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 reported that at the start of last month we were faced with much uncertainty, as our state was experiencing the most significant surge since the pandemic began. We are seeing steady signs of improvement, but we have much work to do, to effectively manage it during the winter months, she said.
Iowa reported nearly 28,000 new cases during the first week of November within a statewide average positivity rate of 32 percent. The week following, new cases rose to nearly 30,000 and the positivity rate was just under 29 percent, and hospitalizations began rising at an alarming rate, she said. On November 10 and again on the 16 they put in additional mitigation measures, including mask requirements and limiting gatherings, restrictions on some sports, limiting operations for bars and restaurants, and reducing inpatient procedures, she said. During the week of November 15-21 we saw cases decrease to 24,210 and positivity rates drop to 21 percent, a slight improvement. Our hospitalizations peaked at 1,510. More than 14,200 new cases were reported during the week of 22-28 where we saw the most significant progress in weeks. This was half of the previous week’s total and 15 percent positivity rate - a 6 percent drop.
Despite Test Iowa site closures on Thanksgiving, 95,000 were tested last week, which is actually several thousand more than were tested during the first week of November, the Governor reported. Local public health officials are reporting stabilizing or lower numbers of cases, ICU and hospital admissions are dropping since the peak on November 17. They continue to monitor this slow, steady progress.
Cases in long-term care facilities are increasing. Routine testing is putting more facilities into outbreak status. IPDH and the department of inspections and appeals continues to work with these facilities.
Now that Thanksgiving has passed we will also be closely monitoring case counts after the Thanksgiving holiday over the next two weeks, she said. Cases can increase after family and friends gather to celebrate. They are cautiously optimistic that the mitigation measures are working to get the virus to a more manageable level.
She said she did not take these measures lightly and she has tried to take a targeted approach. She called on Congress to pass a relief package to help small businesses for example in the hospitality industry that have been impacted. She said there’s not enough state funds to make everyone whole. They continue to allocate some CARES funding, and they will look again to see if there are opportunities to get stop-gap funding out, until Congress can act.
Last week over 19,500 were tested, and the highest number of tests ever 6,703 were tested last Monday alone, and breaks a previous record by nearly 100. With virus activity at its highest level, it is predictable that demand for testing would be high. They have made adjustments to allow enclosed sites for the winter months. Four out of the five sites have been successfully relocated to enclosed buildings. The Council Bluffs site will now also be relocated after testing concludes on Friday, Dec. 4. They have doubled capacity through Test Iowa and the State Hygienic Lab has now also doubled its processing capacity.
Pfizer has already begun sending its vaccine to the US. Moderna has also applied for emergency use authorization for its vaccine. A CDC panel will meet and vote on details about who will be able to receive the initially limited doses of the vaccine. More information will be provided about how vaccines will be distributed and administered in the State, once more is known from the CDC panel. She said by next week, the State will look at how to operationalize the strategy.
The unintended consequences of COVID-19 have also affected mental health, the Governor said. Between March and September this year 319 Iowans died of suicide, a rate slightly higher than the last two years. Anecdotal evidence suggests that people are waiting longer to get help. In a national poll conducted in mid-July, 53 percent of adults said their mental health was negatively impacted because of the virus. More than 1 in 3 adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression. Studies also show existing mental illness might also be worse in adolescents. It is important to recognize signs of stress, anxiety and depression. COVID Recovery Iowa offers free virtual counseling for all Iowans. Department of Human Services runs the program, which is federally funded through a grant. The program has hired 105 staff. Access the help through COVIDRecoveryIowa.org .
Yesterday, LSA published a summary of a required report filed by the Department of Education (DE), the Legislative Report School District COVID-19 Impact for Budget Year 2019-2020. Under the provisions of 2020 Iowa Acts, chapter 1107, school districts were required to provide expenditure information to the DE detailing the impact of the pandemic on school districts.
Statewide, school districts reported expenditure reductions attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic of $69.4 million. Districts also reported additional nonbudgeted expenditures related to the pandemic of $25.9 million, for a net expenditure reduction impact of $43.3 million, or $89 per pupil statewide. Individual districts vary, including some that saw no reduction in expenditures due to the pandemic.
95.1% of school districts responding to an optional question reported that they expect to incur additional nonbudgeted costs in FY 2021 due to the ongoing pandemic.
The full report includes school district-level data and detailed analysis on expenditures by type, including, but not limited to:
Currently, IDPH has reported on the state’s coronavirus dashboard, 233,865 Iowans have tested positive, up 2,967 from our update yesterday morning, with a total of 1,222,512 tested. 22 additional deaths were reported since our last update, bringing the total to 2,449 deaths. Now 142,248 Iowans have recovered. The overall positivity rate is 19.1% and the total 14 day rolling average positivity rate is 16.9%. The latest on hospitalizations, including how many patients have been admitted in the last 24 hours can be found here. There are currently 1,162 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 84 (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 13,447,627
Total Deaths 267,302
Total Cases 64,037,353
Total Deaths 1,483,859