2020 Session Pause- Week 8

Legislative Update:

On April 30, the Legislative Council extended the Session Pause through Friday, May 15th which was consistent with the Governor’s shutdown in Polk County. In light of the Governor’s indication today that she will make an announcement tomorrow about the expiration of her current Proclamation’s pending expiration on Friday, we expect the Council will meet via teleconference sometime this week and give more guidance on the timing of their return to close out session as well as the process and procedures they will follow.

 

Relevant COVID-19 Updates:

Iowa’s COVID-19 Cases

The number of newly confirmed Iowa cases of COVID-19 significantly fell on Saturday to the lowest number we have seen a in a few weeks. This concurred with a decline in the number of reported tests being conducted. On Saturday, the Department of Public Health reported an additional 180 confirmed cases of the virus. Though, the number of tests reported to have been performed dropped to 1,224, which is the lowest number of reported tests since mid-April.

As of last week, the Governor changed the public reporting process. She is no longer providing updates on the latest statistics during her daily press conferences. Cumulative data is now posted on the State’s coronavirus website and Iowans are encouraged to check there for more details. As of Monday (5/11) this is the following information available through the State’s coronavirus website. We are 9 weeks into the pandemic being documented in Iowa. There are 12,373 positive cases in 93 counties, 271 deaths total, and 5,249 have recovered in Iowa. 77,792 Iowans have been tested total, meaning 1 in 40 Iowans have been tested at some point over the past 9 weeks. There are now at least 32 confirmed long-term care facility outbreaks.

There are status reports of monitoring and testing of COVID-19 in Iowa 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 Updates

White House:

  • On Wednesday 5/6 Governor Reynolds and Dr. Pedati attended a meeting with President Trump in Washington, D.C. Governor Reynolds updated the President and staff on Iowa’s efforts to address coronavirus. Reynolds and Trump both predicted that meat-packing plants would be fully operational within a week to 10 days. The White House praised Iowa for its leadership in their coronavirus response.
  • Pedati accepted an invitation to become a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. She will continue her role as Iowa’s Public Health Medical Director/Epidemiologist, while fulfilling her new role on the Task Force.
  • On Friday 5/8 Vice President Pence visited Iowa meeting with faith leaders to discuss opening churches safely.
  • Pence also conducted a panel with Governor Reynolds, Iowa’s US Senators, and agriculture leaders to address coronavirus issues in Iowa. Specifically, Sen. Grassley and Farm Bureau asked Pence to support a Justice Department investigation of possible price-fixing in the meat industry.
  • Following her trip to the White House, the Governor may have been exposed to the virus as two White House staff have tested positive. She will follow a modified quarantined plan where she will have her temperature tested twice a day, she will be tested daily, social distance, wear a mask when interacting with others, and select staff will work from home.

Reopening:

  • On Wednesday 5/6 the Governor signed a proclamation allowing dental services, campgrounds, drive-in movie theaters, tanning facilities, and medical spas to reopen statewide with specific social distancing requirements outlined. In the 22 high-risk counties the following businesses were allowed to reopen in a limited capacity, fitness centers by appointment, malls with 50% capacity, social and fraternal clubs that serve food, and other retail establishments including tobacco shops, bookstores, florists, and home goods stores at 50% capacity.
  • On Thursday, 5/7 the Governor stated that she is shifting her assessment of available resources to mitigation.
  • This weekend, the State of Iowa received a shipment of Remdesivir, a drug that was recently approved for the treatment of COVID-19. The State is determining where the medication will be distributed.
  • Monday 5/11 the Governor stated at this time, steady increases exist in Polk County, Sioux City, and Crawford County and she will continue to make Strike Teams available in these areas.
  • On Monday 5/11 the Governor announced that she intends to make an announcement on Tuesday (5/12), about reopening the state and the potential extension of the public health emergency declaration.

 Testing:

  • On Thursday 5/7 the fourth Test Iowa site opened in Cedar Rapids, and on Saturday 5/9 the fifth Test Iowa site opened in Crawford County. The other sites are in Des Moines, Sioux City, and Waterloo.
  • On Monday, 5/11 the Governor announced the opening of two more sites, one in Davenport today and one on Wednesday, 5/13 in Ottumwa.
  • Local governments, such as Dubuque County, began conducting targeted testing early last week, which concluded on Friday, 5/8. The State provided 1,000 testing kits and local organizations conducted and coordinated the testing.
  • Initially, the Test Iowa initiative alone was projected to conduct 3,000 COVID-19 tests per day. Since the program began all available testing programs have averaged 2,700 daily including private health care, State Hygienic Lab, and Test Iowa.
  • As of Monday, 5/11 there are 150 National Guard members doing contact tracing and case investigations for counties which have chosen to turn their case investigations over to the State. Otherwise, county public health staff is conducting tracing and investigations locally.

Unemployment:

  • On Thursday, 5/7 the Iowa Workforce Development released the unemployment insurance claims report for the week of 4/26 – 5/2. A total of 22,830 initial claims were filed. The industries with the most claims remain are manufacturing, health care and social assistance, and self-employed/independent contractors. Over $111 million in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefits has been paid to 165,088 Iowans for this week, with over $439 million total in benefits paid out.

 Economy:

  • In the month of March Iowa’s economy saw a record drop, according to a report from the Iowa Dept. of Revenue. The Iowa Leading Indicators Index fell a record three points, more than twice as big as the previous record drop in December 2008. There have been rolling layoffs across a variety of industries, including food processing and manufacturing. For more details on Iowa’s economic indicators, click here.
  • This past week the Tax Education Foundation Iowa issued a report estimating a $1.6 billion impact from the first three weeks of Iowa’s widespread closures and estimate future state and local tax collections will be reduced by $112.1 million due to the crisis. They estimate Iowa’s total GDP will be reduced by 9.7% this next fiscal year.

 Education:

  • On Tuesday 5/5 the Iowa Dept. of Education announced Iowa has received $71.6 million from the Elementary and Secondary Education Relief Fund. Schools must submit the Consolidated Accountability and Support Application (CASA) application by Monday 5/11. This first wave of funding is meant as a relief for COVID-19 associated costs. Schools can anticipate receiving the funds on 5/13 and can use the funds through the spring of 2022.

Child Care:

  • On Tuesday 5/5 DHS released a FAQ with details for COVID-19 Child Care Funding Opportunities. This resource includes links, summary of eligibility, and contact information.

Feeding Iowa Task Force:

  • On Monday 5/11 Lt. Governor Gregg provided an update on the Feeding Iowa Task Force, which is comprised of the food bank, volunteer programs, and State Departments. The National Guard has been deployed on multiple missions across the state ensuring food delivery. AmeriCorps volunteers are being reassigned to COVID-19 response projects. The Task Force started the Pass the Pork initiative where farmers donate hogs to meat lockers and the meat is donated to food banks. The Task Force continues to analyze opportunities to use CARES and FEMA funding to ensure food stability in Iowa.