The facts behind Gov. Reynolds’ Condition of the State Address

The Daily Iowan/PolitiFact Iowa fact checked Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ Condition of the State Address.

I co-wrote this story with Sarah Watson, Lyle Muller, and Brian Grace. Originally published on The Daily Iowan’s website.

If your time is short:

  • Iowa entered 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic with a budget surplus, although the state cut budgets to make it happen.
  • Gov. Kim Reynolds pushed for legislation that will give parents more opportunity to send their children to in-person school during the pandemic but also to have options for open enrollment.
  • Reynolds used facts in her annual Condition of the State address but more exist with some of the topics.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds took the podium in the House of Representatives chamber at the Iowa Statehouse Tuesday night, Jan. 12, and summed up 2020.

“It’s been a year,” she told the joint House-Senate session to kick off her annual Condition of the State address. “And I’ll let you fill in whatever adjective you want. COVID-19. Civil Unrest. A drought. A derecho. We’ve been beaten and battered in about every way imaginable and some unimaginable. But together, we’ve met every challenge with bravery and outright grit.”

The rosy assessment served as a launch pad for a collection of anecdotes about inspiring Iowans and a series of claims and proposals for the year ahead. A Daily Iowan and PolitiFact Iowa analysis found facts to back up what Reynolds cited but a few necessary explanations to fully understand what she said.

Continue reading “The facts behind Gov. Reynolds’ Condition of the State Address”

Reynolds won’t reintroduce Invest in Iowa Act in upcoming legislative session

Reynolds’ flagship legislation from last year, which proposed a sales tax increase combined with other tax cuts, will be set aside as the state continues to recover from COVID-19.

This article was originally published on The Daily Iowan’s website.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds will not reintroduce the Invest in Iowa act this year, she told reporters on Thursday.

Reynolds formally introduced the act in February 2020 as a means to reduce certain taxes on Iowans and fund conservation and mental health efforts. The act proposed a 1-cent sales tax increase, while bringing down income taxes and other taxes to offset the increase.

Reynolds’ Invest in Iowa act was a major initiative put forth by the governor before COVID-19 changed the Legislature’s priorities last spring.

“I said in the Condition of the State last year we need to talk about what we did over the past 10 years,” Reynolds said Thursday. “It really put in place an initiative that prepares us to be in a great spot for the next 10 years, but we’re not through COVID yet and we’re still not 100 percent sure of the impact it will have on our economy moving forward, so at this point I’m going to pause the Invest in Iowa initiative.”

Continue reading “Reynolds won’t reintroduce Invest in Iowa Act in upcoming legislative session”

Iowa City schools reforming discipline practices

In Zoom calls on Dec. 1 and Dec. 3, parents, students, and district faculty shared their concerns about the district’s discipline practices, and proposed solutions.

This article was originally published on The Daily Iowan’s website.

The Iowa City Community School District is working to create a new discipline manual for the 2021-22 school year and create a more equitable system for students, gathering proposed solutions from board meetings and a district-wide survey.

The district held meetings over Zoom on Dec. 1 and Dec. 3, to address student, faculty, and staff concerns over discipline procedures and come up with proposed solutions to better support underrepresented students and students of color.

Proposed solutions at these meetings included increasing training for all faculty and students, equipping administrators with restorative justice practices, tracking and defining when the police should be called, providing students with a third party to advocate for them during disciplinary proceedings, and recruiting, retaining, and supporting staff of color.

Continue reading “Iowa City schools reforming discipline practices”

Iowa City schools plan to keep virtual option available for students after pandemic ends

The Iowa City Community School District started developing an online program in 2018, but the effort was put on pause due to budget shortfalls. After the pandemic forced classes online, the district is going forward in creating a long standing online option.

This article was originally published on The Daily Iowan’s website.

The pandemic forced Iowa City schools to transition online, but even after the pandemic ends, the school district will continue to offer a virtual program option accessible to all in-state PK-12 students.

Before the pandemic, district Director of Technology Adam Kurth said the schools were aware of students that had circumstances preventing them from coming to school or taking a class they wanted.

Some students wanted to take two courses that were only offered at the same time, some struggled with anxiety and found it difficult to be in school all day, and others were physically unable to attend school because of medical reasons, Kurth said.

In 2018, Kurth spearheaded an effort to develop and implement an online curriculum to meet the needs of those students. The tech director said a group at the district level looked into research on online instruction, successful online learning implementation, and designed a shell of what the program would look like.

Continue reading “Iowa City schools plan to keep virtual option available for students after pandemic ends”

Iowa City Community School District extends 100 percent online learning period

In a meeting on Tuesday, Interim Superintendent Matt Degner recommended classes continue virtually for two more weeks. The waiver to do so was granted on Monday.

As the first two-week waiver to conduct classes virtually comes to an end, the Iowa City Community School District will launch into another 14-day period of online classes. 

The district initially received permission to conduct school online from the Iowa Department of Education on Nov. 10 and started the two-week period on Nov. 16. The district requested another waiver on Nov. 20, which was granted on Monday.

In the support document for the most recent request, Johnson County Public Health Community Health Division Manager Sam Jarvis cited an increase in the county’s COVID-19 positivity rate, cold weather driving people indoors, and fatigue among the public about social distancing.

In a school board meeting on Tuesday, Iowa City Community School District Interim Superintendent Matt Degner recommended classes remain online in the two weeks following Thanksgiving break. 

Continue reading “Iowa City Community School District extends 100 percent online learning period”

University of Iowa professor offers students Thanksgiving meals

Elizabeth Pearce, a professor in the Communication’s Department, sent out an email to her students offering to drop off Thanksgiving meals to those that are quarantined or can’t go home to their families for Thanksgiving. A student shared the email on Twitter and her act of kindness went viral.

This article was originally published on The Daily Iowan’s website.

The holidays are an opportunity for professors to momentarily step away from their teaching duties and gather with their family. But when University of Iowa Communications Professor Elizabeth Pearce was preparing for the Thanksgiving break, she wanted to expand her family’s celebrations to students who may not get the chance to spend the holiday with their own families.

When a first year student spoke out about a bad experience she had when quarantining in a residence hall at the beginning of the semester, Pearce realized students would need someone in their corner this semester. Whenever one of her students tested positive for COVID-19, she would reach out and ask if they had a support network and someone to bring them food.   

“Talking with students over the semester, I realized a lot of them were going through really hard times,” she said. “Many of my students had COVID-19, lots have had family members who’ve been sick, and then I think generally maybe the idea of not going home for Thanksgiving kind of hit some of them particularly hard.”

Continue reading “University of Iowa professor offers students Thanksgiving meals”

Iowa City West senior Dasia Taylor launches apparel shop

West High student Dasia Taylor is selling tie-dyed T-shirts and masks in the school colors of Iowa City high schools.

This article was originally published on The Daily Iowan’s website.

Dasia Taylor has always been an involved student at West High school and her school spirit hasn’t been hampered by classes taking place in online or hybrid formats. The senior recently launched a small business online, where she sells tie-dyed masks and T-shirts in school colors.

“I’m super into school, like I actually love my school … I rep West very frequently. It’s literally like every week I’m wearing something, almost every day now, that I’m wearing something green and gold,” Taylor said while wearing one of her green and gold dyed shirts.

Continue reading “Iowa City West senior Dasia Taylor launches apparel shop”

Gov. Kim Reynolds reiterates need for new mitigations, gives updates on treatment, prisons cases

Reynolds explained new restrictions and gave updates on COVID-19 cases in prisons and treatment.

This article was originally published on The Daily Iowan’s website.

Gov. Kim Reynolds reiterated the need for new mitigations and stressed what is at stake as Iowa’s hospitalization rates of COVID-19 are on the rise in a press conference on Tuesday.

The new mitigations 

On Monday evening, Reynolds announced new restrictions, which went in place at midnight on Tuesday Nov. 17. The new mandates include closing bars and restaurants at 10 p.m. and requiring masks inside public spaces when social distancing isn’t possible for 15 minutes or more.

Indoor events including weddings, funerals, receptions, and family gatherings are limited to 15 people, and outdoor events are limited to 30. This does not apply to gatherings in the workplace or government operations. Reynolds also prohibited youth and adult sports and recreations, but allowed high school, collegiate and professional sports to continue.

“The measures are targeted toward activities and environments where they have the potential to make a significant impact in a relatively short amount of time,” Reynolds said. “And they’re necessary if we want to do everything we can to keep our businesses open, our kids in school, our healthcare system stable.”

These mandates are in place through Dec. 10. Reynolds said the mitigations will be reassessed in a week and additional mitigations could be added based on hospital capacity and the COVID-19 trends.

Schools are not included in this mask mandate. On Tuesday Reynolds said she is not seeing spread between students in classrooms, but that schools can choose to implement mask mandates based on the amount of COVID-19 cases in their community.

Since Nov. 1 the Iowa Department of Public Education has received 53 requests to move to remote learning from school districts and nonpublic schools.

RELATED: Gov. Kim Reynolds announces stronger mask requirements nine months into pandemic

COVID-19 in prisons 

Reynolds provided an update on COVID-19 cases at three correctional facilities and thanked Iowa Corrections System Director Beth Skinner and her team for coordinating mass tests.

Anamosa State Penitentiary detected the first cases of COVID-19 in the inmate population on Oct. 28, Reynolds said. By Nov. 4 there were nearly 500 positive results from 982 tests of inmates and staff. On Nov. 10 there was follow up testing of people who initially tested negative, which yielded nearly 250 more positive cases. Of the 742 total positive cases, Reynolds reported 64 percent were recovered. Another round of follow up testing is happening today.

In the Clarinda Correctional Facility there have been two outbreaks, one in September and one in late October, resulting in 547 total positive cases, 79 percent of which have recovered.

On Nov. 2 North Central Correctional Facility identified its first case of COVID-19. There are 370 total cases, and 18 percent have recovered at this time.

Treatments

“Despite the rising number of cases and hospitalizations there is hope that a vaccine is coming sooner rather than later and that new therapeutics can offer a fast and full recovery for more people,” Reynolds said. “In the last week we’ve heard good news about two promising vaccines that are proven to be more than 90% effective in early trials. Drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna plan to apply within the next few weeks for FDA emergency authorization to begin vaccinating the public.”

She said Iowa will be receiving more than 2000 doses of the new monoclonal antibody therapy to treat COVID-19 in adults with certain medical conditions, adults over 65, or immunocompromised children over the age of 12.

Reynolds said convalescent plasma is another treatment that has been used to treat COVID-19, and it has yielded positive results for patients. She said convalescent plasma is “currently in short supply, but easy to replenish with the help of Iowans who have had the virus.”

“Convalescent plasma has been one of the leading treatments for patients suffering from COVID-19. What we’re seeing right now though, is as the patient demand is skyrocketing, so is the need for convalescent plasma,” said Christine Hayes, chief operating officer of LifeServe Blood Center. “… Right now we are anticipating at the current rate of transfusions across the state of Iowa, that our supply of convalescent plasma will be depleted by December 1.”

She urged Iowans who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate plasma. Convalescent plasma donations must come from volunteer — not paid — blood donors in order for the donation to be used on hospital patients. Each donation can yield four transfusions.

Iowa City schools look to provide mental health resources while protecting physical health

Beginning Monday, the Iowa City Community School District is holding classes 100 percent online for at least two weeks. While protecting physical health, the district has also had to consider the mental health impact online school is having on students and faculty.

This article was originally published on The Daily Iowan’s website.

When the Iowa City Community School board met to discuss moving classes 100 percent online for two weeks in response to rising COVID-19 infection rates, protecting the physical health of students and faculty was the main concern.

School district board member Lisa Williams said physical health has been the “north star” for the school board when making decisions amid the pandemic, but it has been difficult to balance mental health with keeping people safe from the virus.

In last Tuesday’s meeting, board member Dromi Etsey said she was interested in the support systems that would be put in place for students struggling with mental health issues, especially as hybrid students move online and some may experience seasonal depression.

Continue reading “Iowa City schools look to provide mental health resources while protecting physical health”