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COVID-19 Update
May 6, 2020

IowaBio wants to provide our members useful information during the COVID-19 public health emergency. 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.

Iowa Update

Governor Kim Reynolds will travel to Washington, D.C. today to provide an update to President Donald Trump and his Coronavirus Task Force on the status of COVID-19 in Iowa, including the state’s efforts to reopen. There will be no Iowa press conference today, Wednesday, May 6th. Daily press conferences will resume later this week. 
 
Yesterday, the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) was notified of 408 additional positive cases for a total of 10,111 positive cases. There have been an additional 3,000 negative tests for a total of 50,458 negative tests to date, which includes testing reported by the State Hygienic Lab and other labs. 
 
According to IDPH, an additional 19 deaths were also reported, 407 are currently hospitalized, and 3,572 Iowans have recovered. At this time, 1 in 52 Iowans have been tested. 
 
Yesterday at her press conference, Governor Reynolds said 56 percent of the deaths were in long term care facilities. She said it is very difficult despite their proactive efforts to protect the residents of these facilities. She said they will continue to be proactive and do surveillance testing. Dubuque County announced it will also have targeted testing of its own for all long term care facility workers this week.

The Governor confirmed she will be flying today to visit with President Trump and Vice President Pence to give an update on what she’s doing in Iowa to respond to COVID-19. She will talk about testing, case investigation and working with processing plants. News outlets yesterday also confirmed with the Office of the President that Vice President Pence will travel to Iowa Friday. His schedule will include meetings with faith leaders and a roundtable at Hy-Vee Headquarters to meet with agriculture and food supply leaders. KCCI reports the announcement came hours after Pence said the national Coronavirus Task Force is keeping a close eye on Des Moines and Chicago. This Bloomberg article discusses the visit’s focus on meat processing plant outbreaks.

The Governor stressed, at her press conference, that they are going where the virus is active, so it is no wonder the positive cases continue to rise. They want to gather this information to understand virus activity and try to contain it. A fourth Test Iowa site will open in Cedar Rapids. She urged those in areas with a Test Iowa site to take the online assessment at www.testiowa.com. More than 306,000 Iowans have taken the assessment. The testing is prioritized for frontline workers, those with symptoms, and those who have been exposed.

The Governor said IDPH has been compiling data from surveillance efforts, and State Epidemiologist Dr. Caitlin Pedati, determined that to protect the public health, the State will release the names of employers where there is 10 percent absenteeism, or 10 percent confirmed case or close contact, in an environment where transmission might easily occur. Those reported include: Tyson plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa Premium National Beef in Tama, Tyson plant in Waterloo, Tyson Plant in Perry, TPI Composites in Newton. The Governor said the spread may also be from home or community spread, not just spreading in the facilities themselves. The state will continue to be a partner to ensure the plants and essential workforce can make sure Iowans have food on the table.

The Governor announced additional funding from the federal government, $71.6 million, will go to Iowa schools, and each one in the state will receive an allocation for COVID-19 related costs including online learning support, mental health services, technology support and more. Districts will receive funds May 13, and must use them by September 30, 2022.

The Governor’s office will make a determination this week about whether to reopen campgrounds.

IowaBio Member COVID-19 Response Highlights

As an essential service, Alliant Energy’s focus remains on providing safe, reliable and affordable energy.  During this pandemic, many Iowans are facing tough choices. If someone is having trouble paying their monthly energy bill, there are resources to help.

In fact, several assistance programs have increased funding and updated their requirements. In addition to the resources below, Alliant Energy and its charitable foundation has been proactive since the pandemic began to help meet needs of Iowans. They have contributed over $2.3 million to local food banks, community action agencies and donated thousands of pieces of personal protective equipment to hospitals and long term care facilities across Iowa.

Alliant Energy Assistance Resources
  • Iowans supported by Alliant Energy may:
    • Request a payment extension or set up a payment arrangement through this link
    • Log into their My Account program (or download the app) to monitor their energy usage, set up high use alerts and consider budget billing options.
    • Visit the Alliant website to learn about the numerous resources available to make your home or business more energy efficient. 
       
  • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
    • Iowans who meet the income guidelines may qualify for financial assistance towards their energy costs with the federally funded LIHEAP.
    • This program’s application deadlines, income requirements and available funding have changed due to the recent pandemic.
    • Of note, the LIHEAP application deadline has been extended to May 31, 2020.
    • Crisis funds are now available and have been raised from $500 to $1,000 per qualified household. In addition, Iowans can still apply for these funds even if they have already applied for or received LIHEAP benefits.
    • Funds are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Qualifications and requirements may change.
    • Visit this link to find guidelines, application information and additional resources. 
       
  • Hometown Care Energy Fund
    • The Hometown Care Energy Fund helps Iowans supported by Alliant Energy with their energy bill directly through local community action agencies for income-qualified customers in need.   This program is funded by Alliant Energy customers, employees, retirees and shareowners.  Recently, Alliant Energy contributed $2 million to the Hometown Care Energy Fund and the dollars are being utilized through local community action agencies to assist Iowans. 
    • Iowans should contact their local community action agency to inquire about this program. 
Federal Actions
  • The White House has communicated that the Coronavirus Task Force will be coming to an end in the not-too-distant future. Vice President Mike Pence said the Task Force could be wrapping up as early as the beginning of June.
  • Yesterday, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Patty Murray (D-WA) sent President Trump a letter calling on the Administration to develop a comprehensive national strategic plan of action by May 24th to ensure states have sufficient tests to begin safely re-opening.
  • Democratic lawmakers wrote to Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day asking for details on the company’s plans for remdesivir, an anti-viral medication being studied to treat COVID-19, including measures to secure the supply chain, disclosures about taxpayer investment in the drug, and pricing.
  • Agriculture Sec. Sonny Perdue announced today that the USDA is investing $23 million through the ReConnect Pilot Program for three recipients in New Mexico to provide broadband service in rural areas.
    • Sec. Perdue also announced a 5 million meal expansion of Meals to You, the USDA’s partnership with Baylor University, McLane Global, and PepsiCo, to feed low-income kids in rural areas.
  • CMS posted a new FAQ page for state Medicaid and CHIP programs.
  • HUD Sec. Ben Carson announced the allocation of $380 million in supplemental administrative fee funding to all Public Housing Authorities (PHA), including Moving to Work (MTW) PHAs. The two months of additional funding may be used for traditional administrative fees as well as for new costs related to protecting assisted families and employees throughout this coronavirus pandemic. The funding was made available by the CARES Act.
  • The Senate has returned to D.C. (with skeleton staffs) and are jumping right in with hearings. The slated COVID-19 hearings are:
  • The CDC continues to update and publish additional documents on its dashboard, including updated strategies to optimize the supply of PPE and equipment, guidance for care for breastfeeding women, and interim guidance criteria for return to work for healthcare personnel with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
  • You can view CMS’s overview of recent COVID-19-related actions here.
  • With 100 COVID-19-positive service members hospitalized so far, the military’s hospitalization rate of 2 percent is 50 times higher than the U.S. hospitalization rate reported by the CDC.
  • Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) is proposing a bill directing the DoD to provide tax-free hazard pay to national guardsmen and active duty troops fighting COVID-19.
  • The number of COVID-19 deaths in the VA health system rose more than 80 percent over the last week after the department updated their public accounting of cases. At least 770 patients have died from complications related to COVID-19 in VA health centers.
Updates from the States
  • Out of the cases under investigation detected by U.S. surveillance, there are 1,171,510 total cases and 68,279 deaths  The CDC data closes out the day before reporting.
  • Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-MI) filed a lawsuit against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) and the Director of the state’s Department of Health, arguing that the statewide social distancing orders are unconstitutional. Michigan’s Republican-led state legislature is considering its own lawsuit.
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced the special enrollment period through the New York State of Health Health Plan Marketplace will remain open through June 15th.
  • Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State announced that nearly one million voters have applied for a mail-in ballot for the June 2nd primary election.
  • Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) announced the Test Nebraska program which has already increased testing capacity to between 1,000 and 1,500 tests per day.
  • Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) officially closed schools for the remainder of the academic year.
  • Updates on lockdowns/reopening:
    • Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) signed an EO stating that everyone must wear a face mask while in public. Additionally, she outlined the state’s phased reopening plan, and what will occur in the first phase.
    • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) Gov. Jay Inslee announced the "Safe Start" plan as a phased approach to reopening Washington's economy.
    • Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) announced a new, web-based program to assist businesses and religious organizations with safely resuming operations as the public health emergency continues. OpenSafely.la.gov allows business owners and church leaders to register in order to receive up-to-the-minute information on what phase their business and/or church is considered, what phase the state is in as Louisiana moves through phases of return and what social distancing and sanitation guidelines are required for their specific operation in each phase.
  • Useful state data:
    • The NYT is tracking which states are reopening and which are still shut down.
    • These charts show cumulative coronavirus cases and deaths for metropolitan areas over time.
    • Use Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 U.S. map as a resource for media, policymakers and communities to view a collection of critical public health data in one online destination and better understand and track the COVID-19 pandemic in populations both large and small across the country.
    • NASHP has developed a COVID-19 State Action Center which serves as a state-level policy dashboard.
    • This site from the Kaiser Family Foundation provides state-level information on cases/deaths, social distancing measures, health policy actions, and more.
    • This resource from Bloomberg Law is a database of State Quarantine and Public Health Laws related to the COVID-19 response.
    • This series of maps shows how states are responding to COVID-19, and this tracker, created and maintained by MultiState Associates, has an up-to-date list of executive orders and various travel restrictions.
    • Finally, this site offers COVID-19 projections assuming full social distancing and can be broken down by state.
International Affairs
  • The U.K. has surpassed Italy in total number of deaths, now at 32,000, making it the highest in Europe. The U.S. still has the most deaths globally, with over 70,000.  
  • Disneyland in Shanghai will reopen on May 11th, making it the first Disney theme park to reopen since the parks closed for the pandemic. Overall Disney revenue has plummeted over the last few months.
  • France reported its second consecutive day of increased deaths.
  • French doctors are saying a patient treated in late December had COVID-19. If true, the finding suggests that the virus was present in Europe almost a month earlier than previously thought. This week, doctors tested samples taken from patients in late December and early January. One of those, taken on December 27th from a patient who had pneumonia, tested positive.
  • The Indian government is set to begin repatriating hundreds of thousands of migrant laborers who were stranded due to COVID-19. Starting later this week, India will deploy military ships and its national airline for the effort, while Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates will use civilian airliners. According to Indian officials, the first wave of repatriations could bring 192,000 individuals back to India by the middle of next month, with about 100,000 of them returning from Persian Gulf countries where many have lost their jobs because of the pandemic.
  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing a homegrown antiviral medication that has not been proven to help prevent or treat COVID-19. He has allocated nearly $130 million to triple a stockpile of the medication and offered to provide it for free to dozens of other countries.
  • Baseball is returning to Korea and Taiwan, though there will be no live spectators allowed. In Taiwan, the stands are filled with cardboard cutouts and mannequins, locker rooms are stocked with bottles of sanitizer, and players and coaches have been warned to keep a distance from each other.
  • The Philippine Supreme Court has ordered the release of nearly 10,000 inmates in one of the world's most congested prison systems. At least 330 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Global Cases:  3,682,968         Total Deaths:  257,906
Lifestyle, Science, and Economy
  • Reports from New York City and Europe describe new cases of a rare multisystem inflammatory syndrome in some pediatric COVID-19 patients. The Paediatric Intensive Care Society alerted its members of this condition in late April, and public health officials are distributing notices to local health systems to inform pediatricians of the potential connection between the condition and COVID-19.
  • According to the WHO, there are now 108 potential COVID-19 vaccines in development around the world, eight of which are approved for clinical trials.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line, one of the world’s largest cruise companies, said today that its chances of surviving the pandemic are slim.
  • Video game companies Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts have reported huge jumps in revenue, presumably due to the number of people seeking at-home entertainment while socially isolating.
  • Airbnb says it's cutting 1,900 employees — about 25 percent of its workforce — as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • The U.S. trade deficit widened in March as the economic shock related to COVID-19 crippled both imports and exports. Analysts anticipate a sustained downward trend.
  • The deficit rose 11.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted $44.4 billion in March from $39.8 billion in February.
  • The New York Times has collected stories from nurses, doctors, and E.M.T.s from around the world about what keeps them up at night and what inspires them to keep fighting.
  • The National Academy of Medicine will host a free webinar on Thursday to discuss priorities and strategies to support the professional well-being of clinicians.
  • The Korean Baseball Organization’s opening day was today, and ESPN announced they would be broadcasting six of the games this season.
  • Forbes is keeping a running list of all major international airline COVID-19-related change and cancellation policies.
  • The New York Times has started its own tracker of cases in the U.S. to fill in the gaps left by agency data.
  • Lists of canceled conferences and events can be found here (music), here (tech), here (general), and here (sports/entertainment).
Helpful Articles/Media
Please contact me directly with any questions and I would be happy to assist.

Sincerely,
Jessica

Jessica Hyland, J.D.
Executive Director
Iowa Biotechnology Association
Cell: (515) 822-1315
Office: (515) 327-9156
Fax: (515) 327-1407
jessica@iowabio.org
www.iowabio.org
Copyright © 2020 Iowa Biotech Association, All rights reserved.


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