BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
JOHNSTON – As the state surpasses 200 deaths from the COVID-19 illness, Gov. Kim Reynolds said parts of eastern Iowa are starting to see a decline in trends.
At Tuesday’s daily press conference at the state’s Emergency Operations Center, Reynolds said despite increase case counts in some of the 77 counties, the state is looking at trends.
“We’re looking at trends and not just a snapshot in time, so you’ll see some things are starting to even decline on the eastern side of the state because of how they entered into it and hit their peak,” she said. “And they’re starting to trend down.”
Lee County has reached 16 cases, but hasn’t had an additional confirmed case in three days. Des Moines County has 21 positive cases and one death confirmed. Henry County has 37 confirmed positives and one death. Jefferson and Van Buren counties have a combined 14 positive cases and haven’t had a confirmed case in more than a week.
Reynolds says as the state moves into the recovery phase, they can mitigate spikes by the county, community or even zip code.
“It might mean we don’t have to do anything other than educate Iowans.”
The state also released the names of facility outbreaks, something they’ve declined to do in the past, as manufacturers, specifically processing plants, also have declined to provided data to the public as to the number of employees having tested positive to the coronavirus.
Iowa Department of Public Health Deputy Director Sarah Reisetter, said the Tyson plant in Columbus Junction has had 221 positive cases or 26% of the workforce there, while the Tyson plant in Perry has had 730 employees or 58% of their workforce test positive. Tyson in Waterloo has had 444 cases or 17% positive, while Iowa Premium National Beef in Tama County has had 258 employees or 39% of the workforce test positive and TPI Composite in Newton had 131 positive tests for a 13% total.
When pressed as to whether or not the facilities have handled the outbreaks well on their own, Reynolds said the state has maintained constant contact with the facilities, almost on a daily basis, and is confident they are doing the proper employee screenings and have taken other significant steps to reduce the spread of the disease.
The state doesn’t release private information unless the company exceeds a 10% threshold of employees testing positive or exposed to someone positive, or a 10% absenteeism due to illness. Reisetter said it’s the same threshold used for influenza reporting.
Reynolds said the state’s public schools can start applying tomorrow for close to $62 million in federal aid to help with expenses incurred due to the pandemic. The state received $71.6 million in federal Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief funds under the CARES Act with 10% going to the state.
The application process will close at the end of the day on May 11 and funds will be accessible on May 13. Dept. of Education Director Ann Lebo said public districts must use some of the funds to provide services to non-public schools in those areas.
The funds are retroactive to expenses incurred back to March 13, and must be used by Sept. 30, 2022. The funds can be used for a wide array of services, activities, technology, and supplies related to the closure and future planning for similar closures.
With Tuesday’s reporting there were 408 new positive tests taking the state over 10,000 total. Reynolds said 80% of the new positive tests were from the 22 counties still under tighter restrictions. There were 19 deaths reported in the last reporting cycle leaving the state with 207 deaths currently.