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.
At Governor Reynolds’ press conference yesterday, she said Iowa’s overall COVID-19 positivity rate from Aug 28-Sept 9 has averaged 9.2 percent which is down from 11.6 percent from Aug 13-27 when she announced the closure of bars in six counties. Johnson, Polk, Story, Linn and Blackhawk counties continue to have the highest positivity rates over the last two weeks, she said. However, each county has seen downward trends and only Linn has had a slight increase.
The data shows positivity rates continues to be driven by 18 to 40-year-olds. For example, for August 18-Sept. 9, 90 percent of new cases in Story county were in this age group, Johnson 87 percent, 67 percent in Blackhawk, 59 in Dallas, and Polk and Lynn were 50 percent. 18 to 40-year-olds account for 55 percent statewide in that timeframe.
Iowans want to get kids in school and back in sports and extracurricular activities, the Governor said. She said she has consistently advocated for both. 326 of Iowa’s 327 school districts have implemented return to learn plans that file Iowa law, she said. 3 school districts have been granted waivers because of public health conditions and a few others have had derecho impacts.
Only DMPS is not following the law, she said. She said she is committed to working with DMPS. She noted that the lack of in person options disproportionately affects low income and those with disabilities. She also talked about the impacts of loss of learning and other services for families and students. Online learning doesn’t work for economically disadvantaged students. Those with means are investing in tutors and other options, she said. 78 percent of Des Moines public school students qualify for free and reduced lunch. 16 percent have individualized education plans and get special education support and services. 27 percent are English language learners. She is asking Des Moines School Board to meet with the Iowa Department of Education and Public Health, to find a way to get them in compliance with Iowa law.
She fielded a question on 10 percent absenteeism and how to measure absenteeism. Iowa guidance says schools can apply to go to virtual learning if they are in a county with a fifteen percent positivity rate or higher and that have 10 percent absenteeism. Students who are ill, not those that are quarantined are to be counted, the Governor and the Director of the Iowa Department of Education. They will consider absenteeism in any way schools want to report it as they consider a school waiver requests, but the system in place for reporting those absent for reporting should only be for ill students who are not able to learn.
She addressed concerns about the suspension of sports for DMPS. If students can’t be in school safely, then in person activities should also not take place, she said. She was also asked whether she supports Majority Leader Jack Whitver’s and Speaker Pat Grassley’s letter with other BIG10 state legislative leaders to the BIG10 Commissioner Kevin Warren sent on Monday, asking them to resume sports safely. She is working with other Governors to submit a letter that will effectively say the same thing, she said.
Governor Reynolds highlighted the increased need for mental health and substance abuse services during COVID-19. Your Life Iowa is a resource for those who need mental health services, she said.
She said they are continuing to look at co-diagnostic tests that can test for flu and coronavirus, as flu season approaches. They need to examine that the State Hygienic Lab can run the tests. They examine every day the emerging test types and the capabilities of the State Hygienic Lab. New tests require validation, and the amount of time that requires would vary. It is not known yet how the tests will be made available to the public—it could be Test Iowa sites, clinics, or even schools. They are having conversations and being proactive to anticipate flu season.
She fielded questions about a mask mandate. She said she will not require masks, and believes Iowans will do the right thing and wear masks when they can’t socially distance.
The Lieutenant Governor gave an update on the Feeding Iowans Task force. CARES Act funding has been used for numerous programs to help food banks.
The CEOs of AstraZeneca, BioNTech, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Moderna, Inc., Novavax, Inc., Pfizer Inc., and Sanofi, this week announced a pledge outlining a united commitment to uphold the integrity of the scientific process as they work towards potential global regulatory filings and approvals of the first COVID-19 vaccines. See the pledge here.
Legislation Supplemental IV Timeline/Process/Politics: Every day that goes by without negotiations between parties, the odds for passing another COVID bill decrease. Yesterday the Senate voted on the Republican bill that was released on Tuesday. The measure failed to reach the 60 votes but garnered every Republican vote except for Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). After Republicans released the bill on Tuesday, Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer issued a blistering statement, calling the bill “emaciated” and a move to give vulnerable Republican Senators a “check the box vote”.
While the Republican “skinny” bill didn’t move forward, the goal of the vote was to show that Republicans can unify behind something and provide leverage for future negotiations. While Republicans have (finally) rallied around a bill, Democrats and Republicans still remain a ways apart. Many are skeptical anything COVID-related can get done over the next couple weeks before a continuing resolution (CR) needs to be passed. As negotiations remain stalled, it is becoming increasingly likely that a CR will be passed separate from any COVID package. House leaders have indicated that they want to put a CR on the House floor during the week of September 21.
Policy: Senate Republicans released another COVID package on Tuesday. 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”).
HEALS: Senate Republicans released the eight-bill package the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools (HEALS) Act on July 27. See the following for the individual bills. American Workers, Families, and Employers Assistance Act (Senate Finance Committee provisions) text here, section by section here. Continuing Small Business Recovery and Paycheck Protection Program Act (Small Business provisions) press release here, text here, section by section here, one pager here. Coronavirus Response Additional Supplemental Appropriations Act (Appropriations provisions) text here, summary here. Restoring Critical Supply Chains and Intellectual Property Act (Supply Chain and Research provisions) text here, section by section here. SAFE TO WORK Act (Liability Relief) text here, section by section here. Safely Back to School and Back to Work Act (Health, Education, and Labor Provisions) text here, section by section here. Supporting America’s Restaurant Workers Act text here. TRUST Act text here, section by section here, one pager here.
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 (2): Rep. Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (R-Puerto Rico at large), Rep. Dan Meuser (R-PA) Currently Self-Quarantined (0): Recovered (13): 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) 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, 72,631 Iowans have tested positive, up 740 from our update yesterday morning, with a total of 688,102 tested. Antigen test results are now included in the overall data and broken out separately from PCR test results in the data here. 4 additional deaths were reported since our last update, bringing the total to 1,208 deaths. Now 52,261 Iowans have recovered. The overall positivity rate is 10.6% and the total 14 day rolling average positivity rate is 9.2%. 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 7 counties are above 15 percent positivity rate over the past 14 days: