The Advocacy Strategies team continues to have conversations with legislators on your behalf. There was no new news this past week. We continue to hear rank and file legislators are communicating their priorities with their leaders in hopes of getting a few things over the finish line yet this session. We will continue to keep you updated on any progress made on your organization’s legislative priorities.
Relevant COVID-19 Updates:
Iowa’s COVID-19 Cases
As of Monday (4/20) we are 6 weeks into this pandemic being documented in Iowa. As of today there are 3,159 positive cases in 82 counties, 79 deaths total, 7,556 tests available at the State Hygienic Lab, 214 are hospitalized, and 1,235 have recovered in Iowa for a recovery rate of 48%. 25,820 Iowans have been tested total. There are now 10 confirmed long-term care outbreakswith at least three outbreaks food production plants.
There are status reports of monitoring and testing of COVID-19 in Iowa is provided by IDPH and can be found here. In addition, a public hotline has been established for Iowans with questions about COVID-19. The line is available 24/7 by calling 2-1-1 or 1-800-244-7431.
State Economy Reopening
On Wednesday, 4/15 Governor Reynolds shared that she is starting to assess the “reopening” of Iowa. She will approach this by engaging in a two phase approach. Phase 1was analysis by the State Departments on capacity and availability of resources, which occurred on 4/16. Phase 2 will include external feedback from various stakeholders. Specifically, analysis will focus on the agriculture, restaurant and hospitality industries. While Reynolds said she will take into account the recommendations of these stakeholders, she will ultimately make the decision. Coastal and Midwest states also announced regional multi-state pacts in an effort to work together on when and how to reopen. Governor Reynolds choose not to engage with the Midwest pact and otherwise announced on 4/17 that she would align Iowa’s response with Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Missouri, and Arkansas, who she has worked with in the past for flood mitigation.
To date, no state has committed to a timeline, but as of 4/15 Alaska indicated the earliest ambition of reopening, as early as the week of 4/18. Other states who have released their metrics for reopening include widespread testing and generally plan to reopen incrementally either by region or industry. If you are interested in learning more about individual state responses.
On Thursday 4/16 the White House provided guidelines to all 50 states on when and how to reopen. These recommendations include the easing of social distancing and a phased approach. Several requirements must be met including a sustained decrease in cases over a 14-day period, a return to pre-crisis conditions in hospital capabilities, and sufficient hospital supply of PPE.
- On Tuesday 4/14 the Governor released a Coronavirus Dashboard which includes information related to the cases in each county, number of tests being conducted, and Iowa’s epidemiological curve. It can be accessed at coronavirus.iowa.gov.
- On Wednesday 4/15 Director Garcia shared the various resources the Dept. of Human Services has available including expanded behavioral health supports. She also discussed that while abuse reports have dropped, DHS knows that statistically abuse continues to be a problem. DHS is working with DOE to encourage educators to reach out to their students as a check point. They also provided the 24/7 Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-362-2178.
- On Thursday 4/16 Governor Reynolds announced that Region 6 of Iowa’s Regional Medical Coordination Center reached a level 10. Reynolds signed a proclamation in effect until April 30 that gatherings must be limited to only immediate household members, with exceptions for weddings, funerals, and other religious gatherings to no more than 10 people. The proclamation does not include additional business shutdowns. Region 6 includes 14 counties in north and central eastern Iowa comprised of Black Hawk, Dubuque, and Linn Counties.
- On Thursday 4/16 Governor Reynolds announced the Test Iowa Initiative with the goal of conducting 3,000 COVID-19 tests per day. This would also increase investigations at outbreak points and contract tracing. Full plan details are expected next week.
- On Friday 4/17 Governor Reynolds announced schools will not reopen for the remainder of the school year, however, they are required to provide learning opportunities for students. Instructional time requirements will be waived in conjunction with this announcement. Schools will be required to submit a Return to Learn plan by July 1, 2020 designed to address disruptions to learning by COVID-19. In addition, she waived the August 23 school start date, giving schools choice on when to start the school year.
- On Monday 4/20 the Governor granted the Iowa National Guard the authority to have up to 1,000 full-time soldiers and airmen under Title 32.
Health Care Update
Below is a high-level health care update related to COVID-19, based on information from CMS and U.S. Dept. of HHS.
- On Tuesday 4/14 it was announced that Medicare will pay nearly double for certain “high-production” lab tests to diagnose COVID-19. For the CMS release click here. This is believed to increase testing capacity across the nation.
- On Wednesday 4/15 the U.S. Dept. of HHS released new guidance for Medicare providers receiving COVID-19 relief funding, clarifying that “care does not have to be specific to treating COVID-19.” For additional clarity please refer here.
- CMS Administrator Verma stated that the remaining $70 billion in the relief fund will be distributed more broadly across the health care system. More details will be released soon.