IowaBio wants to provide our members useful information during the COVID-19 pandemic. This newsletter compiles information on state, federal and industry action to combat the virus and its impacts.
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Yesterday at her press conference, Governor Kim Reynolds said we are now nearly two weeks out from Thanksgiving and we continue to see slow, steady downward trends in new cases, positivity rates and hospitalizations that we haven't since mid-November. It’s critical that these trends continue through this month. We’ve made good progress but our goal is to get the virus to a level we can manage over the next few months, she said. She thanked Iowans for stepping up to do their part.
They are eagerly waiting FDA approval of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. They are optimistic that word will come by the end of this week. The state is ready to distribute the vaccines once they're shipped. Iowa is prioritizing healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents and staff in the initial shipment. Hospitals that will receive some of the first shipment have been notified and are making plans for distribution to their workforce. Iowa will participate in the long term care pharmacy partnership, a federal program that leverages national pharmacy chains to distribute and administer the vaccine in long-term care facilities across the state. Pending vaccine approval, they plan to begin vaccinations in long-term care facilities by December 28. IDPH is holding webinars with the pharmacies and long-term care facilities to learn more about the program. This coordination will help ease operations as the program launches and ensure its success statewide, the Governor said.
The state will also be providing a 30 day supply of PPE to Iowa’s 432 facilities at no cost to the facilities. Distribution will begin next week. Iowa has also secured contract nurses from around the country to help hospitals that need temporary staffing. More than 80 nurses will begin working this week and in the coming days a total of 104 nurses will work with hospitals around the state through December 30. This effott is being funded through Iowa CARES funding. It will help with any increase that might be seen around the holidays. The state has increased contract tracing resources to make sure case investigation continues in a timely manner. This week they had 200 additional contact tracers doing case investigation for 65 of the 99 counties. Funding is also through the state's CARES Act funding.
Together with the state, MercyOne is establishing the Iowa COVID-19 hospital transfer line, to be used by hospitals when a COVID 19 patient needs to be transferred. Bob Ritz CEO of MercyOne said over the last nine months we’ve had to use innovation and collaboration to care for this very new patient population. The Iowa Hospital transfer line came to be just recently, when patients needed a different level of care. The difficulty in transferring a patient becomes difficult when the bed supply tightens up with episodic waves of patients. The complexity of the transfer process can be really disheartening, he said. They are delighted to bring this approach to help with COVID patients. They have used the framework, technology and structure of our transfer center with the help of IDPH, the governor’s office, national guard and all health systems, to expand this to the whole state and to make a transfer with one easy phone call. Any hospital can use the traditional process they have always used, but in the event that they find it difficult to place a patient, they can call the Iowa hospital transfer line and then the transfer line will take it from there. They will work together with the public health department and the national guard to coordinate that patient’s placement until it’s complete. That way hospital staff can stay focused on patient care.
We’ve learned a lot about COVID-19 since the pandemic began, the Governor said. One of the most encouraging facts is that the virus occurs less frequently in children than adults. Since March, children up to the age of ten account for just four percent of positive cases. 3 percent of cases are in ages 11-14 and 6 percent are teen age 15-18 of all positive cases. These statistics have remained consistent since the beginning of the pandemic. According to WHO children of all ages can have the virus and can spread it; However, studies show children younger than 10 are less likely to transfer the virus while adolescents and teens are more likely to be infected. When positive cases do occur in schools it rarely occurs from student to student.
Recently Iowa’s 327 public school districts and 119 private schools were asked to voluntarily report data on COVID-19 cases and mitigation measures. The data reported Is consistent with these findings. Since the beginning of the school year less than 2 percent of Iowa’s K-12 students have been infected with the virus. Anecdotally most were contracted outside of school due to community spread or exposure to a family member. Schools are not a primary driver of virus transmission and spread, the Governor said. CDC has said schools are the safest place for kids to be and that extended school closures are actually failing students. A new study by McKenzie and Company shows students will continue to lag if schools remain in alternative learning models through the end of the year. Students learned only 67 percent of math and 87 percent of reading that grade level peers would typically have learned by fall. Students could lose five to nine months of learning by the end of June 2021. Students of color could be 6-12 months behind compared to 4-8 for white students. If schools reopen in January, the outlook is better. Learning loss would be 4-5 months for white students and 6-7 months for students of color.
Iowa is not immune from this trend, the Governor said. Last week Ann Lebo Director of Dept. of Education, shared that literacy screening scores decreased 21 percent for Iowa’s first graders this fall. 50 percent of in person learning shouldn’t be a limiting factor, it should be a starting point, she said. We need to get students back into the classroom full time to make up the learning they lost.
Iowa’s proclamation of disaster emergency that expires today (Friday 10) at midnight will be extended to Wednesday, December 16 with minimal changes. Organized sports and bowling may resume for youth but the two-spectator rule is still in place. To ensure better consistency at bars, last call for service will be at 10:00 p.m. They are easing reductions on elective surgeries from 50 percent reduction to a 25 percent reduction.
The Governor’s IDAC team will meet today to discuss the second phase of vaccine deployment. Kelly Garcia said she doesn’t have specific numbers on employees at pharmacies but they have been meeting with them for the last several days and they are assured that they have enough staff to make a significant impact in the next few weeks. She said there is a system in place to track the vaccine through to the second dose. There are significant tracking mechanisms in place, as well as a card for the patient which states the vaccine and interval to receive the second dose.
Currently, IDPH has reported on the state’s coronavirus dashboard, 251,027 Iowans have tested positive, up 2,246 from our update yesterday morning, with a total of 1,268,082 tested. 102 additional deaths were reported since our last update, bringing the total to 3,021 deaths. Now 177,798 Iowans have recovered. The total 14 day rolling average positivity rate is 15.6% the past 7-day average is 11.6%. The latest on hospitalizations, including how many patients have been admitted in the last 24 hours can be found here. There are currently 863 hospitalized patients.
School district statistics including positivity rates by county can be found here. According to guidance issued by the Iowa Department of Education, schools may petition to go to hybrid or online learning with less than 50 percent in-person instruction when the per county percentage positivity rates are above 15 percent in a county on average over the past 14 days (rolling average) AND 10% absenteeism among students is expected for in-person learning. School district waiver requests and whether they are granted or denied are listed here.
Currently 63 (of 99) counties are above a 15 percent positivity rate over the past 14 days. Click here to search county data for today.
Total Cases 15,040,175
Total Deaths 285,351
Total Cases 69,027,093
Total Deaths 1,572,423