The U.S. Department of Agriculture last week announced an additional $14 billion in aid for farmers battling market disruptions and associated costs because of COVID-19. Signup for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP 2) began Monday and runs through Dec. 11.
The USDA will use funds from the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Charter Act and CARES Act to support row crops, livestock, specialty crops, dairy, aquaculture and other commodities. Producers can apply for CFAP 2 at Farm Service Agency (FSA) county offices. CFAP 2 payments will be made for three categories of commodities – Price Trigger Commodities, Flat-rate Crops and Sales Commodities.
Meanwhile, since the pandemic began in March, Clinton County has recorded 18 coronavirus-related deaths, local health officials said. Of those, 11 were in the 80 and older age group, five in the 61 to 80 age group, and two in the 41 to 60 age group. In Jackson County, three people have died from coronavirus-related causes. Two were 80s or older, and one was in the 41 to 60 age group.
The Bellevue, Central DeWitt and Maquoketa school districts are among those sharing COVID-19 case updates. As of Friday, Bellevue had one positive test confirmed at its elementary school and six positive tests at its middle/high school. While some students have been quarantined from school because they may have been in close contact with a positive person outside of school (in athletic competitions or in team involvement) none have been quarantined because of being too close in classrooms during the normal school day. The Bellevue district has about 800 students.
Central DeWitt reported a total of 12 positive cases at the end of last week, one in the intermediate school, one in the middle school and 10 in the high school, with 43 students quarantined. The Central DeWitt Community District has 1,439 students and began 100% in-person learning Monday after starting the year in a hybrid learning model.
In Maquoketa, one positive case has been reported at Briggs Elementary, three at Cardinal Elementary, one at the middle school and two at the high school since the end of August. The Maquoketa Community School District has about 1,400 students.
Here is a recap of other key events of the past week:
Confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to increase: At least 6.8 million Americans have tested positive for the virus, according to the New York Times database. More than 199,300 patients with the virus have died. Worldwide, more than 31 million people have been sickened by the coronavirus pandemic, and at least 960,800 have died. The virus has been detected in nearly every country.
Iowa ranks seventh per capita: Iowa stayed at seventh in the highest per capita rate of positive COVID-19 cases in the nation over the past seven days, according to the New York Times. North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Utah and Arkansas were ahead of it. The newspaper’s latest analysis showed Iowa with 182 cases per 100,000 people, up from 142 cases per 100,000 last week. North Dakota led the nation with 312 cases per 100,000 and South Dakota with 233 cases per 100,000. States are considered in the White House’s “red zone” for COVID-19 cases if they have more than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents.
Iowa unemployment filings continue downward trend: Iowa workers filed 4,926 initial unemployment cases in the week ending Sept. 12, down from the adjusted total of 5,252 for the previous week, Iowa Workforce Development reported. The number of cases has been elevated during the COVID-19 pandemic as businesses lay off staff members during the economic downtown. Before the pandemic, initial filings ranged from 1,000 to 3,000 a week. In April, as the pandemic worsened, they peaked at 64,194 in one week. The number of continuing weekly unemployment claims for the week ending Sept. 12 was 65,653, a decrease of 5,300 from the previous week. Iowa’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined to 6% in August. The state’s jobless rate was 2.8% the same month last year. Iowa’s unemployment rate rose to 11% in April. The July rate was 6.8%.
Use of federal money for salaries defended: The Iowa Capital Dispatch reported last week that Gov. Kim Reynolds defended her use of federal coronavirus-relief dollars for state employee salaries, saying it is allowed under program guidelines and warranted because state staff were diverted from regular duties to full-time virus management. Some Democratic state senators called Wednesday for an investigation into a report by the blog Bleeding Heartland that the Republican governor spent nearly $450,000 in federal CARES Act dollars issued for coronavirus relief on salaries for existing state staff.
Bars to reopen: As bars in four Iowa counties prepared to reopen last week, Reynolds said the state was “making progress” and needed to “stay the course” on COVID-19 mitigation, the Iowa Capital Dispatch reported. Reynolds issued an order Sept. 15 allowing bars in Black Hawk, Linn, Polk and Dallas counties to reopen as of 5 p.m. Sept. 16 and restaurants to resume sales of alcohol after 10 p.m. Bars in two other counties, Story and Johnson, were scheduled to remain closed until Sept. 27. Reynolds had closed the businesses Aug. 27 because of fast-rising COVID-19 cases linked to young adults who had visited bars and other alcohol-related businesses. Of the four counties where the businesses are allowed to reopen, only one, Dallas, had seen a drop in its 14-day positivity rate. The other three, Reynolds said, were “stable.”
Changes in long-term care facility testing: New COVID-19 testing requirements from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will leave the State Hygienic Lab unable to provide or process routine COVID-19 tests for Iowa’s long-term care facilities, the Iowa Capital Dispatch reported. According to a letter sent from the Iowa Department of Public Health to long-term-care facilities last week, the new rules from CMS will require facilities to conduct a COVID-19 test if a worker or resident show symptoms of the virus or if there is an outbreak. They will also be required to conduct routine staff testing. The volume and frequency of testing required by the new guidelines will leave the State Hygienic Laboratory unable to handle long-term care tests, according to the letter. It will continue to provide testing to facilities, however, if someone is symptomatic or if positive cases are identified in a facility
The Iowa Capital Dispatch and other news sources contributed to this report.