We understand the Legislative Council is expected to meet sometime this week as the legislature is only on session pause through April 30th at this time. We understand they will likely expand the Session Pause for the time being as the state works to reopen and Polk County is still under restrictions through May 15th per the Governor’s comments today.
On Friday Governor Reynolds announced her staff is working on a revised budget to issue to the legislature within the next week. She said she is continuing to have weekly meetings with David Roeder, the Director of the Dept. of Management to better understand how the pandemic will impact the state’s revenue. At this time, we have been told to anticipate budget cuts and some budget chairs have already indicated there will be no new funding requests granted.
The AS team continues to communicate with legislators on your policy and funding priorities and will keep you posted as we hear back from them.
Relevant COVID-19 Updates:
Today Governor Reynolds announced that effective Friday, 5/1 that 77 counties will be allowed to reopen a number of industries with a 50% capacity including restaurants for dine-in, fitness centers, retail stores, enclosed malls, and libraries. Mall food courts, play areas, and communal seating will remain closed other than for take-out. Race tracks, excluding horse or dog races, will be allowed to reopen without spectators. Social, communal, leisure, and sports gatherings will continue to be limited to 10 people. The Governor will allow for the reconvening of religious gatherings over 10 people. For the full text of the Governor’s proclamation, click here.
The remaining 22 counties are extended through Friday, 5/15, at which time the Governor will assess if it is appropriate to reopen. The 22 counties not allowed to reopen are Allamakee, Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Dallas, Des Moines, Dubuque, Fayette, Henry, Iowa, Jasper, Johnson, Linn, Louisa, Marshall, Muscatine, Polk, Poweshiek, Scott, Tama, Washington, and Woodbury. Reynolds also urged Iowans with pre-existing conditions and older Iowans to continue staying at home to reduce their risk of contagion exposure. If there is an uptick in positive cases in reopened areas across the state, the State will reassess if re-instating closures is necessary.
Iowa’s COVID-19 Cases
As of Monday (4/27) we are 7 weeks into this pandemic being documented in Iowa. As of today there are 5,868 positive cases in 84 counties, 127 deaths total, 214 are hospitalized, and 2,021 have recovered in Iowa for a recovery rate of 34%. 38,150 Iowans have been tested total, meaning 1 in 82 Iowans have been tested. There are now at least 13 confirmed long-term care outbreaks.
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.
On Tuesday, 4/21, The Governor released the Test Iowa initiative, which is a mass testing program in partnership with Nomi Health, Qualtrics, and Domo, which are based in Utah. This program will allow for up to 3,000 additional tests per day for a total of 540,000 tests through October. The tests will be run through the State Hygienic Lab and they are outside of the number of tests made available by the Federal Government.
Every Iowan is encouraged to complete the online assessment at testiowa.com. The assessment focuses on three components: symptoms, exposure to a confirmed positive individual, and travel to a hot spot region of COVID-19. After completion of the assessment, an individual will receive a follow-up email letting them know if they qualify to be tested. First priority will be given to responders, and then the next phases are symptomatic individuals, then asymptomatic individuals. The first testing site was scheduled in Des Moines at the Iowa Events Center beginning on Saturday, 4/25.
Individuals being tested will drive to the site, and remain in their vehicles. Results will be sent to the patient within 48-72 hours. If a patient tests positive, contact tracing will occur to determine who they have come in contact with. If an individual is deferred for testing originally based on their assessment and their circumstances change, that individual is encouraged to take the test again. The data gathered from these assessments is owned by the State of Iowa and protected by HIPAA.
The State signed a $26 million contract that expires April 16, 2021, for these services which include the provision of PPE, testing materials, drive-through testing, and communication to patients. It’s expected the State’s federal COVID-19 money will go towards the Test Iowa initiative. Iowa has not received the federal funding yet, but has been assured that states would have flexibility with funds to respond to COVID-19. There is no cost to the individual for the test.
Reopening State Economies
As of Friday, April 24, there are 15+ states beginning their reopening processes. Some of the states, including Georgia and South Carolina, did not meet the White House recommendations for reopening, including a lack of a two-week downward trend in confirmed positive cases. For more details on the where all 50 states stand on reopening as of Sunday, 4/26, click here.
Many states are implementing a phased in approach, including Iowa, Georgia, Idaho, Minnesota, and Montana. A number of states that eased restrictions began with allowing simple elective surgeries, which is consistent with Iowa’s regulations. Other states are easing their current restrictions, with extensions to the stay-at-home orders including Michigan and Mississippi. Nebraska, which Gov. Reynolds is working closely with, has also not issued a shelter-in-place, but has eased some of the restrictions they had in place on a county basis. Nebraska also signed a contract with the Utah based business which Iowa has partnered with for increased testing.
On Friday 4/24 the Governor signed a statewide proclamation that allows elective medical procedures to resume and farmers markets to open, effective Monday, 4/27. The decision to conduct elective medical procedures is still up to the medical provider and network, with parameters around PPE and open bed levels. The PPE Shortage Order is still in effect. This declaration includes opening farmers markets guidelines around what can be sold and proper social distancing practices.
- On Wednesday 4/22 Governor Reynolds announced that a testing strike team is being deployed to Tama County for long-term care facility employees. This was in response to a number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities in that county. Testing occurred Wednesday and Thursday. Strike teams are comprised of Dept. of Human Services, National Guard, and State Hygienic Lab employees. This is separate from Test Iowa.
- On Thursday 4/23 the Iowa Workforce Development released a report on the initial unemployment insurance claims for the week of April 12-18. The total number of initial claims totaled 27,912 with unemployment insurance benefit payments totaling $48,091,551.28. Nearly $170 million was paid to Iowans in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefits. For total data on unemployment claims, click here.
- Friday 4/24 Governor Reynolds announced that some of the contact tracing staff will come through the Title 32 directive for National Guard.