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.
If your company is helping respond to COVID-19, IowaBio wants to know about it. Please, send any information about what your biotechnology company or organization is doing to help, to Jessica Hyland at Jessica@iowabio.org.
If IowaBio can assist you in getting information out, connecting with public officials, or support your company in another way, please do not hesitate to reach out.
Past IowaBio COVID-19 Update newsletters are now available at www.iowabio.org/COVID19 and can be found under the Industry News tab on the IowaBio website.
Yesterday at her press conference, Governor Reynolds said over the last 14 days, 48 percent of new cases were in ages 18-40. Of the six counties, where bars were closed Aug 27, Dallas county positivity rate is decreasing, while Blackhawk, Polk Linn and Story are stable. Johnson is beginning to stabilize. She spoke about social distancing measures now required in all open restaurants and bars. Johnson and Story bars remain closed. She said the order for social distancing measures will be enforced by local officials.
The Governor spoke about the DSM school board, which voted 4-3 to “prepare” to implement a hybrid learning model Tuesday night. There is no clear timeline to move to in person learning, she said. “To be clear DSM public school is no closer to compliance with state law than they were before last night’s vote, which I think is unfortunate for the students,” she said. 326 of Iowa’s 327 school districts have figured out how to implement a return to learn plan safe for students, she said. They have that will and are finding a way, which is what she hopes to see from DSM public schools. Three school districts have a waiver to go online, Ames will return to a hybrid model when its waiver expires, and Iowa City is also planning on returning to a hybrid model as long as conditions continue to improve. One other school has withdrawn its request.
DSM public school district, which is the state’s largest, faces the biggest challenges, but also the biggest consequences for further inaction, particularly for the most vulnerable student, the Governor said. She encouraged parents concerned with the effect on students to speak out. Every court in which our return to learn guidelines have been challenged, the state has won. “Des Moines Public schools continues to slow walk compliance weeks into the school year at the expense of its 32,000 students and it’s unacceptable,” she said.
The consequences for non-compliance are in place. There is a distinct difference between instructional time and student credit. The challenge might be at the end of the school year, but all the time that is lost must be made up by June 30, Director of the Iowa Department of Education Ann Lebo said. They have to start no later than December and finished by June 30 and accomplish 1080 hours or 180 days. That is what goes to the state board and accreditation, Director Lebo said.
At the beginning of COVID-19, Test Iowa became a partnership for tests, the Governor said, and looked for lab capabilities and capacity where able to meet demand. We opted to work with the State Hygienic Lab, lead by Dr. Pentella, and that has proven to be an extremely valuable partnership, she said. As testing options evolve, including possibility of a multi-plex test, they are ramping up for additional PCR testing capacity. They are doing about 5,000 tests per day. They are fast approaching about 500,000 tests since March of 2020. They have transformed SHL into a high throughput lab to meet the needs of Iowans, Dr. Pentella said. To further expand PCR capacity, the lab is adding two new liquid handling instruments, that will boost capacity. In mid-October, the lab will add an additional instrument to boost to 6,000 tests per day. They are preparing to meet flu season needs.
Last week got a lot of people thinking about winter, and so has the Test Iowa team, the Governor said. Drive through sites will be winterized. They are looking for sites that can be winterproof. Clinic sites are also part of their long-term testing needs. The state provides the supplies and processes these tests. Additional sites will open in coming weeks, and they are looking for new clinic sites. 19 Universities also have testing programs.
She fielded a question about reports that CARES act funds have been used by her administration for staff salaries. CARES funding can be used for salaries, the Governor said. CARES funding is ok to be used when job requirements have significantly changed due to COVID-19, she said. She also said some of the staff is shared, and she didn’t think it was fair to have the other agencies pick up the costs.
Federal Legislation Supplemental IV Timeline/Process/Politics: Despite the activity this week, it still seems highly unlikely that a bipartisan, bicameral deal comes together before Election Day. It seems that the only thing that could lead to a deal at this point would be the White House weighing in and pushing Republicans to go along with a higher number. State/local/tribal government funding remains a top priority for Democrats, so there’s little chance they would move forward without its inclusion.
With that being said, there is pressure mounting on Speaker Pelosi from frontliners in her caucus. In recent caucus calls they have asked her to consider at least release a new House package of some sort – smaller than the Heroes Act, but more robust than the Senate’s skinny bill. Frontliners have grown frustrated with the lack of action on COVID-19 relief and have asserted that passage of the Heroes Act is losing its currency among voters, as it was passed so long ago. Majority Leader Hoyer has said explicitly that he wants to see an alternative to the Senate skinny bill on the floor. However, despite several members calling for a new package, the majority of House Democrats still support Speaker Pelosi’s tactic of standing firm.
The bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus released a proposal earlier this week, which clocked in around $1.5 trillion. While it received some attention, Democratic leadership immediately dismissed it, stating that it “falls short of what is needed to save lives and boost the economy”. Behind closed doors, leadership was annoyed with the proposal as it undercut Speaker Pelosi’s position that Democrats should hold out for $2.2 trillion topline. Surprisingly, the President tweeted in support of a higher number for COVID-19 relief. Republicans were thrown off, but unless something more than a tweet comes from the White House, Republicans won’t move higher. The parties remain wide apart on a topline number and therefore can’t restart negotiations.
Time is running out to make a deal on COVID-19 relief. Negotiations on the continuing resolution (CR) are continuing in hopes to avoid a government shutdown. However, negotiations have been more difficult than anticipated and a couple sticking points have been bumped up to leadership. The Senate has continued to veto any COVID-19 related issues from being added to the CR. If consensus can be reached, the House will vote as soon as next Tuesday (members have an amendment deadline tomorrow and Rules goes through the bill on Monday). A Senate vote will likely follow soon after. After votes on the CR are done, and a COVID-19 deal isn’t imminent, members will likely leave town not to return until lame duck.
Policy: Earlier this week, the Problems Solvers Caucus released a proposal. Proposal here. Highlights below:
$290 billion in for Small Business support, including funding for PPP, Employee Retention Tax Credit, Main Street Lending program;
$120 billion in for Unemployment Insurance ($450 a week for eight-week transition, then up to $600/week but not to exceed 100 percent previous wages for five weeks, ends January 2021);
$500.3 billion for support for State/Local/Tribal/Territorial governments;
$100 billion for testing and healthcare, including provider support, testing, contact tracing
$316 billion for assistance for individuals/families, including stimulus checks, rental assistance/eviction moratorium, student loan forbearance, SNAP/WIC;
Liability protections for organizations that follow OSHA guidelines, with increased OSHA enforcement.
$145 billion for education: (childcare, K-12, higher ed);
$52 billion for other appropriations, including broadband, agriculture support, USPS, the Census;
$400 million in election support; AND
Based on COVID hospitalizations and vaccine development, there could be the below additions
$400 billion in Automatic Boosters (additional UI, stimulus checks), and
Last week Senate Republicans released and voted on another COVID proposal. While it did not pass the Senate, it can be seen as a marker for the priorities Republicans will focus on in negotiations. Text here. Summary here. The bill clocks in at $300 billion, after offsets. There were many similarities between the bill and the one Republicans released mid-August. See below for the highlights.
Offsets from $204 billion from funding allocated to Federal Reserve programs in CARES, sets the 13(3) facilities to expire in January, rescinds $146 billion in unspent small business funding from CARES Act.
Liability protections for businesses and healthcare providers;
$300 per week in enhanced unemployment insurance through the end of the year;
Small Business policies including:
Allows small businesses to take out a second Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan if they have revenue loss of 35 percent or more (HEALS set the threshold at 50 percent or more);
Provides $257.7 billion for PPP, which includes $100 billion in unused funds;
Simplification of the loan process (Sen. Cramer’s Paycheck Protection Small Business Forgiveness Act);
Additional reporting required for businesses receiving loan forgiveness;
Funding for audits.
$10 billion for the U.S. Postal Service – the bill would convert a $10 billion loan to the USPS into a grant if the USPS falls below $8 billion in cash on hand.
Education policies including:
Funding for scholarship-granting organizations for expenses like private school tuition and home-schooling expenses; Also, provides tax credits for two years dedicated for scholarship granting organizations (School Choice Now Act);
Allow students to use 529 plan funds for relevant expenses for two years (Student Empowerment Act);
Childcare program included in HEALS (see here for HEALS education text)
Health policies and funding, including:
Pandemic preparedness program (supply chain, SNS) in HEALS (see here for HEALS education text)
Extends when states/local/tribal governments must spend CARES Act funding until September 30, 2021 (extended from December 31, 2020).
Increases tax incentives for charity from $300 above-the-line deduction (as implemented in the CARES Act) to $600 for individuals and $1,200 for those filing a joint return.
Appropriations title, including:
$105 billion for Education Stabilization Fund (66 percent for K-12 and 29 percent for higher education and 5 percent to governors to use for either higher education or K-12);
$16 billion for testing/contact tracing;
$31 billion for vaccine and treatment development and distribution (the mid-August skinny bill allocated $29 billion for these purposes);
$20 billion for farm assistance,
$500 million for fisheries, and
$15 billion for child care ($5 billion for Child Care Development Block Grant and $10 billion for the program authorized above “Back to Work Child Care Grants”).
HEROES: The House passed the Democrats’ opening bid for the next bill, the Heroes Act, on May 15. While it’s been over two months since House passage of the bill and the contours of the debate and which issues are most pressing have shifted slightly, it can still serve as a marker of what Senate Republicans will be responding to in their bill. Heroes Act text (as of 5/12/2020) here. Section by section here. One pager here. State and Local one pager here. NCAI’s summary on tribal provisions here. Manager’s amendment here. House Rules Committee report here.
Members of Congress in Quarantine or Treatment (new additions in bold) Tested Positive (0): Currently Self-Quarantined (1): Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) Recovered (15): Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC), Rep. Ben McAdams (D-UT), Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA), Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Rep. Neal Dunn (R-FL), Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC), Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Rep. Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (R-Puerto Rico at large), Rep. Dan Meuser (R-PA) Completed Quarantine (45): Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC)*, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS), Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO), Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA), Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Vincente Gonzalez (D-TX), Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-GA), Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ), Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY), Rep. David Price (D-NC), Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO), Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA), Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL), Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ), Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA), Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX), Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX), Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA)
*Mark Meadows quarantined March 9 - 12 after coming in contact with a CPAC attendee who tested positive. On March 20, he resigned from his position in the House to become the White House Chief of Staff.
Currently, IDPH has reported on the state’s coronavirus dashboard, 77,979 Iowans have tested positive, up 1,116 from our update yesterday morning, with a total of 725,004 tested. Antigen test results are now included in the overall data and broken out separately from PCR test results in the data here. 9 additional deaths were reported since our last update, bringing the total to 1,257 deaths. Now 55,727 Iowans have recovered. The overall positivity rate is 10.8% and the total 14 day rolling average positivity rate is 8.5%. The latest on hospitalizations, including how many patients have been admitted in the last 24 hours can be found here.
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.
Currently 8 counties are above 15 percent positivity rate over the past 14 days: