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Pedati talks COVID vaccine, demands of public health, Test Iowa closings and more

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.

Evans: Iowa’s universities need to learn an important lesson

In recent years, Republicans and Democrats in the Iowa Legislature often agree on little. But they were nearly unanimous this spring in supporting an important piece of legislation — a bill requiring faculty and administrators at the state universities to go through training about the First Amendment and the rights it contains. Anyone skeptical of the need for the new law received a wake-up call last week when the U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis handed down a decision against the University of Iowa. The decision should embarrass and anger Iowans. In a blistering 3-0 ruling, the court said university administrators engaged in clear discrimination against a student religious group based solely on the views of the organization and its leaders.

Since 2018 law, Iowa utilities are doing a lot less to help customers save energy

Iowa’s largest utilities have dramatically scaled back efforts to help customers conserve energy since a 2018 law gutted the state’s efficiency requirements. MidAmerican Energy reported kilowatt-hour savings for 2020 that were 64% lower than what the utility achieved the year before the law took effect. Alliant Energy’s savings were down 40% during the same period. “That’s just staggering,” said state Sen. Rob Hogg, a Cedar Rapids Democrat who voted against the legislation. “At the very moment when our country needs to be increasing energy efficiency quickly, this is terrible.”

Most states require utilities to make regular investments in energy efficiency programs such as lighting and appliance rebates, which can help keep costs down for all customers by delaying the need for more expensive infrastructure upgrades.

Evans: Government cuts corners on public participation

Several times a week, someone contacts me because they had difficulty learning about a government meeting or ran into obstacles trying to get government records. These calls and emails to the Iowa Freedom of Information Council come more frequently than just a few years ago. This is a troubling trend because there is growing citizen distrust of government at all levels. It should not be this way. Government officials in Iowa already have the power to make these citizen frustrations disappear — if they want to.

As Iowa opens up, COVID-19 vaccination rates continue to slow

It’s a hot evening at the Broadway Neighborhood Center in Iowa City, home to the University of Iowa. Student volunteers have set up a mobile COVID vaccination clinic among the apartment complexes that house many immigrant and refugee families. 

But the clinic struggles to attract residents. In recent weeks, demand for the COVID-19 vaccine in Iowa has declined sharply, even though less than 70 percent of Iowans have had at least one dose. 

Andrew Coghill-Behrends, the center’s site director, hits the streets. His goal is to get at least 20 people in for the shot. “It’s really about talking to people and seeing if you can find them where they’re at, and encourage them to come over, said Coghill-Behrends.

Latino students pursue dreams, adapt to survive college life

Editor’s note: Omar Guadalupe Alcorta is a 2021 graduate from Buena Vista University, where he double majored in Spanish and digital media. While in school, Alcorta served as station manager at KBVU, the university’s radio station, and worked part-time as a producer for Iowa Public Radio and Storm Lake Radio. This story is a script of a podcast he reported and produced. IowaWatch and BVU are longtime partners. KBVU 97.5 The Edge · Same Dream Different Shoes Final

ALCORTA: If a chameleon could talk, and you could ask it, “What color are you?” how would it respond? Would it even have an answer? Or if it did, would its answer be, “It depends.”

Omar Guadalupe Alcorta is a Buena Vista University graduate.

Evans: A church and its misplaced priorities

Talk about lousy timing. The biggest religion story in Iowa last week was a jaw-dropper. Attorney General Tom Miller announced he has concluded a three-year investigation of sexual abuse allegations against priests in the four Roman Catholic dioceses in our state. 

Miller’s staff examined church records, some dating to the 1930s, that involved about 100 priests. His office also received and looked into 50 allegations against 36 priests, many of whom were the subject of earlier complaints. Most of the cases involved priests who are now deceased or retired.