Rural areas face challenges in COVID vaccine rollout

Across the Midwest, the rollout of COVID vaccines has been spotty. Lots of people are having a trouble with online signups. And vaccine demand far exceeds supply. That’s made the process challenging, especially in rural areas. For years, the Girls State Training School in central Iowa has sat mostly empty.

Evans: There are more questions than answers in Iowa these days

It may be time for lawmakers to designate an official state punctuation mark, too. 

The question mark seems to be an appropriate choice — especially after the troubling news from our state in the past few weeks, news that has left many Iowans asking “why?”

Some examples: 

Why does it seem as if state health officials do not have a well-planned strategy for vaccinating people in every nook and cranny of our state? And why have people basically been left to fend for themselves by making numerous phone calls trying to find a clinic or a pharmacy or a county health office that has appointments for the shots available? 

Why does it seem as if no one in a position of responsibility has considered until the past week or two how people who do not have computers or internet access, or people who are working during the day, are supposed to make these appointments — especially when vaccination providers in some communities only allow people to sign up online? Why did our governor and our United States senators not use their close relationships with former President Donald Trump to pressure his administrators to ensure that Iowa received a comparable allotment of vaccine doses, based on population, as other states received? 

This is especially vexing because the federal government’s data show Iowa ranked 47th among the 50 states last week, per-capita, in its vaccine supply. Iowa was 46th worst among the states in the proportion of its residents who have been vaccinated so far. That federal data say Iowa has administered 64 percent of its vaccine so far — a percentage that is lower than surrounding states.

Rural schools battled bad internet, low attendance in the pandemic. Will spring semester be better?

Andy and Amy Jo Hellenbrand live on a little farm in south-central Wisconsin where they raise corn, soybeans, wheat, heifers, chickens, goats, bunnies, and their four children, ages 5 to 12. For the entire fall semester, the quartet of grade school students learned virtually from home, as their district elected to keep school buildings closed. That has put a strain on the family, as well as the childrens’ grades and grammar. “I definitely feel like they’re falling behind,” said Amy Jo Hellenbrand. “You just notice certain things as far as their language and how they talk.

The people behind a rural Iowa school district enduring the coronavirus

Gusty winds blew corn husks through the school’s parking lot on November 16 at South Hamilton Schools. This piece is part of a collaborative reporting project that includes the Institute for Nonprofit News, Charlottesville Tomorrow, El Paso Matters, IowaWatch, The Nevada Independent, New Mexico in Depth, Underscore News/Pamplin Media Group and Wisconsin Watch/The Badger Project. The collaboration was made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation. It was another day of the staff trying to keep up with the daily reports of sickened students and faculty, making sure kids pumped hand sanitizer and wore face masks nearly all the time, properly social distanced during band practice and lunch periods, and pivoted from teaching in-person and virtual learners while taking extra time to help those struggling. 

Even the lunchroom is different this year. Cafeteria tables limit seating.

Front-line workers on COVID’s severity: ‘We’ve never seen anything like this’

Despite all of the reporting, public announcements and warnings from health care professionals, community leaders and elected officials, health care workers IowaWatch spoke with as 2020 drew to a close said many people still don’t understand the severity of suffering that the people hit hardest with COVID-19 have to endure. Unless, that it, they have seen it up close, themselves, with someone they know.

Health and Human Services provider relief fund allocations in Iowa as of Dec. 4, 2020

Relief payments distributed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through the Health Resources and Services Administration have gone to the following Iowa health care providers, as of Dec. 4, 2020. The funds come via the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. These data show updates from previous databases IowaWatch has published. This database shows all health care provider distributions in Iowa.