The sponsor of an Iowa bill that would prohibit cities or counties from regulating the sale of natural gas or propane said he is confident the legislation will make it to the governor’s desk after recently clearing committee votes in both chambers. State Sen. Jason Schultz, a Republican from southwest Iowa, said his bill (SF 455) is meant to counter the “radical left environmental agenda” in Des Moines, where the City Council recently adopted a goal of transitioning to carbon-free electricity citywide by 2035. The Iowa House Commerce Committee approved the measure on Feb. 15 by a 16-4 vote, and the Senate Commerce Committee approved similar language 13-4 on Feb. 24.
As tourists flock to Iowa’s state parks in record numbers, the park system struggles to sustain adequate funding from the state, despite being a major contributor to its economy and an escape for Iowans amidst a global pandemic, an investigation by IowaWatch has found. Iowa’s park system is one of state government’s most popular programs. Visitations skyrocketed to a record 16.6 million last year. That record reflects an upward trend dating back to 1995. Yet the number of park rangers needed to serve that influx has gone in reverse while state funding for parks remained flat, according to data from the nonprofit Iowa Parks Foundation. “These places have to be maintained to be preserved and protected, and it does require resources,” said Patricia Boddy, a former deputy director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources who was involved in a 2011 comprehensive architectural design study of parks.
A handful of small Iowa towns with populations of less than 5,000 and not part of a larger metro area, bucked the trend and grew their populations in the 2020 census data just released. Growing small towns have one or more factors working in their favor, a summer-long IowaWatch investigation revealed for this special report.
Around 746,000 people are in local jails, nationally, and most are eligible to vote. But, they don’t, this report that includes information on Iowa’s laws, states
Iowa’s state epidemiologist thinks Iowa is not at a turning point with the delta virus, so far. In an interview with IowaWatch July 16, Dr. Caitlin Pedati also called for Iowans to continue to get vaccinated, use social distancing, masks and other safety measures related to the coronavirus that officially arrived in Iowa in March 2020. She discussed the difficulties of public health and stressed the perseverance of health care workers.
“If I could leave you with anything it would be there really are some wonderful people in public health who never stopped working and are not going to stop even when it’s hard and even when it’s not perfect, because we believe that it’s important work. And we so appreciate the chance to get, you know, good messages out there,” Pedati said.
The number of Iowans getting COVID-19 vaccinations has dropped considerably since June and new cases are rising quickly. New cases and hospitalizations have trended up with daily positives doubling over the last two weeks from an average of 76 cases to 199 per day.
Variant classifications (from the CDC): The U.S. government SARS-CoV-2 Interagency Group (SIG) developed a Variant Classification scheme that defines three classes of SARS-CoV-2 variants:
Variant of interest: A variant with specific genetic markers that have been associated with changes to receptor binding, reduced neutralization by antibodies generated against previous infection or vaccination, reduced efficacy of treatments, potential diagnostic impact, or predicted increase in transmissibility or disease severity. Variant of concern: A variant for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease (e.g., increased hospitalizations or deaths), significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures. Variant of high consequence: A variant of high consequence has clear evidence that prevention measures or medical countermeasures (MCMs) have significantly reduced effectiveness relative to previously circulating variants. Long-term care facilities background
A CMS spokesperson issued the following answers to questions from IowaWatch writer Andy Kopsa reiterating authority of CMS reporting outbreaks, cases and vaccination statistics at long term care facilities and the Iowa Veterans Home. There are 440 CMS certified long-term care facilities in Iowa.
Woodbury County plans to rely on $15.6 million in federal COVID-19 relief to build a $65 million jail complex near Sioux City.
The project has been in the works since 2016, and county voters passed a $50 million dollar bond referendum last year to cover the costs of the new complex. But then the price tag shot up – a result of pandemic-related inflation on building materials.
The supervisors voted unanimously on June 8, 2021, to use federal pandemic relief money on the higher-priced project. “If that wasn’t coming, I don’t know what we would be doing,” said Woodbury County Supervisor Matthew Ung at a June 1, 2021 meeting.
The American Rescue Plan Act is a $1.9 trillion federal aid package passed in March to provide direct relief to Americans affected by the pandemic and to bolster the U.S. economy. Could a county use grants through that plan to build an 110,000-square-foot regional jail project?
The answer, so far, is maybe, according to state leaders and a national expert IowaWatch interviewed for this story. If the answer is no, taxpayers could be on the hook for the $15.6 million.
Dennis Butler, Woodbury County’s finance director, said he was working with Governor Kim Reynolds’ policy advisor, Joel Anderson, to use the funding.
Mark Hopper has lived in Waterloo all of his life, except for the time he spent in prison in Minnesota and California. He considers his more than eight years in prison to be a blessing because he changed his outlook on life. Yet, he said he feels unfairly punished despite serving his time because the Waterloo Police Department seized $60,000 of his cash and assets in connection with some of his crimes. The seizure, he said, ultimately cost him a building. “If you did anything, they want to take everything,” Hopper, 42, said.
Quicker planning. Working together as networks. Focused staff deployment. The COVID-19 pandemic is giving hospital administrators and their healthcare providers ample opportunity in real time to learn new best practices to delivering medical care.
The quick fixes they’ve tried since the pandemic broke have included more reliance on telemedicine, communicating frequently with the public and an old standard: getting government money. This story is part of a nationwide collaboration of Institute for Nonprofit News members examining the effect COVID-19 is having on rural health care.
There is one week set aside each year to salute newspapers for the important role they have played in our nation, a role that goes back to the beginning of these United States. This year, however, waiting until Oct. 4-10 and National Newspaper Week has been difficult, because the coronavirus pandemic and a variety of major news events across our land have tested newspapers, and our communities, in ways we might never have fathomed. Taking stock of the contributions by newspapers, large and small, serves as an important reminder of why our founding fathers wrote freedom of the press into the Constitution’s Bill of Rights – and why the theme for this year’s National Newspaper Week, “America Needs Journalists,” is so appropriate. We have seen our lives and our communities change in dramatic ways because of coronavirus.
Voters in one Iowa county of 9,000 cast their ballots the same way people purchase a Big Mac: in the drivethrough. The Bloomfield Fire Department, the usual polling location for Bloomfield, served all of Davis County’s eight sites this year. Cars could pull into the emptied equipment bays — where the firetrucks normally sit — and drivers could vote behind the wheel and then pull forward to exit. All across Iowa, COVID-19 precautions changed the 2020 primary with a huge vote-by-mail push and other steps like curbside or drive-through options happening Tuesday. Rural counties, with fewer options for buildings, got creative.