Jason Clayworth
Oct 7, 2021 - News

Iowa faces rent assistance clawback

Illustration of bear claw about to pull a lever
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Iowa could lose millions of dollars in federal emergency rent assistance due to slow distribution of a $195 million grant, federal officials warned the state this week.

  • The state has disbursed less than 10% ($18.4 million), as of Tuesday.
  • Those that haven't obligated 65% of their funds have until Nov. 15 to submit an improvement plan — which Iowa plans to do, Ashley Jared, a spokesperson for the Iowa Finance Authority, told us.

Why it matters: Nearly 10,000 Iowans face the likelihood of eviction in the next two months, according to the most recent household pulse survey from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Jason Clayworth
Sep 30, 2021 - COVID

Polk County's new employee vaccine policy takes effect

Illustration of a syringe checking off boxes on a list
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Starting today, Polk County's 1,400 employees must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or submit to weekly testing.

Why it matters: Those who refuse both options will be considered insubordinate and face termination, county administrator John Norris told Axios this week.

  • It's still too early to determine whether there might be an employee exodus linked with the new policy approved by county supervisors this month, he said.
Linh Ta
Sep 21, 2021 - COVID

Concert testing requirements fill up Des Moines-area urgent cares

Illustration of an empty stadium filled only by the silhouette of an absent spectator
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Urgent care facilities are becoming inundated by COVID test-seekers as more events in Des Moines are requiring either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test, local health officials say.

Why it matters: Health care providers are already short-staffed and urgent care facilities in particular are meant for people with symptoms, illnesses or medical conditions that require immediate attention.

  • "That's just not a good use of urgent care," said Nola Aigner Davis, a spokesperson for the Polk County Health Department.

State of play: Last weekend, Michael Bublé drew in thousands of concertgoers to his tour at Wells Fargo Arena, where attendees were required to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test.

  • More than 50% of attendees were vaccinated, but there were "a lot" of unvaccinated people getting tested in the 72 hours prior to the show, said Chris Connolly, general manager of the Iowa Events Center.

Of note: The Iowa Events Center refunded more than 30 people who were unable to show vaccination or test proof at the Bublé concert, Connolly said.

The bottom line: Unvaccinated concert-goers should instead schedule tests through pharmacies like Hy-Vee or Walgreens, Aigner Davis said.

Linh Ta
Sep 20, 2021 - COVID

Iowa's obesity rate rose during the pandemic

Data: CDC; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

The number of states where adults with obesity make up at least 35% of the population significantly jumped from two years ago, according to new CDC data. And Iowa is among the latest to join that list.

  • The state's obese population rose from 34% in 2019 to 36.5% in 2020.
  • Just 10 years ago, Iowa's obesity rate was at 29%.

Why it matters: Obesity is linked to a number of health complications, ranging from heart disease to increased risk of COVID-19 hospitalization.

  • A 2016 report from Wellmark showed obesity contributes to the state's most costly conditions.
Linh Ta
Sep 15, 2021 - News

Where Des Moines metro schools stand on masks after Iowa ban blocked

Illustration of a school bus wearing a mask.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Des Moines metro schools are relying on guidance from their boards for how they should move forward after Iowa's law banning mask mandates in schools was blocked by a federal judge.

Driving the news: The judge's temporary restraining order issued Monday means schools can decide for themselves once again if they want to require students and staff to wear masks.

  • Gov. Kim Reynolds condemned the decision, saying it ignores parental choice.
Jason Clayworth
Sep 14, 2021 - News

"Unmasked" yearbook theme flunks out at Grimes high school

An email of a high school teacher announcing "unmasked" as the yearbook theme for 2021-2022.
Dallas Center-Grimes yearbook adviser Ivy Soener sent an email to students last week that announced "unmasked" as the 2021-2022 theme. Screenshot courtesy of a parent

"Unmasked" will not be the 2021-2022 yearbook theme at Dallas Center-Grimes High School, principal Scott Blum assured parents in an email last week.

Driving the news: Teacher and yearbook adviser Ivy Soener announced in an email to students on Sept. 8 that "unmasked" had been selected out of at least 16 themes students considered via an online poll.

Noah Garfinkel
Sep 13, 2021 - Politics

Federal judge temporarily blocks Iowa's ban on mask mandates in schools

Governor Kim Reynolds at a Trump Rally
Governor Kim Reynolds at a Trump Rally last year. Photographer: Rachel Mummey/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order on Monday blocking Iowa from enforcing a recent law that bars schools from requiring masks.

Why it matters: The move, effective immediately, allows school districts to enforce mask mandates as kids are returning to the classroom. The lawsuit represents the interest of students who are ineligible for COVID-19 vaccines or are at risk of severe complications from the virus.

Parents of kids with disabilities sue Iowa over ban on mask mandates

Kim Reynolds speaking at the Family Leadership Institute Summit
Governor Kim Reynolds speaking at the Family Leadership Summit. Photographer: Rachel Mummey/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

Eleven parents of children who live with disabilities in Iowa are suing the state over the ban on mask mandates.

Why it matters: Concerned school parents are piling some of the heaviest pressure against political leaders in red states that are defying the CDC's recommendation on mask requirements, per Axios Des Moines' Linh Ta.

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