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The latest: 7 additional COVID-19 deaths in Iowa bring total to 60; positive tests top 2,000, state says

Des Moines Register logo Des Moines Register 4/16/2020 Register Staff, Des Moines Register
a close up of a coral: Coronavirus outbreak. © wildpixel, Getty Images/iStockphoto Coronavirus outbreak.

Get more information about COVID-19 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at CDC.gov/coronavirus, or call 211, the Iowa Department of Public Heath's hotline, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Personnel at health care facilities, schools, the state government and businesses in Iowa are taking a series of measures in response to the novel coronavirus, which causes a disease known as COVID-19.

Here's the latest on what Iowans need to know:

In the lead-up to the 2020 election, all eyes are on Iowa. Get updates of all things Iowa politics delivered to your inbox.

7 additional COVID-19 deaths in Iowa bring total to 60; positive tests top 2,000, state says

Another seven people with COVID-19 in Iowa have died as of Thursday, according to state numbers, bringing the statewide total to 60.

Additionally, another 146 people have tested positive for COVID-19, the numbers show, marking the first time positive cases have topped 2,000. Statewide, there have been 2,141 positive tests. 

There have been 20,675 people tested in Iowa and 987 people have recovered from the virus, according to state numbers.

This is a developing story. Return to read more. 

More: Updated COVID-19 maps and charts track cases and data in Iowa and across the U.S.​​​​​​​

Analysis shows Louisa County is a hot spot for COVID-19

April 16: Louisa County is among the country's largest hot spots for COVID-19.

The southeast Iowa county ranks 10 as of Thursday in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases per resident, according to a New York Times analysis.

The county has 166 cases per 1,479 people, according to the Times count.

The county is home to a Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Columbus Junction that has been linked to at least 140 cases of COVID-19. The facility has been closed since April 6.

On Wednesday, a company spokeswoman said two of its employees at the plant have died.

2 employees at COVID-19 stricken S.E. Iowa meatpacking plant dead

Two employees of a Tyson Foods plant in southeastern Iowa have died, presumably of the effects of COVID-19.

Company spokesperson Liz Croston confirmed the deaths. The names of the workers, who were employed at Tyson's Louisa County plant in Columbus Junction, were not released.

The plant, where 186 workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19, has been closed since April 6. Gov. Kim Reynolds, in a Wednesday morning press conference, said the state was sending 900 testing kits for COVID-19 to Louisa County, in addition to 200 sent last week.

► More: Deaths of 2 workers at COVID-19 stricken S.E. Iowa meatpacking plant confirmed

► More Wednesday: Worries grow about health of employees in Iowa's meatpacking plants, impact on food supply​​​​​​​

► More Wednesday, in Sioux Falls: ‘I lost him because of that horrible place’: Smithfield worker dies from COVID-19

► Also Wednesday: After an April 8 shooting, four Cedar Rapids teens were cited for violating Iowa's ban on gatherings. Department of Public Safety officials say the charges could be the first in the state.

Debt collectors can garnish coronavirus stimulus checks because of a loophole, legal advocates say

April 15: The stimulus checks landing in millions of Americans’ bank accounts are meant to help people cope with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. But they could also be helping debt collectors, thanks to a loophole in the $2 trillion stimulus package.

The problem, legal advocates say, is that the stimulus checks aren’t explicitly off-limits to debt collectors or creditors, unlike other government payments such as Social Security and disability benefits. That oversight means that debt collectors can garnish bank accounts to seize the stimulus payments, according to Lauren Saunders, associate director of the National Consumer Law Center.

Bank account garnishment happens when creditors are legally permitted to remove money from your bank account to cover an unpaid debt. In some states, bank accounts are frozen when they’re garnished, a devastating development for many consumers. And that makes the issue doubly problematic at the moment, given that millions of Americans are struggling with lost jobs and income. Not only could they lose all or part of their stimulus checks, but they could also get locked out of their bank accounts.

► Legal Aid: Creditors chasing relief money intended to help Iowans in dire straits

► More: Debt collectors can garnish coronavirus stimulus checks because of a loophole, legal advocates say

Iowa utilities waiving late fees, suspending service disconnections

April 15: Community-owned utilities, which provide water, wastewater, broadband and electric services to Iowa cities, are suspending service disconnections and waiving late payment fees amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re committed to reassessing whether to continue to waive disconnections and administration fees after 60 days,” said Chris DesPlanques of Indianola Municipal Utilities in a news release. “We’re prepared to keep up with these uncertain times.”

According to the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities, Osage Municipal Utilities, which provides gas, electric and internet service to residents in Osage, is providing free internet to K-12 and college students while schools and colleges are closed.

Workers across Iowa are also getting safety equipment to work or working from home. In Des Moines, essential Des Moines Water Works employees are self-isolating in trailers on the water works campus to ensure they can keep working.

► More: 'This is what it takes': Des Moines Water Works' critical staff living on-site, in campers, hoping to stay safe from COVID-19​​​​​​​

Des Moines closes downtown streets to encourage social distancing

April 15: Des Moines has closed sections of its (usually) busy downtown streets bordering the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park to encourage social distancing and mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

The city has closed Grand Avenue between 13th and 15th streets and closed off one lane of Locust Street between 10th and 15th streets. The closures allow visitors to the sculpture park more space — ideally 6 feet away from the nearest person.

The street closures play another role, too: Dissuading drivers set on impolitely scooping the loop.

MoreDowntown street closures encourage social distancing, dissuade obnoxious drivers

Iowa governor's office letting callers register for or against a shelter-in-place order

April 15: For more than a week, Gov. Kim Reynolds has allowed members of the public to register "for" or "against" a shelter-in-place order through a phone menu option on her office's constituent services line.

"If you are calling about a statewide shelter-in-place order, please press '1'," the recorded voice at 515-281-5211 says. After selecting that option, the phone system then prompts those who want to register for a statewide shelter-in-place order to press "1" and those wanting to register against one to press "2." Callers can also leave messages.

Iowa is one of just a handful of states that has not ordered residents to shelter-in-place or stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic. Such orders have meant different things in different states but essentially require people to stay home but for essential travel.

► More: Iowa governor's office letting callers register for or against a shelter-in-place order

► 'One way or another': Central Iowa man promised to be by his wife's side during chemo, but he wasn't counting on a pandemic

Iowan with COVID-19 receives plasma from recovered patient 

April 15: An Iowan with COVID-19 is receiving plasma from a person who has recovered from the respiratory disease, according to a hospital system.

UnityPoint Health announced Wednesday that it has partnered with LifeServe Blood Center to give the first "convalescent plasma product" to a patient with serious COVID-19 symptoms at Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines.

The plasma was donated by a person who has recovered from the respiratory disease, according to officials.

UnityPoint Health said in a news release that people who have recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies in their plasma that attack the coronavirus that causes it. The donated plasma is being trialed to determine its effectiveness.

UnityPoint Health said in a news release that it is one of the first health systems in Iowa to use "convalescent plasma investigative treatment" for COVID-19 patients.

LifeServe Blood Center is one of two Iowa-based blood centers that is collecting convalescent plasma from donors who have recovered from COVID-19 and are considered healthy.

Pre-screening information can be completed at LifeServe's website.

Casey's donates 30,000 pounds of food to Food Bank of Iowa

April 15: Casey's General Stores donated more than 30,000 pounds of food, enough for about 25,000 meals, to the Food Bank of Iowa on Wednesday, according to a news release. The company also donated more than 7,700 pounds of food to Terra Haute Catholic Charities.

The donated products included bologna, salami, roast beef and turkey sandwiches, egg salad, tuna salad and chicken salad.

Iowa retailers reeling as national sales tumble in March

April 15: U.S. retail sales plummeted 8.7% in March, an unprecedented decline, as the coronavirus outbreak forces a broad lockdown of commerce nationwide, and the head of a group representing Iowa retailers says the situation in the state might be worse.

The national deterioration of sales in monthly figures reported by the U.S. Department of Commerce far outpaces the previous record decline of 3.9% that took place during the depths of the Great Recession in November 2008.

Auto sales dropped 25.6%, while clothing store sales collapsed, sliding 50.5%. Restaurants and bars reported a nearly 27% fall in revenue.

MoreIowa retailers struggle while national sales endure record dive

Reynolds says state focused on COVID-19 risk at meatpacking plants

April 15: Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday that Iowa officials will be expanding testing of workers for COVID-19 and consulting with federal health and agriculture officials as concerns rise about outbreaks of the coronavirus-caused disease in the state's meatpacking plants.

Reynolds' action comes after Tyson Foods closed its Louisa County pork processing plant this month and extended the closing this week. The Columbus Junction plant has seen one of the state's largest COVIC-19 outbreaks, with 186 employees testing positive for the illness by Tuesday.

"So we're doing … all of the above to make sure that we can protect our employees but also make sure that we really protect this critical and essential infrastructure as well," she said.

More: Iowa governor contacts CDC, USDA for assistance with coronavirus outbreaks at packing plants

► More Wednesday, in Sioux Falls: ‘I lost him because of that horrible place’: Smithfield worker dies from COVID-19

4 new COVID-19 deaths reported in Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds says

April 15: Another four people with COVID-19 in Iowa have died, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced during a Wednesday news conference, bringing the statewide total to 53.

Additionally, another 96 people have tested positive for COVID-19, Reynolds said. Statewide, there have been 1,995 positive tests. 

The additional 4 deaths were reported in the following counties:

  • Allamakee County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
  • Clayton County, 1 elderly adult (81+) 
  • Johnson County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
  • Polk County, 1 elderly adult (81+)

There have been 19,869 people tested in Iowa and 908 people have recovered from the virus, according to state numbers.

No new counties have cases as of Wednesday, Reynolds said.

There are now outbreaks of the illness at seven Iowa long-term care facilities, she said, up from six on Tuesday after the addition of Wilton Retirement Community in Muscatine County.

From Tuesday: Six long-term care facilities statewide have coronavirus outbreaks, totaling 202 cases

This is a developing story. Return to read more. 

More: Updated COVID-19 maps and charts track cases and data in Iowa and across the U.S.

Replay Video

Latino, black Iowans are  disproportionate share of virus cases

April 14: Black and Hispanic Iowans are disproportionately testing positive for COVID-19, according to new data the state.

Hispanic and Latino Iowans make up about 6.2% of the state’s population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but they account for 16.4% of the positive tests for the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus. Black Iowans are about 4% of the state’s population, but 8.7% of total confirmed cases.

White Iowans make up about 90.7% of the state population, the Census Bureau says. But, the state says that white Iowans only account for 73% of confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to data released as part of a new online dashboard. The state government had previously declined to release data on the racial makeup of those who had been sickened.

As of Tuesday, 1,899 Iowans had tested positive for the virus and 49 people had died from it, the state reported. The state said Tuesday that an additional 189 people had tested positive for COVID-19, a new one-day high, and six more had died.

► MoreState data shows Latino, black Iowans disproportionately affected by virus

Six long-term care facilities in Iowa plagued by coronavirus outbreaks

April 14: The number of long-term care centers that have outbreaks of positive coronavirus cases has doubled, according to new data released by the Iowa Department of Public Health on Tuesday. 

Six care centers have reported a total of 202 cases. Those six are considered to have an "outbreak," meaning there are three or more residents who test positive for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus. 

As of Tuesday, 1,899 Iowans have tested positive for disease and 49 have died. More than half of Iowans who have died of COVID-19 were residents of long-term care centers, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Monday.

► More: Six long-term care facilities statewide have coronavirus outbreaks, totaling 202 cases

Des Moines airport closes terminal, parking lots

April 14: Facing a 95% reduction in passenger traffic, Des Moines International Airport officials have closed a terminal, shut down services and delayed projects — including a planned Allegiant Air crew base — to save money during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The unprecedented decrease in travelers while Iowans are practicing social distancing follows three years of record-breaking traffic at the state's largest airport. Officials say Des Moines International is in a good place financially with $88 million cash on hand, but the future of the airport industry once the pandemic subsides is unclear.

"No one knows for sure what this industry is going to look like once we get past this,"  Kevin Foley, the airport's executive director, said at a virtual board meeting Tuesday.

MoreDes Moines International Airport makes changes as coronavirus slashes traffic

Positive virus tests soar around rural meatpacking plant

April 14: In rural Iowa, a major pork processing plant is closed as more than 185 employees have tested positive for COVID-19. 

Tyson Foods officials said Tuesday the company would keep its Columbus Junction plant shuttered for the time being. The plant, which reportedly has about 2% of the country’s total slaughtering capacity, has been closed since April 6. The company is diverting livestock originally scheduled for delivery to its Columbus Junction center to other pork plants, when possible.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Tuesday that an additional 86 employees tested positive for the virus at the plant, a major source of jobs in the Louisa County town. She said a total of 186 employees have tested positive. 

MoreAs positive COVID-19 tests soar in rural counties, Tyson continues suspension at packing plant

Sam's Club offers Sunday morning 'hero hours' to healthcare workers, first responders

April 14: Wholesale retailer Sam's Club will set aside two hours on Sunday mornings for healthcare workers and first responders to shop.

The "Hero Hours" will last from 8 to 10 a.m. An announcement on the Sam's Club Twitter says the store will provide masks to shoppers and encourage social distancing.

Healthcare workers and first responders will not need a Sam's Club membership to shop during hero hours, according to another tweet from the brand.

Cases of COVID-19 soar in Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds says; 6 new deaths reported

April 14: Another six people with COVID-19 in Iowa have died, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced during a Tuesday news conference, bringing the statewide total to 49. 

Additionally, another 189 people have tested positive for COVID-19, Reynolds said. Statewide, there have been 1,899 positive tests. 

No new counties have cases as of Tuesday, she said.

► More: Updated COVID-19 maps and charts track cases and data in Iowa and across the U.S.

Hy-Vee offers no-contact full-service fueling at gas stations

April 14: Hy-Vee announced Tuesday that in order to curb the spread of COVID-19 the company will begin full-service fueling at the more than 165 gas stations and convenience stores it owns, according to a news release. The service will be available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day and is optional. Customers who choose to use the service can press a "Fuel Help" button or call a number that will be posted on each pump. Food and other items from the attached convenience store can also be delivered to the customer's car with the same method, the release states.

If a customer chooses the no-contact option, an employee will meet the customer at their car for the order. The company will accept cash and card, according to the release. 

Help us report this story

The news surrounding the coronavirus outbreak in Iowa is unlike anything the Register has covered. We'll be updating this story as news develops.

Read what happened in central Iowa prior to this week regarding COVID-19 here.

You can help us report this story by letting us know how novel coronavirus is affecting your routine, your workplace and your day-to-day family life. We also take requests: Just tell us what you want to know. Send news tips to our online contact form, or call us at 515-284-8065.

Polk County offers financial coaching

​​​​​​​April 14: Polk County is offering free, one-on-one financial coaching from professionally trained coaches through its new Financial Empowerment Center at the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families at 1171 Seventh St. in Des Moines

“The opening of the Financial Empowerment Center could not come at a better time,” supervisors Chairman Matt McCoy said in a news release. “Individuals and families of all income levels are feeling financial stress from COVID-19 and the (center) is an excellent free resource to help create new budgets and identify additional sources of assistance.” 

Before the pandemic hit, Polk County had plans to create the center in partnership with the national nonprofit Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund and the Evelyn K. Davis Center. The goal is to help families manage finances, pay down debt, increase savings, establish and build credit and access safe and affordable mainstream banking products.

Because of the COVID-19 crisis, financial coaching services can be accessed by phone or email.

Those interested in setting up an appointment can contact the Evelyn K. Davis Center at 515-697-7700 or schedule an appointment online at www.Empowermoney.org.

The centers were first piloted in New York City under Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2008. Polk County is one of over two dozen local governments working to launch a local FEC initiative.

Ankeny brain injury rehabilitation facility reports COVID-19 cases

April 13: An Ankeny inpatient rehabilitation facility for people with brain injuries has confirmed COVID-19 cases among its population.

In a letter posted on the company's website and Facebook page, On With Life CEO Jean Shelton confirmed the COVID-19 cases. She did not specify the number of people infected in the 28-bed facility or their status. A spokesperson declined to comment beyond the letter.

"While this pandemic is the most significant challenge On With Life has experienced, our team has responded with a heroic combination of competence and grace. I am very proud and encouraged as I work alongside our team to continue to ensure the safety of our persons served and staff," the letter states.

Drake University requires temperature checks, face masks for faculty, staff who have to be on campus

April 13: ​​​​​​​Drake University will soon require faculty and staff members who must come to campus to monitor their temperature and wear fabric or cloth face masks, according to a Monday email to Drake students, faculty and staff.

Faculty and staff must check themselves for a fever at home or at "one of the several self-serve stations on campus" and record their results before each shift. The university will provide masks to essential employees working in the facilities, mail, public safety and student life departments. Other faculty and staff may request a mask from the university or use their own.

The new rules, which take effect Wednesday, are not due to any specific cases or concerns at the university, according to the email.

"In Iowa, residential colleges and universities fall within the state’s definition of long-term care facilities for communal living as long as we have students staying in residence halls; as such, (the Polk County Health Department) has directed that Drake University take additional steps," the email reads.

Students and campus visitors are exempt from the new temperature check and face mask requirements.

Iowa beef plant suspends operations after workers contract COVID-19

April 13: A beef processing plant in one of Iowa's coronavirus hot spots has suspended production after several workers have become infected.

National Beef announced that its Iowa Premium plant in Tama will be idled until April 20.

The company said numerous employees had contracted COVID-19 and others were exhibiting flu-like symptoms.

It's the second meat processing plant in Iowa to suspend operations after workers have become infected. Tyson Foods last week idled its Columbus Junction pork plant.

— Associated Press

Read the full story here.

2 COVID-19 deaths reported in Iowa

April 13: Another two people with COVID-19 in Iowa have died, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced during a Monday news conference, bringing the statewide total to 43.

Additionally, another 123 people have tested positive for the illness, Pat Garrett, a spokesman for the governor's office, confirmed. Reynolds during the news conference incorrectly stated the number of new cases as 113 after being given that information, Garrett said in an email.

Statewide, there have been 1710 positive tests. An additional 981 negative tests were reported, placing the statewide total at 16,985 to date.

According to the IDPH, the locations and age ranges of the 2 who have died include:

  • Linn County, 1 elderly adult (81+)
  • Muscatine County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)

According to the IDPH, the locations and age ranges of the 123 who tested positive include:

  • Allamakee County, 2 adults (18-40 years)
  • Benton County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years), 2 older adults (61-80 years) 
  • Black Hawk County, 9 adults (18-40 years), 3 middle-age adults (41-60 years), 3 older adults (61-80 years)
  • Bremer County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
  • Buchanan County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
  • Cass County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
  • Cedar County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
  • Clinton County, 2 adults (18-40 years), 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)
  • Des Moines County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
  • Fayette County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
  • Hardin County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
  • Henry County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
  • Jasper County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
  • Johnson County, 3 adults (18-40 years), 3 middle-age adults (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)
  • Jones County, 2 middle-age adults (41-60 years)
  • Lee County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
  • Linn County, 5 adults (18-40 years), 5 middle-age adults (41-60 years), 3 older adults (61-80 years), 2 elderly adults (81+)
  • Louisa County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)
  • Lyon County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
  • Mahaska County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
  • Marshall County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 4 middle-age adults (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)
  • Mills County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
  • Muscatine County, 2 adults (18-40 years), 3 middle-age adults (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)
  • Polk County, 5 adults (18-40 years), 5 middle-age adults (41-60 years), 4 older adults (61-80 years), 1 elderly adult (81+)
  • Scott County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 2 older adults (61-80 years)
  • Story County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
  • Tama County, 4 adults (18-40 years), 6 middle-age adults (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years), 4 elderly adults (81+)
  • Van Buren County, 2 middle-age adults (41-60 years)
  • Wapello County, 2 middle-age adults (41-60 years)
  • Washington County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 5 middle-age adults (41-60 years), 2 older adults (61-80 years)
  • Woodbury County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)

► More: Updated COVID-19 maps and charts track cases and data in Iowa and across the U.S.

Secretary of State releases searchable database of remote notaries  

April 13: Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate announced Monday that his office has released a searchable database to help Iowans find people who can notarize documents remotely.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ emergency declaration has temporarily waived the requirement for in-person notarization of documents. The requirements are subject to guidance from Pate’s office.

Using the database, Iowans can find a remote-authorized notary by city, zip code or other details. 

“It’s vital that Iowans are able to continue to conduct important business transactions while maintaining social distancing. This database will make that easier and quicker,” Pate said in a news release. 

The news release said so far, Pate’s office has approved approximately 265 applications to become remote notaries.  

14 residents in Cedar Rapids nursing home have died from COVID-19

April 12: Heritage Specialty Care, a Cedar Rapids nursing home that is considered a hot spot for Iowa's COVID-19 cases, announced Saturday that 14 out of 60 residents who tested positive for COVID-19 have died.

With no cure, the global pandemic hits people 60 and older the hardest.

"The hearts, thoughts and prayers of our Heritage staff and our organization go out to the families of these special loved ones. As we continue to battle this virus, we are encouraged by the slowing rate of positive tests we are experiencing. Of the 60 residents testing positive, 14 have recovered. Of 30 staff members testing positive 7 are back to work," the statement continued.

More: Iowa's COVID-19 hot spot: 14 residents in Cedar Rapids nursing home have died after battling coronavirus

The Iowa tradition of scooping the loop has a resurgence with social distancing

April 11: Stuart joined the growing list of small towns in Iowa that have been bringing back the state's traditions of scooping the loop and cruise nights.

That's not to say the tradition had gone anywhere, but as social distancing measures grew stricter as the global COVID-19 pandemic spread, communities are organizing Scoop the Loops and cruise nights in full force to support local businesses and, frankly, to give residents an excuse to get out of the house.

"A couple of weeks ago, I said to my niece, 'We need to do something for Stuart,'" said Barb Boss, the organizer of the Stuart Cruise Night that took place from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.

► More: Scooping the loop, an Iowa tradition, makes a resurgence across the state as communities grapple with social-distancing measures

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This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: The latest: 7 additional COVID-19 deaths in Iowa bring total to 60; positive tests top 2,000, state says

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