As the national death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 100,000, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced last week that casinos, racetracks and outdoor concert venues could reopen June 1 after being shuttered for weeks.
“For our state, recovery means striking a balance between getting life and business back to normal while continuing to manage the virus activity,” Reynolds said at a Tuesday press briefing. “Our recovery is contingent on our ability to protect both the lives and the livelihoods of Iowans. We can’t prioritize one over the other. We must prioritize both to move forward.”
Amusement parks, pool halls, bowling alleys and arcades also reopened with limits of 50% of their maximum capacity while adhering to social distancing and personal hygiene guidance from the Iowa Department of Public Health. Sporting competitions and practices also are allowed for youth and adult baseball, softball, golf, biking, running, swimming and tennis.
A total of 84 Iowans died from COVID-19 last week, down from 99 deaths the week before. A total of 533 Iowans have died from coronavirus-related complications as of Monday morning, according to the IDPH.
The state’s meat-packing industry took another blow as the Tyson pork-processing plant in Storm Lake temporarily closed after 555 of its 2,517 employees tested positive.
Here is a recap of key events of the past week:
Confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to increase: As of 10 a.m. Monday, Iowa had 19,688confirmed COVID-19 cases. All of Iowa’s 99 counties have at least one confirmed case. Clinton County has a total of 64 confirmed cases and one death. Jackson County has a total of 12 cases. At least 1.7 million Americans have tested positive for the virus, according to the New York Times database. More than 104,381 patients with the virus have died. Worldwide, more than 6.1 million people have been sickened by the coronavirus pandemic, and at least 372,000 have died. The virus has been detected in nearly every country.
Ongoing claims drop second straight week: Continued unemployment claims hit 180,679 the week ending May 23, a 2.1% drop from the previous week and the second straight week of decline, the state reported. However, 14,586 initial claims were filed, up 21% from the previous week’s 12,056. All those numbers are far below the peak during the pandemic. The most recent week’s unemployment benefit payments totaled $48.8 million. Nationally, more than 2 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance, the ninth straight week of claims at that level.
Local businesses receive state grant: Several more local businesses received grants from the Iowa Economic Development Authority. So far, 58 business in Clinton County and 25 in Jackson County have received about $1.63 million through the Small Business Relief Program. The Iowa Small Business Relief Program grants range from $5,000 to $25,000. Businesses added last week include:
Clinton County: Eat Urban LLC, $20,000; Nora’s Café LLC, $5,000; Ray Lodging Inc. dba Hampton Inn Clinton, $25,000; Slop’s LLC, $22,000; and Smith’s J&D Steakhouse, $25,000. Jackson County: M&R Cox Maquoketa LLC dba Subway, $17,500; and Megas Main Street Café, $20,000.
IRS will waive replacement fees for coronavirus stimulus cards: Taxpayers who lost or threw away a pre-paid debit card containing their federal coronavirus relief payment won’t have to pay a replacement fee. The IRS announced it would waive the $7.50 fee for the first replacement card and also increase the limit on the amount a taxpayer can transfer to a bank account. The previous limit was $1,000 per calendar month, which would have forced some taxpayers to transfer balances over a period of months. The new limit is $2,500. The IRS did not say whether it would waive a separate fee for expedited delivery of a replacement card.
New program helps Iowans at risk of eviction or foreclosure due to COVID-19: The Iowa Economic Development Authority announced a new program Friday aimed at helping Iowans at risk of losing their homes. Iowans can apply online for relief through IEDA’s “Iowa Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Program,” which offers up to four months of rent or mortgage assistance at a maximum of $3,200 for renters and $3,000 for homeowners. The program is limited to Iowans who are not earning $600 a week from federal unemployment, and household earnings must not exceed 80% of their county’s median income. Students are ineligible for the assistance unless a non-student resides in the same household. Iowans who want to apply for assistance through the program can visit the Iowa Finance Authority website.
Jackson County Courthouse now open: The Jackson County Courthouse, Penrose Annex and Hurstville Interpretive Center re-opened to the public Tuesday. The Courthouse and Penrose are open 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hurstville is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Clerk of the Court office will remain closed until further notice and the Driver’s License Station and Extension Office are open by appointment only. Access to the buildings will be limited at any one time due to social distancing guidelines. It is recommended to call ahead before coming to any county office or facility.
Compiled by Nancy Mayfield from Iowa Capital Dispatch and other sources.