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.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared an Iowa hand sanitizer company of making misleading claims about its product’s ability to “mitigate, prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure COVID-19.” Prefense LLC, of Muscatine, faced an April 23 FDA complaint that made the company the nation’s first manufacturer to get an FDA warning letter claiming the firm marketed a hand sanitizer with unproven COVID-19-related claims.
ByGunnar Davis, Daria Mather, Tanner Krueger, Ann Haakonson and Jonathan Facio, Simpson College |
Paige Marsh went through five interviews before getting a job offer from a national insurance company, headquartered in Des Moines, back in January. “I have been in touch with the company every month since I signed my offer letter,” Marsh, a senior business administration major at Wartburg College, said. “And then I just got the call about the company freezing all new hires until 2021.”
She will continue to search for work in the meantime. College students, like Marsh, who are ready to hit the job market, now find positions hard to find or internships have been postponed or canceled. The jump to the “real world” is typically full of anxiety and uncertainty for seniors — and this year is no different with COVID-19 unsettling the job market.
An Iowa-based hand sanitizer manufacturer the Food and Drug Administration cited in April for saying its products could “mitigate, prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure COVID-19” says the federal agency is wrong. An attorney for Prefense LLC, of Muscatine, also said the company told the FDA that before the agency announced its April 23 complaint against the firm on April 27, and that the FDA hasn’t acknowledged that response.
Steve Cook walked into the locker room. The 24-year veteran head baseball coach for Coe College in Cedar Rapids sensed the tension in the air. He was about to tell his athletes their season was cancelled.
“Over 24 years, you’re always going to have a meeting at the end of the year. There’s always going to be a senior class and memories and emotions to work through, but this one was especially hard,” Cook said.
On March 12, college athletics got a jolt: NCAA President Mark Emmert released a statement cancelling all winter and spring championships due to the coronavirus pandemic. Division III athletes and coaches across Iowa waited to see what would happen with the 2020 season, workouts and recruiting.
In the days following, the American Rivers Conferences (A-R-C), Midwest Conference and St.
Grinnell College acted ahead of other colleges and universities in the state when moving students off campus and canceling spring graduation. Now, students are figuring out how to handle that when they return to classes – virtually – from spring break.
ByClaire Hettinger and Pam Dempsey/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
With farmers facing increasing stress and depression, Midwestern states and national farm groups are making more efforts to better provide services to alleviate the high rate of suicide among the agriculture industry. Yet in rural areas, this care is more of a challenge. Rural hospitals — often the primary source of health care services in these areas — are closing or merging. Since 2010, 23 hospitals have closed across the Midwest — a loss of nearly 1,000 beds, according to the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program.
An Institute for Nonprofit News investigation by 12 news outlets across seven states found that rural Midwest hospitals have reduced services or merging with larger health systems in an effort to deal with financial and regulatory pressures. Only two of those Midwestern hospitals were in Illinois, but accessing mental health services in rural communities remains difficult. Some groups have decided to address the situation themselves.
A collaborative project including the Institute for Nonprofit News and INN members IowaWatch, KCUR, Bridge Magazine, Wisconsin Watch, Side Effects Public Media and The Conversation; as well as Iowa Public Radio, Minnesota Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Radio, The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, IA), Iowa Falls Times Citizen and N’west Iowa REVIEW. The project was made possible by support from INN, with additional support from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems. For more stories visit hospitals.iowawatch.org
For example, the organization GROW sets up meetings over Zoom, a video conferencing app, to help those in rural areas experiencing mental health issues.And more than a dozen farm bureau managers in Illinois have taken mental health first aid classes that help people recognize signs of distress. Harry Brockus — the chief executive officer of Carle Hoopeston and Carle Richland in Central Illinois, a collection of hospitals that serves 41 mostly rural counties — said there is a physician shortage across the country and recruitment to rural areas is an even bigger challenge.
“We do not offer the amenities that physicians are looking for,” he said, “such as shopping, schools and different entertainment venues.”
Other challenges in rural areas, such as transportation, housing and access to healthy food, can make rural healthcare costs inefficient and unaffordable, Brockus said.
This has left rural America in a bind when it comes to care for mental health.
This story about immigrant students was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. IowaWatch is the exclusive Iowa partner. Sign up for the Hechinger newsletter. SIOUX CITY, Iowa — The rolling backpack was grey with bright orange zippers. Made by Totto, a popular South American brand, the backpack had been 13-year-old Cristian Rubio’s hand luggage on his flight from Ecuador to the United States a week earlier.
Fewer than half of the vehicles from the Iowa Department of Public Safety’s two largest law enforcement divisions were equipped to give officers the option of locking up weapons in those vehicles with designated equipment such as locking rifle racks or handgun vaults as recently as May 2019, an IowaWatch investigation revealed. Vehicles purchased since 2017 have locking devices to secure firearms beyond locking a vehicle’s door or trunk. The Department of Public Safety declined for safety reasons to provide updated numbers of vehicles with the capability. “Information regarding security and storage of weapons is a significant officer safety concern,” Catherine Lucas, general counsel of the Iowa Department of Public Safety wrote to IowaWatch in a response to a public records request in late September. Adam DeCamp, Division of Criminal Investigation special agent in charge, said a vehicle is secure when its doors are locked.
Internal firearm policy directives for the Department of Public Safety obtained by IowaWatch did not show any policy for the safe storage of handguns in an unattended vehicle.