massage therapists to resume business statewide. The order came as Reynolds and the state’s medical director took steps to self-isolate after potential exposure to the virus at the White House last week. And deaths from the virus surged again on Wednesday, surpassing 300.

US meat exports surge as industry struggles to meet demand
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – U.S. meat exports are surging this spring even as the processing industry is struggling to meet domestic demand because of coronavirus outbreaks at processing plants that have sickened hundreds of workers. Although the situation could cause concern that American workers are risking their health to meet foreign demand, experts say it shouldn’t because much of the meat sold to other countries is cuts that Americans generally don’t eat. And at least one of the four major processors says it has reduced exports during the pandemic. The meat industry says that if companies manage to keep plants operating, there should be plenty of supply to satisfy both the U.S. and export markets.

Republicans say Iowa Legislature will resume session June 3
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – The Iowa Legislature will resume its session on June 3 after a months-long break as part of efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Republicans who control both legislative chambers agreed to suspend the Legislature on March 16 and then extended the break as the state dealt with the outbreak. The action to resume the legislative session came as Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, announced Wednesday she was allowing most businesses to reopen across the state. A legislative panel will meet by phone Thursday to officially enact the plan announced by the Republican leaders. Lawmakers also will reopen the Capitol on Monday. Everyone entering the building will need to undergo a health screening.

Wednesday, May 13

Worker from Congo dies after COVID-19 outbreak at Iowa plant
WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) – An immigrant from Congo who worked at the Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Waterloo has died of the coronavirus. The Congoloese community in Waterloo has been mourning Axel Kabeya’s death, which several members announced Sunday on social media. A Congolese newspaper reported that Kabeya was one of the community’s best-known figures in Waterloo, where hundreds of refugees have settled in recent years. He’s survived by a wife and children. His age wasn’t available. Tyson Fresh Meats spokeswoman Liz Croston confirmed the death, saying the company was “deeply saddened by the loss of a team member at our Waterloo facility.”

Governor considers reopening plans as Iowa reports 18 deaths
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – Gov. Kim Reynolds says she’s still considering how far to go in lifting local public health restrictions, as the state reported 18 more deaths from the coronavirus. Reynolds had planned to announce which business closures that she would allow to expire Friday and which she would extend through May. But she said she was still looking at data, and now expects an announcement Wednesday. Restaurants in 22 counties remain closed. Statewide, bars, salons, barber shops, movie theaters, casinos, museums and several other businesses are ordered closed until Friday. Meanwhile, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday that 19 inmates at the county jail had tested positive for COVID-19.

Iowa gym owner is cited for defying coronavirus order
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) – An Iowa gym owner is facing a misdemeanor charge after operating in defiance of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ orders related to the cornoavirus pandemic. Jason Bailey, owner of Custom Fitness in Cedar Rapids, received the citation Tuesday. KCRG reports Cedar Rapids police saw several people working out inside the gym Tuesday morning, and that Bailey admitted ignoring Reynolds’ health emergency proclamation’ The order limits gyms in Linn and 21 other counties to one customer at a time by appointment. Police say Bailey was issued a warning on Friday and the misdemeanor came after police received complaints from other businesses.

Tuesday, May 12

Iowa governor in ‘modified quarantine’ after Pence meetings
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – Iowa’s governor and its medical director are in partial quarantine after potential exposure to the coronavirus, even as the state made plans to lift more restrictions that were intended to fight the disease.Gov. Kim Reynolds says she will follow a modified quarantine plan because she may have been exposed last week while visiting the White House or meeting with Vice President Mike Pence two days later in Iowa. The governor says she’ll have minimal interactions with others, wear a mask at times and practice social distancing. Dr. Caitlin Pedati, the state epidemiologist, says she’s in quarantine and working from home after joining Reynolds at the White House last week.

Monday, May 11

Iowa reports 11,959 virus cases, 265 deaths tied to COVID-19
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – State health officials said 13 more people with COVID-19 have died in Iowa to give the state a total of 265 deaths. The Iowa Department of Public Health said Sunday the number of coronavirus infections in the state grew by 287 to a total of 11,959 cases of COVID-19. The actual number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick. For most infected people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in two to three weeks.

Saturday, May 9

Iowa reports increase in testing as more businesses reopen
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – Iowa processed its most coronavirus testing in a 24-hour period since the pandemic began as the state allowed some businesses in its largest metropolitan areas to partially reopen. The state’s coronavirus website reported Friday that 3,809 tests were conducted Thursday and that 403, or less than 11 percent of them, were positive. It was the lowest daily rate of positive tests in a month, following a week of steady decline. Still, the state reported 12 more people had died from COVID-19, bringing the official death toll to 243. A slight increase of 417 people were hospitalized, including more than 100 fighting for their lives on ventilators.

Some blame meatpacking workers, not plants, for virus spread
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – As coronavirus hotspots erupted at major U.S. meatpacking plants, experts criticized extremely tight working conditions that made the factories natural high risk contagion locations. But some Midwestern politicians have pointed the finger at the workers’ living conditions, suggesting crowded homes bear some blame. The comments include a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice’s remark that an outbreak didn’t seem to have come from “regular folks.” Outraged employees and advocates call the comments elitist and critical of immigrants in the meatpacking workforce. The main union for meat plant employees said Friday that at least 30 workers have died from the virus.

Pence says lack of religious services has been ‘burden’
URBANDALE, Iowa (AP) – Vice President Pence told a group of faith leaders in Iowa of the “burden” of being absent from church and expressed the importance of resuming religious services that have largely been halted as officials sought to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Pence spoke Friday with the religious leaders and Republican officials during a brief visit to the Des Moines area. He was set to speak later in the day with agricultural and food company executives. Pence said not attending religious services has “been a burden. It’s been a source of heartache for people across the country.” He was set to speak later in the day with agricultural and food company executives.

Outbreak at Tyson plant infected 1,031 workers, county says
WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) – Local officials say the coronavirus outbreak at a Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Iowa infected more than 1,000 workers, a greater number than the state has acknowledged. Black Hawk County health officials say they have identified 1,031 workers at the Waterloo plant who have tested positive for coronavirus or for antibodies that show they had been infected. That would be about 37 percent of the plant’s 2,800 workers. The Iowa Department of Public Health announced Tuesday that 444 workers at the plant had tested positive. The county health department said Thursday that the state’s figures include only those workers who tested positive during mass testing at the plant.

Friday, May 8

Pence to visit Des Moines amid increase in COVID-19 cases
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – Vice President Mike Pence has called Iowa’s response to the coronavirus “a success story” but he may find a less rosy reality when he visits Des Moines on Friday. A recent rise in confirmed infections in the city has alarmed the mayor and medical officials. Even the federal coronavirus task force Pence leads has expressed concern about the city’s toll. Pence is scheduled to encourage faith leaders to responsibly resume in-person church services, even as many say they’ll refrain for now to stop the virus’s spread. Pence will also meet with grocery and agriculture leaders to discuss food supply.

Reynolds moves to reopen state as new virus cases persist
JOHNSTON, Iowa (AP) – A day after Iowa’s governor appeared at the White House and took compliments for her management of the coronavirus pandemic, the state reported it has surpassed 11,000 known positive cases and 231 deaths. Gov. Kim Reynolds on Wednesday announced a broader reopening of business in Iowa. Malls and fitness centers in 22 counties with the highest level of infections are allowed to reopen Friday, with some restrictions. Such businesses in Iowa’s 77 other counties have already reopened.

Tyson beef plant in Dakota City reopening after virus surge
DAKOTA CITY, Neb. (AP) – Tyson Foods plans to reopen its Dakota City, Nebraska, beef plant after closing the facility following a surge of coronavirus cases among workers. Tyson closed the plant Friday and initially planned to reopen in four days but pushed that back to Thursday after awaiting coronavirus test results. The plant employs 4,300 people and is among the largest employers for neighboring Sioux City, Iowa. The Dakota City plant is one of numerous meat processing facilities that have closed due to coronavirus outbreaks. A Tyson pork plant in Waterloo, Iowa, and a Smithfield pork plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, both reopened this week.

Thursday, May 7

Reynolds eases limits as Iowa sees 12 new COVID-19 deaths
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Iowa residents will be allowed to resume dental appointments as Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds made more moves to ease restrictions that were imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Besides allowing dental procedures statewide, Reynolds on Wednesday also allowed public and private campgrounds to reopen, ended closure orders for tanning facilities and made clear that drive-in movie theaters were allowed to operate. The changes will be effective Friday morning. Reynolds signed her proclamation on a day when the state reported 12 new coronavirus deaths, bringing the state’s total to 219. Reynolds also joined President Donald Trump on Wednesday to discuss Iowa’s strategy to combat the spread of the virus.

Iowa sees 12 new COVID-19 deaths, nearly 300 new cases
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Iowa state health officials say the state has seen 12 new COVID-19 deaths, bringing the state’s total to 219 by Wednesday. News of the deaths came as the Iowa Department of Public Health also announced another one-day jump in confirmed cases of the new coronavirus by 293. The increases were announced the same day that Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds was in Washington to meet with President Donald Trump to discuss Iowa’s strategy to combat the spread of the virus and to thank the administration for federal help to that end. Reynolds also planned to discuss Iowa’s response to outbreaks at meat processing plants, where employees word shoulder-to-shoulder and often live in tight quarters.

11 attorneys general seek probe into meatpacking industry
BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) – The attorneys general for 11 Midwestern states have urged the Justice Department to investigate market concentration and potential price fixing by meatpackers in the cattle industry during the coronavirus pandemic. The state attorneys general wrote in a letter dated Tuesday to U.S. Attorney General William Barr that the concentrated market structure of the beef industry makes it particularly susceptible to market manipulation, particularly during times of food insecurity, such as the current COVID-19 crisis. The letter was signed by attorneys general in North Dakota, Missouri, Colorado, South Dakota, Montana, Arizona, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wyoming.

Wednesday, May 6

Pence to visit Iowa to discuss reopening religious services
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Vice President Mike Pence plans to travel to Iowa on Friday to meet with faith leaders to discuss reopening religious services to the public. The visit comes a week after Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds said she would lift restrictions on religious gatherings as long as they observe social distancing guidelines and increase sanitation efforts. The Des Moines Register reports Pence also plans to visit visit Hy-Vee’s headquarters to hold a roundtable discussion about securing the nation’s food supply

11 attorneys general seek probe into meatpacking industry
BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) – The attorneys general for 11 Midwestern states have urged the Justice Department to investigate market concentration and potential price fixing by meatpackers in the cattle industry during the coronavirus pandemic. The state attorneys general wrote in a letter dated Tuesday to U.S. Attorney General William Barr that the concentrated market structure of the beef industry makes it particularly susceptible to market manipulation, particularly during times of food insecurity, such as the current COVID-19 crisis. The letter was signed by attorneys general in North Dakota, Missouri, Colorado, South Dakota, Montana, Arizona, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wyoming.

Nearly 1,400 Tyson workers at 3 Iowa plants get coronavirus
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – A state official says nearly 1,400 workers at three Tyson Foods pork processing plants in Iowa have tested positive for the coronavirus. The Iowa Department of Public Health revealed Tuesday that the state’s largest outbreak to date has been at the Tyson plant in Perry, a town in central Iowa. There, 730 workers were confirmed to have the virus, a stunning 58 percent of those tested. The Tyson plant in Waterloo has had 444 workers test positive, and its Columbus Junction plant has had 221 confirmed infections. Two other large outbreaks were confirmed at a Tama beef plant and a Newton wind turbine blade plant.

Tyson will reopen Waterloo plant where hundreds sickened
WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) – Tyson Foods will begin limited operation of its huge pork processing plant in Waterloo, more than two weeks after closing the facility because of a coronavirus outbreak among workers. Tyson said Tuesday that workers have been invited to tour the plant Wednesday to see enhanced safety measures and social distancing procedures that have been implemented. The plant will reopen Thursday. It has been closed since April 22. The Iowa Department of Public Health reports 444 workers have tested positive for the virus. The plant is Arkansas-based Tyson’s largest pork processing operation, with the ability to process 19,500 hogs per day.á

2 West Des Moines paramedics test positive for COVID-19
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Officials say two paramedics with West Des Moines Emergency Medical Services have tested positive for COVID-19. Station WOI-TV reports that the service announced the first case on Monday and the second on Tuesday. Officials say one of the infected paramedics had transported coronavirus patients in recent weeks. It was not known whether the other paramedic had come in contact with patients infected with the virus. Both paramedics were tested on April 29, and neither have shown any symptoms. Both paramedics have been removed from duty and will remain off work for 10 days as long as they remain symptom- free.

Tuesday, May 5

Coronavirus cuts ‘deep scars’ through meatpacking cities
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – The coronavirus is devastating the nation’s meatpacking communities – places like Waterloo and Sioux City in Iowa, Grand Island, Nebraska, and Worthington, Minnesota. Within weeks, the outbreaks around slaughterhouses have turned into full-scale disasters. The virus is killing, sickening and frightening workers and devastating their extended families. In Grand Island, an outbreak linked to a JBS beef plant that is the city’s largest employer spread rapidly across the rural central Nebraska region. It killed more than three dozen people. Many of the dead were elderly residents of long-term care facilities who had relatives or friends employed at the plant.

Iowa reports virus at Woodward home, among 9 DHS workers
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Iowa officials are reporting nine Iowa Department of Human Services employees working at five state-run facilities have tested positive for the coronavirus. Officials say six residents at a facility housing residents with intellectual disabilities also have the virus. Iowa DHS Director Kelly Garcia said Monday that the agency has asked doctors from the University of Iowa for assistance in dealing with the outbreak at the Woodward Resource Center, near Des Moines. The state has reported 534 additional cases of the coronavirus for a total of 9,703 cases confirmed in Iowa. There were four additional deaths for a total of 188.

6 Woodward Resource Center residents positive for COVID-19
WOODWARD, Iowa (AP) – Iowa Department of Human Services officials say six residents at a central Iowa facility for people with intellectual disabilities have tested positive for the new coronavirus, although none have shown symptoms of COVID-19. The first resident at the Woodward Resource Center tested positive for the virus on April 26. By Saturday, officials said, five more residents – all tied to one home on campus – had tested positive for the virus. Three employees at the multi-building campus have also tested positive. DHS spokesman Matt Highland says the state is working to get more COVID-19 testing on the campus. Those who have tested positive have been moved to an isolation area, and the home has been cleaned.

Monday, May 4

528 New Cases Reported on Sunday
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Iowa health officials reported 528 additional coronavirus cases and nine new deaths linked to COVID-19 to give the state a total of 9,169 cases. The Iowa Department of Public Health said Sunday that a total of 184 deaths have been reported in the state. Iowa has begun lifting restrictions on many businesses and churches in 77 counties where few cases of the virus have been reported. More stringent rules remain in 22 counties, which include most of the state’s major cities. State health officials said Sunday that 77 percent of the new cases reported Sunday came from the 22 counties where restrictions remain in place.

Sunday, May 3

Elderly Iowa couple survive battle with the coronavirus
WHITING, Iowa (AP) – An Iowa couple who have been married for nearly 70 years are back home after they both recovered from bouts of COVID-19. The Omaha World-Herald reports that 88-year-old Bert McCandless and his 89-year-old wife, Ardis, contracted the disease caused by the coronavirus in March. Both were hospitalized at Creighton University Medical Center-Bergan Mercy, where Bert nearly didn’t make it. Ardis spent three days in the hospital in late March, but as she started to get better, Bert’s condition worsened. He was placed on a ventilator for two weeks and doctors estimated he had no better than a 20% chance of surviving.

Healthy pigs being killed as meatpacking backlog hits farms
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – As the coronavirus pandemic continues to force the closure of meatpacking plants across the country, hog farmers have had to respond quickly to a rapidly growing backlog of animals in their barns by killing and disposing of pigs. Many large-scale hog farmers have little choice once barns reach full capacity. Officials estimate about 700,000 pigs across the nation can’t be processed each week and will be euthanized if plants don’t resume operations. To help farmers, the USDA has set up a center that can supply the tools needed to euthanize hogs. That includes captive bolt guns and cartridges that can be shot into the heads of larger animals as well as chutes, trailers and personal protective equipment.

Friday, May 1

Iowa governor stands by accuracy of TestIowa COVID-19 tests
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds says testing for the coronavirus in the the new TestIowa program will be reliable and accurate once the machines Iowa bought for the program are validated and set up. Questions have been raised by the Salt Lake Tribune about the accuracy of tests used by the state of Utah and provided by the same company Iowa bought tests and equipment from earlier this month as part of a $26 million contract. Reynolds says the State Hygienic Laboratory in Iowa City has significant expertise in such testing and is validating the machines provided and she’s confident the FDA approved testing system will prove to be accurate.

2nd person at Black Hawk County Jail positive for COVID-19
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) – Officials say a second person who works within the Black Hawk County Jail in north-central Iowa has tested positive for COVID-19. The Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office says an employee of Summit Food Services, the company that prepares meals for inmates, has been infected with the virus. Sheriff’s Capt. Nathan Neff says the kitchen staff has very limited contact with jail staff and no contact with inmates. Earlier in the week, the jail announced that a nurse who works the overnight shift at the jail had also tested positive. Officials said the nurse had very little contact with staff and inmates.

Pork producer says it needs flexibility on virus guidelines
O’FALLON, Mo. (AP) – The world’s largest pork producer has told a judge in Missouri that it’s working as quickly as it can to comply with federal guidelines that seek to slow the spread of the coronavirus. But Smithfield Foods says it it needs some flexibility in an industry where people typically work side by side. The comments from a lawyer for Smithfield Foods came as a judge weighed whether to issue an injunction requiring a rural Missouri plant to abide by federal guidelines. Meanwhile, testing found 92 coronavirus cases at another Missouri plant, and Tyson Foods announced temporary closure of a beef processing plant in Nebraska for deep cleaning after hundreds of people in surrounding communities tested positive.

Thursday, April 30

Reynolds defends re-opening decision
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds is defending her actions to open restaurants and other businesses in a majority of Iowa counties with few coronavirus cases. Reynolds says University of Iowa professors who warned reopening business now could cause a second wave of infections were presenting a model that was a snapshot in time. She says improved testing and mitigation efforts have successfully prevented hospitals from being overwhelmed. Health officials reported 467 new cases Wednesday for a total of more than 6,800 in Iowa. An additional 12 people died, increasing the total to 148 deaths.á

Meatpackers say Trump of “putting cold cuts over workers’ health”
WASHINGTON (AP) – Unions in the U.S. meat packing industry say President Donald Trump is jeopardizing lives and prioritizing cold cuts over workers’ health. Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order under the Defense Production Act to classify meat processing as critical infrastructure during the coronavirus outbreak. The goal is to try to prevent a shortage of chicken, pork and other meat on supermarket shelves. More than 20 meatpacking plants have closed temporarily because of the outbreak. One union estimates that 6,500 workers are sick or have been exposed while working near someone who tested positive. At least 20 workers have died.

Legislators out til May 15
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – The Iowa Legislative Council has voted unanimously to continued the suspension of the legislative session until at least May 15. Meeting by telephone, the 24-member council agreed to reconvene at 10 a.m. May 15 unless they meet earlier and set a different date. House Speaker Pat Grassley and Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver faced questions by Democratic senators about the criteria they’re using to evaluate whether it’s safe to come back to the Iowa Capitol. Whitver says leaders are talking with Gov. Kim Reynolds and state health officials to ensure it’s safe

Wednesday, April 29

Researchers warned Iowa governor not to relax virus limits
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – University of Iowa experts advised Gov. Kim Reynolds last week not to relax social distancing rules, warning that the state could suffer a “catastrophic loss of life” even with them and see a second wave of infections. In a research paper made public Tuesday, the professors from the UI College of Public Health said they saw “considerable uncertainty” in how many deaths Iowa could get, ranging deaths from 150 to thousands even with strict social distancing rules. Days after receiving that warning, the Republican governor signed orders to partially reopen 77 of the state’s 99 largest counties and allow church services and farmers markets to resume statewide.

Tuesday, April 28

Iowa to partially reopen most counties, despite virus surge
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – Gov. Kim Reynolds says she will partially reopen businesses and churches in 77 of Iowa’s 99 counties, even as the state is suffering from fast-growing numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths. Beginning in those counties May 1, Reynolds said that restaurants, fitness centers, retail stores and malls will be allowed to reopen at 50 percent of their operating capacity. She said that she would also allow church services to resume without limits on their size statewide. Reynolds said the 77 counties have experienced a downward trend in virus activity over the last two weeks. She said that she would extend previously-ordered business closures in 22 other counties through May 15.

Virus is expected to reduce meat selection and raise prices
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Meat isn’t going to disappear from supermarkets because of outbreaks of the coronavirus among workers at U.S. slaughterhouses. But as the meat plants struggle to remain open, consumers could face less selection and slightly higher prices. Industry leaders acknowledge that the U.S. food chain has rarely been so stressed and that no one is sure about the future, even as they try to dispel concerns about shortages. On Sunday, the meat processing giant Tyson Foods ran a full-page advertisement in the New York Times and other newspapers outlining the difficulty of producing meat while keeping more than 100,000 workers safe and shutting some plants.

Legislative leaders extend session suspension until mid-May
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Iowa legislative leaders say they will not resume this year’s legislative session until after May 15. The Iowa Legislative Council will meet by telephone this week to vote on the continued suspension of the session. The date and time for the meeting wasn’t immediately set. The council makes rules when the legislative body isn’t in session. It voted on April 9 to continue the initial suspension passed in March due to increasing coronavirus cases.

Monday, April 27

Iowa’s universities plan to bring back students in fall
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Iowa’s three major public universities are planning to resume in-person classes in the fall, but they are still working out the details of what that will look like during the coronavirus outbreak. Iowa Board of Regents President Mike Richards said the schools will follow state and federal guidelines to protect health as they develop plans for thousands of students to return to the campuses of the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and Northern Iowa University. The number of coronavirus cases continues to rise in the state. Health officials said Saturday the number of confirmed cases in Iowa had increased by 648, to 5,092, though the actual number of sick is thought to be much higher because of many people haven’t been tested.

Coronavirus sweeps through Iowa firefighter’s family
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – An Iowa firefighter whose family has been devastated by the coronavirus says he wants people to know how easily the virus can spread. Twenty-nine-year-old Omar Martinez said Friday that his mother first tested positive for the virus on April 3. Then his 22-year-old sister Evelyn, who is the mother of a toddler, contracted the virus and has been in the hospital since April 10. On April 15, Omar says his 58-year-old father, Jose Gabriel Martinez, was hospitalized. He died on Tuesday. The family shares a home in West Liberty, Iowa, where they settled after immigrating from Mexico in the 1990s. Omar Martinez says, “I don’t wish this upon anybody.”

UI fraternity accused of holding party during virus shutdown
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – Officials at the University of Iowa are investigating the Sigma Chi chapter there after the fraternity was accused of holding a party in violation of the state’s order banning gatherings of 10 or more people. The Press-Citizen reports the frat party allegedly took place March 28 with as many as 50 people and may have involved underaged drinking. Iowa City police confirmed receiving a report of a party at the Sigma Chi house, but said no officer responded to the scene. Sigma Chi Fraternity International did not immediately respond Friday to an email from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Saturday, April 25

Iowa governor talks of reopening state as virus cases soar
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Gov. Kim Reynolds says she’s taking steps to allow elective surgeries in hospitals and open farmer’s markets on the day that new positive coronavirus cases surged by 521 and 11 more people died. That brings the state’s total of positive cases to 4,445 and deaths to 107. Reynolds says Friday that she plans on further announcements of a phase one resumption of activity next week. She says 30% of Iowa’s positive cases are in manufacturing, which is mostly meatpacking workers. Fifteen percent are health care workers. Reynolds also put out a call for nurses to work at nursing homes as demand at the centers increase.

UI fraternity accused of holding party during virus shutdown
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – Officials at the University of Iowa are investigating the Sigma Chi chapter there after the fraternity was accused of holding a party in violation of the state’s order banning gatherings of 10 or more people. The Press-Citizen reports the frat party allegedly took place March 28 with as many as 50 people and may have involved underaged drinking. Iowa City police confirmed receiving a report of a party at the Sigma Chi house, but said no officer responded to the scene. Sigma Chi Fraternity International did not immediately respond Friday to an email from The Associated Press seeking comment.

 

Friday, April 24

Iowa governor: Tip from Ashton Kutcher led to testing deal
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds says the state’s $26 million contract with Utah companies to increase coronavirus testing was developed after she acted on a tip from actor Ashton Kutcher. Kutcher says he was simply using his tech connections to offer a creative solution that could help his native state. Kutcher pitched the governor on a Utah program launched this month to increase testing, saying it looked promising. Kutcher said that one of his good friends is a tech executive who was involved in TestUtah, and he put him in touch with the governor. áAides to Reynolds soon followed up with Utah government officials and TestIowa was launched on Tuesday.

ADM idles large Iowa, Nebraska corn-based ethanol plants
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Ethanol producer ADM says it is idling production at its corn ethanol plants in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Columbus, Nebraska, furloughing 90 employees in each facility for at least four months. The company says low consumer demand for gasoline also has dramatically cut demand for corn-based ethanol which is blended into gasoline. The company said it is focusing on cash flow and diverting some of its resources to other products that are in higher demand, such as alcohol for hand sanitizer. The plants each have a capacity of about 300 million gallons a year, among the largest plants of their type in the nation.

Nearly 28,000 more people file unemployment claims in Iowa
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Nearly 28,000 more people filed initial unemployment claims last week in Iowa as the state’s economy continued to take a hit from efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Iowa Workforce Deveopment reported Thursday that another 27,912 people filed unemployment claims during the week ending April 18. That’s down from claims filed in previous weeks but still far above typical numbers before many businesses closed to fight COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. There were 151,846 continuing unemployment claims. Nationally, more than 4.4 million workers applied for unemployment benefits last week, In the last five weeks, about 26 million people have now filed for jobless aid.

Stopping virus a huge challenge at crowded US meat plants
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – Dozens of U.S. meat-processing plants have been forced to close temporarily as the industry struggles to contain the spread of the coronavirus among employees who often stand side-by-side while cutting and packaging beef, pork and poultry. Giant slaughterhouses that employ thousands of people are designed to have workers close together, making it difficult to adhere to social distancing guidelines that advise people to stay 6 feet apart. Even as companies take steps to protect workers, industry experts say it’s nearly impossible to eliminate all risk of catching the virus and they note safety measures have been adopted unevenly.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Stopping virus a huge challenge at crowded US meat plants
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – Dozens of U.S. meat-processing plants have been forced to close temporarily as the industry struggles to contain the spread of the coronavirus among employees who often stand side-by-side while cutting and packaging beef, pork and poultry. Giant slaughterhouses that employ thousands of people are designed to have workers close together, making it difficult to adhere to social-distancing guidelines that advise people should stay 6 feet apart. Even as companies take steps to protect workers, industry experts say it’s nearly impossible to eliminate all risk of catching the virus and they note safety measures have been adopted unevenly.

Tyson Foods idles largest pork plant as virus slams industry
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – Tyson Foods is suspending operations indefinitely at a large Iowa pork processing plant that was blamed for fueling a coronavirus outbreak in the community. The company warned Wednesday that its closing of the plant in Waterloo would be a blow to hog farmers and potentially disrupt the nation’s pork supply. Tyson kept the plant open in recent days over the objections of the mayor and other local officials. The plant employs 2,800 workers and can process about 19,500 hogs per day, almost 4% of the nation’s pork processing capacity. Several other meatpacking plants have temporarily closed due to coronavirus outbreaks.

Iowa care workers offered tests after surge of virus cases
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – The Iowa Department of Public Health is offering coronavirus testing for all employees of long-term care facilities in Tama County because of a rising number of cases in the region. Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Wednesday following a surge of cases at the National Beef plant in Tama, where 177 workers tested positive for COVID-19. The eastern Iowa plant resumed production Monday after being closed for two weeks due to the virus spread among its workers. Reynolds has frequently noted that a large percentage of those who have died from the virus live in long-term care facilities. Also Wednesday, officials said there were 107 new positive coronavirus cases and seven additional deaths, bringing the total to 90 people

Sioux City police chief among 9 in department with COVID-19
SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) – Sioux City Police Chief Rex Mueller is among nine people within the northwestern Iowa city’s police department to test positive for COVID-19. The Sioux City Journal reports that the department revealed on Tuesday the number of police staffers infected with the novel coronavirus. The department first announced on April 9 that several police department employees had tested positive for the virus, but did not give details. Besides the police chief, a news release from the department said infected staffers include a police captain, two lieutenants, a sergeant, an officer and three civilians. The release says most have had mild symptoms, and some have been cleared to return to work.

Iowa election chief urges voting by mail in wake of outbreak
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate is urging residents to avoid gathering at polling places for the June 2 primary election and instead vote by mail. The absentee voting period for mailed primary ballots begins Thursday. Pate said in a news release Wednesday that voting from home is safest way to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. Pate is sending absentee ballot request forms to every active registered voter in the state. The form should arrive in residents’ mailboxes next week and will include pre-paid postage for returning it to county auditors’ offices. Requests must be received by by 5 p.m. on May 22.