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Get more information about COVID-19 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at CDC.gov/coronavirus, or call 211, the Iowa Department of Public Heath's hotline, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Personnel at health care facilities, schools, the state government and businesses in Iowa are taking a series of measures in response to the novel coronavirus, which causes a disease known as COVID-19.

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Another 384 cases, 6 deaths reported Sunday

April 26: The Iowa Department of Public Health reported Sunday that 384 additional positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded in the state, along with six more deaths.

The state total now stands at 5,476 positive cases. There have been an additional 1,356 negative tests for a total of 30,614 negative tests to date, which the state said includes testing reported by the State Hygienic Lab and other labs.

According to IDPH, the six deaths were reported in the following counties:

  • Black Hawk County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
  • Clinton County, 1 elderly adult (81+)
  • Des Moines County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
  • Johnson County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 1 elderly adult
  • Linn County, 1 elderly adult

Iowa's total number of deaths now stands at 118.

Many of the serious illnesses and deaths are among people living in nursing homes. The state has reported 16 outbreaks of three or more confirmed cases in long-term care facilities, as of Saturday. The worst such outbreak has been at Heritage Specialty Care in Cedar Rapids, with 111 confirmed cases. 

► More: Updated COVID-19 maps and charts track cases and data in Iowa and across the U.S.

More SaturdayCOVID-19 cases surpass 5,000 in Iowa; Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown reports first cases

Help us report this story

The news surrounding the coronavirus outbreak in Iowa is unlike anything the Register has covered. We'll be updating this story as news develops.

You can read what happened in central Iowa prior to this week regarding COVID-19 here.

You can help us report this story by letting us know how novel coronavirus is affecting your routine, your workplace and your day-to-day family life. We also take requests: Just tell us what you want to know. Send news tips to our online contact form, or call us at 515-284-8065.​​​​​​​

State launches testing site in Des Moines by appointment only

The first COVID-19 testing site under a new initiative in Iowa debuted Saturday in downtown Des Moines.

By the time the weekend is over, nearly 250 people who received appointments after filling out a questionnaire online were scheduled to be tested for the novel coronavirus. The goal, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced last week, is to eventually conduct up to 3,000 such tests each day at a handful of sites located around the state.

It is part of the governor's new initiative to expand such access in the state. Testing hours were 1-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in Des Moines. More than 5,000 Iowans have tested positive for the respiratory virus since it reached the state on March 8.

MoreIowa debuts COVID-19 testing site in Des Moines

USDA to help pork producers find new processors — or depopulate herds

April 25: The federal government says it will help U.S. pork producers find new processors — or potentially destroy thousands of pigs that have backed up on farms — because large meatpacking plants have slowed or closed due to COVID-19.

Pat McGonegle, CEO of the Iowa Pork Producers Association, said farmers "will need help in a significant way," including culling herds, if the state continues to see a widespread loss of processing capacity.

Iowa pig producers have warned they may be forced to euthanize animals they're unable to move to packing houses. Iowa, the nation's largest pork producer, has about 25 million pigs.

► 'Unprecedented emergency': USDA offers to help pork producers find new processors

MorePandemic creates heartache for Iowa farmers, workers — and possibly consumers, too

More than 5,000 positive cases now reported in Iowa

April 25: The Iowa Department of Public Health reported Saturday that 648 additional positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded in the state, along with five more deaths.

The state total now stands at 5,092 positive cases. There have been an additional 1,730 negative tests for a total of 29,258 negative tests to date, which the state said includes testing reported by the State Hygienic Lab and other labs.

According to IDPH, the five new deaths were reported in the following counties:

  • Black Hawk County, one middle-aged adult (41-60 years) 
  • Johnson County, one older adult (61-80 years) 
  • Polk County, one older adult (61-80 years), 1 elderly adult (81+)   
  • Scott County, one elderly adult (81+)  

Iowa's total number of deaths now stands at 112.

MoreCOVID-19 cases surpass 5,000 in Iowa; Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown reports first cases

► More: Updated COVID-19 maps and charts track cases and data in Iowa and across the U.S.

Help us report this story

The news surrounding the coronavirus outbreak in Iowa is unlike anything the Register has covered. We'll be updating this story as news develops.

You can read what happened in central Iowa prior to this week regarding COVID-19 here.

You can help us report this story by letting us know how novel coronavirus is affecting your routine, your workplace and your day-to-day family life. We also take requests: Just tell us what you want to know. Send news tips to our online contact form, or call us at 515-284-8065.​​​​​​​

West Liberty turkey plant reports more than 50 cases of COVID-19

April 24: Fifty-two employees at a turkey processing plant in West Liberty have tested positively for COVID-19, plant owner West Liberty Foods tweeted Friday.

Two employees were hospitalized with the illness, West Liberty Foods Vice President and General Counsel Dan Waters told the Des Moines Register. Both have recovered enough to return home. One, who was diagnosed on April 5, has returned to work.

Waters said plant managers are mapping the spread of COVID-19 within the facility, but that contagions seem to be coming from other sources.

"When we do detect a case within the plant, we deep-clean that spot immediately, shut down the line and clean it," Waters said. "I think that a lot of the cases are coming in from outside the plant. We just can't control what happens there."

The virus could be traveling between meatpacking plants as well, Waters suggested: one employee who contracted the virus is married to an employee at a Tyson meat processing plant in Columbus Junction. The town in nearby Louisa County is the site of one of the highest COVID-19 infection rates in the nation, and many of the cases have been among plant workers.

The plant will close over the weekend for deep cleaning, as it did several times earlier this month. But cases of the virus continue to grow.

MoreWest Liberty turkey plant sees over 50 cases

Reynolds lifts bans on nonessential surgeries, farmers' markets

April 24: Gov. Kim Reynolds is lifting Iowa’s ban on nonessential surgeries and allowing farmers' markets to open again starting Monday as she prepares to make further announcements about easing restrictions on businesses imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“Nonessential” surgical and dental procedures in the state have been banned since Reynolds issued a proclamation on March 26. The governor issued that order, in part, to preserve personal protective equipment like masks and gloves for other health care workers amid a national shortage. Friday's order does not lift the prohibition on dental procedures, Reynolds' office clarified.

Reynolds said Friday that the state is still experiencing a shortage of protective equipment. Hospitals and medical facilities may only begin performing nonessential services again if they meet certain requirements, according to Reynolds' proclamation on Friday.

Facilities must have adequate inventories of personal protective equipment and access to a supply chain to replenish that equipment without relying on government stockpiles. They must also have a plan in place to preserve protective equipment and 

More: Beginning Monday, nonessential surgeries and farmers' markets can return

Cases at Polk County Jail rise

April 24: Seven inmates at the Polk County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19.

The sheriff's office reported the jail's first case Wednesday. Six additional cases were reported Friday afternoon. The facility currently holds around 700 inmates.

Lt. Jeff Rullman, the department's spokesman, declined on Friday to say how many inmates or workers have been tested or show symptoms of the virus. The jail has implemented social distancing measures and currently has enough isolation areas for those who have tested positive, he said.

More: Polk County Jail sees spike in coronavirus cases, officials mum on test response ​​​​​​​

Governor mentions how 'warm weather and sun' affect coronavirus

April 24: Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday mentioned the impact that warm weather and sun could have on the new coronavirus — one day after President Donald Trump touted a federal study that indicates sunlight, humidity and certain disinfectants can weaken the coronavirus.

Trump's comments quickly drew criticism after he wondered aloud at his televised news conference on Thursday whether that those measures be used as treatments for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus. Medical officials have said there is no evidence that sunlight should be used as a treatment for the virus.

Reynolds' comments came during her daily news conference Friday as she talked about ways that the state is monitoring data about the spread of the coronavirus in Iowa, including looking at county and community-level data and expanding state testing capabilities.

More: Reynolds references new federal study touted by Donald Trump

Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs gives artists nearly $200,000 in grants

April 24: The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs announced in a news release Friday that it has given $191,000 in grants to 156 artists and creative workers and 14 nonprofit arts organizations in the state.

Individual artists received $1,000 and nonprofits each were given $2,500. The grants are intended to support cultural organizations and preserve jobs in the arts sector, the release states. 

The department accepted applications to determine grant recipients. According to the release, 285 applications were submitted. 

There will be another round of funding, and applications opened for that round April 24. The department will stop accepting applications after May 1.

All Iowa arts and cultural organizations that have been established for at least three years, are a 501(c)3 nonprofit and have a budget of at least $10,000 may apply at iowaculture.gov.

Disaster Recovery Fund gives $75,000 to Central Iowa Immigrant Support Fund

April 24: The Disaster Recovery Fund announced Friday that it has given $75,000 to the Central Iowa Immigrant Support Fund.

The money will go toward helping community members pay their rent and utilities and afford transportation and medicine for their families, according to a news release.

According to a news release, the Disaster Recovery Fund has so far raised more than $843,000 in donations. People and businesses can donate or learn more at desmoinesfoundation.org/disasterfund. 

Out-of-state golfers flock to Iowa courses during pandemic

April 24: While officials opted to close golf courses in states on Iowa's borders during the COVID-19 pandemic, Iowa opted to keep its courses open. 

So, naturally, out-of-staters came flocking in.

Three of Iowa’s six border states — Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin — had implemented or are currently enforcing no-golf policies under stay-at-home mandates. With many of Iowa’s 400-plus golf facilities located near state lines, countless golfers have hopped borders for a day of normalcy on the greens.

MoreHow Iowa became a haven for golfers during coronavirus pandemic​​​​​​​

Iowa surpasses 100 COVID-19 deaths; another 521 cases reported

April 24: Another 11 people with COVID-19 have died, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported Friday, bringing the statewide total to 107.

Additionally, another 521 people have tested positive, according to the IDPH, bringing the statewide total to 4,445. 

The deaths reported Friday were in Linn County (two older adults and two elderly adults), Black Hawk County (one middle age adult and two older adults), Polk County (two elderly adults), Bremer County (one elderly adult) and Scott County (one older adult).

TPI closes Newton wind blade facility after 28 employees test positive

April 23: TPI Composites will halt production at its Newton wind blade manufacturing facility after 28 employees tested positive for COVID-19, the company announced Thursday.  

The closure, which is expected to last into next week, will allow the company to clean the facility and implement a more rigorous testing plan that will include testing all Newton employees, according to a news release.

The company said employees will continue to be paid during the shutdown and provide workers with protective masks for themselves and family members to use at home. The Newton facility employs more than 1,000 workers.

TPI said it reached out to the governor’s office after its employees tested positive and is working with the state on its enhanced testing plans.

“The health and safety of our associates and the communities in which they live and work is our top priority, and we feel strongly this is the right action to support associates and their families and to help prevent further community spread in Iowa,” Josh Syhlman, general manager of the Newton facility, said in the news release. 

The company said it adopted enhanced safety practices at the Newton facility in early March after learning “best practices” from its facilities in China. This included mandatory temperature checks for anyone entering the factory, social distancing rules, wearing personal protective equipment and disinfecting the facility at least once per day. 

TPI Composites, based in Scottsdale, Arizona, calls itself the largest U.S.-based independent manufacturer of wind blades. It operates factories throughout the U.S., China, Mexico, Turkey and India. 

ADM idles an ethanol production facility in Cedar Rapids, laying off 90

April 23: ADM says it's temporarily idling its corn dry mill facility that’s used to make ethanol in Cedar Rapids and Columbus, Nebraska.

Each facility employs about 90 workers, the company said. Ethanol prices have fallen along with gasoline prices as Americans have curtailed their travel plans during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Chicago company said employees may be furloughed for up to four months, depending on market conditions. ADM also said it has reduced how much ethanol it’s making at its corn wet mill plants, producing more industrial alcohol for the sanitizer market and industrial starches for the containerboard market.

Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy, a Washington, D.C., lobbying group, said half the ethanol industry is offline.

“Ethanol producers represent the heart of the rural economy, and when they are forced offline, the ripple effect can be felt across the agricultural supply chain — from farmers without a market for their crops to meatpackers and ranchers that rely on local ethanol plants for animal feed,” Skor said in a statement.

25 workers at Prestage pork plant test positive for COVID-19  

April 23: Wright County officials said 867 workers and on-site providers at the Prestage Foods pork processing plant near Eagle Grove were tested this week; 25 tested positive for COVID-19. The results include 16 Prestage employees the company reported earlier this week had tested positive.

Of the 25 employees who tested positive, 18 live in Black Hawk County; three in Hamilton; two in Humboldt; and one each in Webster and Wright counties.

Sandy McGrath, Wright County’s epidemiologist, said none of the infected workers exhibited symptoms, demonstrating the need for people to wear face masks, practice social distancing and thoroughly wash their hands.

Prestage said the plant was operating normally, although earlier this week it had scaled back production while testing was being conducted.

Food supply chain beset by pandemic, shifting demand and bottlenecks

April 23: The breakdown in the U.S. food chain — from shifting consumer demand to Midwest meatpacking plant slowdowns and closures as employees have become ill — is creating hardship for Iowa farmers and workers.

And that disruption will show up in U.S. grocery stores, experts say.

The pandemic continues to rip through the Iowa countryside and the state poultry association confirmed this week that egg producers are euthanizing laying hens as demand plummets from restaurants, hotels and schools.

MorePandemic creates heartache for Iowa farmers, workers — and possibly consumers, too

DMACC cancels in-person classes until July 1

April 23: Des Moines Area Community College announced in a news release Thursday that in-person classes, including lab-based courses, will not return to campus this semester.

All classes, including summer courses, will be offered online until July 1. The decision affects all DMACC campuses.

If courses after July 1 cannot be held in person or online, students will be refunded their tuition costs, the release states.

176 new COVID-19 cases, 6 more deaths reported in Iowa

April 23: Another 176 people tested positive for COVID-19, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported Thursday, bringing the state total to 3,924.

Additionally, another six people with COVID-19 have died, bringing the total of coronavirus deaths in Iowa to 96. 

The deaths were reported in Polk County (one middle aged adult and three elderly adults), Muscatine County (one elderly adult) and Bremer County (one elderly adult).

It was the first reported death in Bremer County. Twenty people with COVID-19 have died in Polk County and seven people in Muscatine County have died. 

More: Updated COVID-19 maps and charts track cases and data in Iowa and across the U.S.

How a tip from Ashton Kutcher led Gov. Kim Reynolds to hire Utah firms 

April 23: Gov. Kim Reynolds said Thursday that a tip from actor Ashton Kutcher led her to the Utah-based companies she's hired to run a $26 million coronavirus testing program.

"He asked if I was familiar with what was happening with 'Test Utah,' and how it looks very promising and it looked like other states should potentially take a look at that," Reynolds said at her daily news conference Thursday.

Reynolds announced Tuesday that the state had hired a group led by Nomi Health of Utah to run a coronavirus testing and information program modeled on one that started several weeks ago in that state. The contract, to be paid with federal money, was not open to bids from other companies.

Kutcher, an Iowa native, told the governor that he knew one of the organizers of the Utah effort through a mutual friend.

More: Kutcher played role in Iowa governor hiring Utah testing companies

COVID-19 hospice unit opens Monday in Des Moines

April 23: A Des Moines hospice agency has set up a special wing for COVID-19 patients, underlining the gravity of Iowa's coronavirus epidemic.

The EveryStep agency plans to open a six-bed hospice unit Monday at its east-side Des Moines headquarters. The unit will be tailored for patients dying from the new coronavirus. As of Thursday morning, the state had reported 96 deaths related to the disease.

EveryStep President Tray Wade said the unit will include extensive infection-control measures. It will be housed in a vacant wing of the company’s headquarters at 3000 Easton Blvd.

MoreCOVID-19 hospice unit set up in Des Moines for patients who don't want to die in hospital

Elton John postpones Des Moines concert

April 23: Elton John's Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour won't be making a stop this summer in Des Moines, but fans should keep track of their tickets.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the singer postponed upcoming dates in the U.S. leg of his tour, including the June 11 performance at Wells Fargo Arena.

Dates for rescheduled concerts haven't been announced, but original tickets will be honored, according to an email from the Iowa Events Center. 

Des Moines Symphony cancels events through June 14

April 22: The Des Moines Symphony announced in a news release Wednesday the cancellation of all concerts and events through June 14 at the Des Moines Civic Center and the Temple for Performing arts. 

The canceled events include Masterworks 6: April in Paris, which would have taken place on April 18-19; Masterworks 7: The Firebird, scheduled for May 9-10; and Sensory-Friendly Concert: American Folk Tales, set for June 14.

The performance of "Carmina Burana" was also postponed from March 14-15 to Sept. 19-20 at the Civic Center.

The symphony requested in the release that people donate the value of tickets from canceled performances back to the symphony. Those who donate can receive a tax deduction, the release states.

“The impact of canceling these performances and events will create significant financial hardships for performing arts organizations like ours,” Des Moines Symphony Executive Director Richard Early said in the release. “We respectfully request that our loyal ticketholders please consider using their pre-purchased tickets to make a donation to the Des Moines Symphony in lieu of requesting refunds. This will help us plan confidently for a financially stable return to the Civic Center in the fall.”

Anyone with a ticket to a canceled event should visit dmsymphony.org/covid19 before May 6 to receive a refund or donate the price of the ticket. More information can be found at dmsymphony.org.

Polk jail confirms first coronavirus case

April 22: An inmate at the Polk County Jail has tested positive for coronavirus, officials said late Wednesday afternoon.

It is the facility's first confirmed case of the virus.  The jail is one of Iowa's largest correctional facilities. It currently holds around 700 inmates.

Custodial crews will continue an "aggressive" sanitation campaign in response. Officials have used different areas in the jail to increase the distance between inmates and staff, officials said in a public statement.

Employees are being checked for fevers when they begin and end their shifts and are encouraged to stay home if sick. Incoming inmates are being screened as well, the statement said.

The coronavirus has also been discovered at the Linn County Jail, the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Coralville and among the staff at the Sioux City Police Department.

DART worker contracts COVID-19

April 22: A Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority maintenance employee has tested positive for COVID-19, DART said Wednesday in a news release.

The unnamed worker had been working alone on a vehicle that hasn’t carried riders in months, DART said. The employee began feeling sick on Monday and tested positive for the virus on Tuesday. 

“DART believes the risk of transmission between the infected employee and other DART employees or DART riders is low,” the authority said. “However, we are asking our employees who still report to work each day to monitor themselves for any symptoms of this disease.”

DART, which provides bus services to the Des Moines metro area, said the employee hadn’t been to work in “several days.” The worker will receive full pay during a two-week isolation period at home and can’t return to work until testing negative for COVID-19 twice. 

Crews are deep cleaning any common spaces the employee may have occupied.   

For weeks, DART has rolled back its transit services in phases, stopping or limiting services on some routes and encouraging people to only take the bus for essential trips. It also suspended bus fares to eliminate contact near the driver, instructed riders to board the bus in the rear and encouraged passengers to wear masks while riding. 

West Des Moines extends park closures and cancellations

April 22: Cancellations of recreation programs and facilities rentals in West Des Moines now extend through May 29, the city announced Wednesday. The closures were previously planned to expire May 10.

Full refunds will be given to anyone who registered for the Mayor’s Bike Ride and Pancake Breakfast, the Tom Karpan Relays and the adult softball league, a news release said. Any scheduled rentals of park shelters and sports fields will also be canceled and refunded.

Playgrounds and park restrooms will also remain closed to the public until further notice.

Confirmed case on Drake University's campus

April 22: A contractor working on the Drake University campus has a confirmed case of COVID-19, an email to faculty, staff and students announced Wednesday.

The loading dock and tunnel area of the Olmsted Center are closed temporarily for cleaning. They will reopen at 8 a.m. Thursday.

Beginning April 16, Drake required its students, visitors, faculty and staff to wear face masks on campus. Essential staff must also monitor and record their body temperature before each work shift on campus.

107 new COVID-19 cases, 7 more deaths reported in Iowa

April 22: Another 107 people tested positive for COVID-19, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported Wednesday, bringing the state total to 3,748.

Additionally, another seven people with COVID-19 have died, bringing the total of coronavirus deaths in Iowa to 90. 

The seven who died included two older adults who lived in Black Hawk County; one middle-aged adult who lived in Linn County; an older adult and a middle-aged adult both from Muscatine County; a middle-aged adult from Tama County; and an older adult from Woodbury County, according to state numbers. 

Black Hawk County is home to a Tyson Fresh Meats facility where there was a suspected a COVID-19 outbreak previously reported. The company announced Wednesday morning that the Waterloo plant would close indefinitely.

According to IDPH the additional 7 deaths were reported in the following counties:

  • Black Hawk County: 2 older adults (61-80 years)
  • Linn County: 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
  • Muscatine County: 1 middle-age adult, 1 older adult
  • Tama County: 1 middle-age adult
  • Woodbury County: 1 older adult

► More Wednesday: Iowa to deploy COVID-19 testing 'strike teams' to Tama County long-term care facility

► More: Updated COVID-19 maps and charts track cases and data in Iowa and across the U.S.

Union leader: At least 10 more Iowa prisoners have coronavirus

April 22: At least 10 more Iowa prisoners have tested positive for coronavirus, a leader of the state’s largest union said Wednesday morning.

The prisoners are located at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center, a medium security facility in Coralville, said Danny Homan, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Iowa Council 61.

As of Tuesday, officials from the Iowa Department of Corrections had confirmed that two inmates at the facility and three staff had tested positive. Homan said the information he has received includes 10 more inmates. The facility has roughly 940 inmates and 500 staff.

No other Iowa prison locations had coronavirus cases as of Tuesday’s report from the corrections department.

Cord Overton, a spokesman for the department, said the department would update its numbers yet today.

Homan, whose group represents thousands of state workers, is calling on state prisons to halt new admissions and launch widespread new testing efforts. New inmates should be made to first quarantine in a facility such as a county jail for at least two weeks to before being added to the larger prison populations, he said.

The spread of coronavirus in prisons is of national concern.  In Ohio, for example, more than 70% of inmates at one prison — a figure that includes least 1,828 cases, including more than 100 staff members — have tested positive for the disease.

“I’m frustrated on a number of fronts,” Homan said Wednesday.

Other law enforcement agencies are also dealing with the crisis. On Tuesday, for example, Sioux City Police Chief Rex Mueller announced he and eight other staffers have been infected.

Iowa health officials currently do not identify government agencies that have coronavirus outbreaks. Mueller said he released the information “as a matter of public trust.

12-year Tyson employee in Iowa dies after contracting COVID-19

April 22: Jim Orvis, a 65-year-old employee at the Tyson Foods plant in Waterloo, died Sunday from complications of COVID-19, according to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.

Orvis reportedly began feeling sick a week earlier and tested positive for the illness after being admitted to MercyOne Waterloo Medical Center. His condition worsened quickly.

The Courier reported that Orvis got the job at Tyson more than a dozen years ago and started cutting meat. He had recently been working in the plant’s laundry department.

Tyson says it will close its Waterloo pork processing plant indefinitely due to COVID-19 outbreak

April 22: Tyson Foods says it will indefinitely suspend operations at its Waterloo pork processing plant this week.

The facility, the company’s largest pork plant, has been running at reduced levels of production due to worker absenteeism, the Arkansas company said Wednesday.

Tyson said it will stop production mid-week until further notice. 

The facility’s 2,800 team members will be invited to come to the plant later this week for COVID-19 testing, Tyson said.

County and city leaders have pressed Tyson and Gov. Kim Reynolds to close the plant temporarily while employees are tested and additional protections could be added for workers. Black Hawk County has experienced a large spike in positive COVID-19 tests.

“Protecting our team members is our top priority and the reason we’ve implemented numerous safety measures during this challenging and unprecedented time,” said Steve Stouffer, group president of Tyson Fresh Meats.

“Despite our continued efforts to keep our people safe, while fulfilling our critical role of feeding American families, the combination of worker absenteeism, COVID-19 cases and community concerns has resulted in our decision to stop production," Stouffer said in a statement.

“The closure has significant ramifications beyond our company, since the plant is part of a larger supply chain that includes hundreds of independent farmers, truckers, distributors and customers, including grocers,” Stouffer said.

“It means the loss of a vital market outlet for farmers and further contributes to the disruption of the nation’s pork supply,” he said.

Waterloo workers will continue to be paid while the plant is closed, Tyson said. Restarting operations will depend on several factors, including the outcome of team member testing for COVID-19.

► More: 'Horrible choices': Iowa livestock producers may have to euthanize pigs as packing plants struggle

► More: Coronavirus at meat packing plants worse than first thought, USA TODAY investigation finds

Winnebago cancels annual Grand National Rally

April 22: Motorhome owners won't be holding one of their major annual gatherings this year.

Winnebago Industries canceled its annual Grand National Rally on Wednesday morning, joining other major Iowa events that are on hold because of the spread of COVID-19. The recreational vehicle company, which previously delayed registration for the rally, planned to host the event on a campground next to its Forest City plant from July 13-17.

About 1,000 Winnebago customers gather for the rally every year, the company said. They swap stories and trade information, and the company services their vehicles.

“The health and safety of our owners, employees, vendors and exhibitors was the top priority in our decision-making process,” Brian Hazelton, vice president and general manager of Winnebago Motorhomes, said in a statement.

Winnebago's decision comes two days after officials for the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa canceled the 2020 event. This will be the first year with no statewide ride since it started in 1973.

More: RAGBRAI called off for 2020 due to coronavirus concerns; route and host towns will carry over to 2021

As the coronavirus has spread, Winnebago idled its plants the week of March 23. But the company resumed production at some plants on April 13 and will open the rest up in May.

Nearly 500 COVID-19 cases, four deaths reported in Iowa

April 21: Another 482 people tested positive for COVID-19, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported Tuesday, bringing the state total to 3,641 and marking the largest single-day jump so far.

Additionally, another four people with COVID-19 have died — three Polk County residents and one person in Linn County, according to IDPH. Of the three Polk County residents who died, two were older adults and the other was an elderly adult. The Linn County death was an elderly adult.

Previously, Iowa's largest one-day jump in COVID-19 cases was 389 new positive tests reported on Sunday. Of those cases, 261 of them were discovered as part of testing done at Iowa meat processing plants.

The largest increase in positive tests reported Tuesday occurred in Black Hawk County, which saw 107 new cases. Black Hawk County is home to a Tyson Fresh Meats facility where there was a suspected a COVID-19 outbreak previously reported. 

During a news conference, Gov. Kim Reynolds said 33% of the new positive cases reported Tuesday were attributed to meat processing facilities. There have been multiple reports of cases across Iowa meatpacking plants. Of the new positive cases, 100 were Tyson employees and 57 were National Beef employees, according to a news release from the governor's office. 

Meatpacking slowdown could force Iowa pork producers to euthanize pigs

April 21: Iowa livestock producers face tumbling prices after hundreds of meatpacking workers have tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in Midwest processing plants significantly slowing production or closing.

The situation could turn tragic for pork producers, who face the possibility of euthanizing thousands of animals backed up on farms across the state.

"Producers face horrible choices," said Dermot Hayes, an Iowa State University agriculture economist.

Pork processing capacity has shrunk by about 25%, crushing hog prices, which have tumbled about 50% since January. That's especially troubling in Iowa, the nation's largest pork producer, with nearly 25 million pigs in confinements across the state.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley said Tuesday he's heard estimates that the country has about 100,000 pigs that should be slaughtered each day but aren't. "Apply that over 10 days, and with a million pigs, you’ve got a big problem," the Iowa Republican said in a call with reporters.

Cattle producers face big losses and tough choices, too, but have more flexibility to hold animals on their farms longer than pork producers do.

 'Horrible choices': Iowa livestock producers may have to euthanize pigs as packing plants struggle

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Finkenauer introduces bill to help meatpacking workers

April 21: U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer has helped introduce legislation to aid meatpacking workers in Iowa who are being impacted by COVID-19.

The Democratic congresswoman in Iowa's First Congressional District announced on Tuesday that the bill is aimed at increasing safety standards for essential employees.

“I'm deeply worried about the safety of our essential workers at meat processing plants across the First District and across Iowa,” Finkenauer said in a statement. “Employees are contacting us directly and going to the media with stories of how inadequate safety standards inside factories are allowing this virus to spread."

The legislation includes proposals to protect workers from retaliation when reporting infection control problems and to require employers to develop an infection control plan with input and involvement from employees.

“Iowans are working their tails off to keep these plants open and keep food on our tables," Finkenauer added. "We owe them the safety, dignity and peace of mind that comes with meaningful, enforceable safety standards during this historic crisis.”

Sioux City police chief among 9 department staff positive for virus

April 21: At least nine employees of the Sioux City Police Department have tested positive for COVID-19, officials said Tuesday.

Police Chief Rex Mueller is among those who have tested positive, according to a statement released by the department. Most reported mild symptoms, but two did seek medical attention, the release said. 

The positive results were announced shortly after authorities in Linn County confirmed that a sheriff's deputy had tested positive.

Mueller said he also knows of another Iowa police department with at least one employee who has tested positive for COVID-19, but he said it's not his place to name the department. 

MoreSioux City police chief among 9 positive COVID-19 cases in department

Whirlpool’s Amana facility to close after more COVID-19 cases

April 21: Whirlpool Corp.’s Amana facility will temporarily close for a second time after more employees tested positive for COVID-19, the company said Tuesday.

The Iowa County manufacturing facility first closed last month after one employee tested positive for the the disease. The company said the facility will be cleaned during the new shutdown.

“We have learned of additional Whirlpool Corporation employees working in our Amana facility that have been diagnosed with COVID-19,” Chad Parks, Whirlpool’s communications manager, told the Des Moines Register in a statement. “The health and safety of our employees and the Amana community is our top priority, and out of an abundance of caution we are temporarily closing the Amana facility.

“While the plant is closed we will be performing a deep cleaning of the facility. Our warehouse in North Liberty will remain open. We are working with local health authorities to provide the necessary support for our colleagues and we are wishing them well.”

No timeline was given for when the Amana facility would reopen. It reopened 13 days after first closing in March.

Greater Des Moines Soap Box Derby cancels Rookie Days, postpones races

April 21: The Greater Des Moines Soap Box Derby Association has canceled Rookie Day events in Norwalk and Des Moines in April and May and postponed the Local Championship Race. 

The Rookie Days were previously set to take place April 25 in Norwalk and May 2, May 23 and May 24 in Des Moines.

The Local Championship Race will be moved from May 30 to late June and will change locations from Norwalk to Ewing Park in Des Moines, according to a news release from the association

As of Tuesday, there has been no change to the Aug. 1 Rookie Day in Des Moines.

UnityPoint cuts hours, salary pay and implements furloughs

April 21: UnityPoint Health says it’s cutting hours and salary pay because of COVID-19, as well as implementing furloughs.

The hospital system said in a statement Tuesday that it will do “short-term, limited reduction in hours” for staff described as administrative, support, ancillary and members of its clinical team.

The hospital system will also implement a “reduction in hours available to work” or furloughs for areas that are not operating at capacity or experiencing closures. It’s also doing a “15% average” reduction in executive pay.

“The COVID-19 crisis has challenged UnityPoint Health as a care provider and as an employer,” said UnityPoint Health President and CEO Kevin Vermeer in a statement. “While we remain focused on providing the best care possible for our patients, it’s critical we conserve our resources wherever possible. These changes in our workforce are needed to ensure we can continue meeting the healthcare needs of our communities into the future.”

UnityPoint, along with other hospital systems in the state, have halted nonessential surgeries amid a shortage on personal protective equipment that's needed to respond to the virus.

Des Moines closes Gray's Lake parking lots

April 21: Des Moines' Parks and Recreation Department on Tuesday closed the gates and parking lots at Gray’s Lake Park, the city's most popular park, to encourage additional social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The park and its trails are still open, so people who run, walk or pedal there can still use it freely. 

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Parks Director Ben Page said the closure was proactive. Warmer springtime weather has arrived, and he knows metro residents that have been cooped up because of the pandemic are itching to get outside.

”We’re playing a little more offense than defense,” Page said. 

When the weather turns during a normal year, Gray's Lake is packed. It gets more than 1 million visitors per year. Plus, Page has seen "huge" increases in Des Moines park and trail usage during the pandemic because the parks are one of the few things still open.

More: Des Moines' Gray's Lake Park closes parking lots to encourage social distancing

Lennox to lay off nearly 200 Marshalltown workers

April 21: Lennox International, one of Marshalltown’s largest employers, confirmed it will lay off 183 workers effective next Monday.

“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn Lennox will lay off 183 employees effective April 27,” said Phil Gee, a corporate spokesman for the Texas-based company. “Future staffing needs will be aligned with an economic recovery and product demand.”

Production at the factory halted briefly in late March after a worker tested positive for the coronavirus, the Times-Republican reported at the time. A second worker tested positive days later, the Marshalltown newspaper said.

The facility at 1402 E Main St. employed roughly 1,400 people when it took a direct hit from a tornado in 2018. The spokesperson did not immediately confirm how many employees currently work at the factory.

Tyson Foods' plant in Columbus Junction to reopen after outbreak

April 20: Tyson Foods' pork processing plant in Columbus Junction is resuming "limited operations" after closing for two weeks due to a coronavirus outbreak there.

The company, in a statement announcing the move, said the plant would reopen Tuesday. Tyson closed its location in southeast Iowa on April 6 after an initial report of two dozen coronavirus cases there. In total, about 200 positive cases have been tied to the Columbus Junction plant, along with two deaths presumably caused by the virus.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Monday that all of the Tyson's employees in Columbus Junction have been tested for COVID-19. Reynolds has said she does not expect to order meatpacking plants be closed. The governor considers them an essential operation due to their part in the food supply chain.

The Columbus Junction plant produces boxed pork for shipment to food service and retail customers worldwide, Tyson Foods said in the release.

34 workers test positive for COVID-19 at Marshalltown meatpacking plant

April 20: Thirty-four of some 2,400 workers at the JBS pork processing plant in Marshalltown have tested positive for COVID-19, Mayor Joel T.S. Greer said Monday night.

Greer said he learned of the positive tests from management at the facility. Staff also post the number of positive tests in the plant itself in an effort to be transparent with workers, he said.

"To everyone who will listen to me: Please stay at home," Greer said in an interview with the Register. "Congregate in groups of five or less, cough into your elbow; take this serious. People are dying and getting diagnosed."

Greer further encouraged everyone to wear protective face masks when venturing out — not just workers.

He praised the plant managers for their efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. They have staff dedicated to sanitizing the facility regularly, down to vending machine buttons between uses, and require face masks to work. They have also staggered shifts and breaks to minimize overlap and invested in tools for temperature screenings, Greer said.

"The whole world needs them for protein and for food," Greer said. "We're the biggest farming state in the country for pigs. What are the pig farmers going to do if they can't get the pigs processed? Bury them? I really am proud of what we do here, locally, to keep the whole supply chain going."

Hundreds of workers at meatpacking plants around the state have tested positive for the new coronavirus, including people who've shown no symptoms of the illness. Some plants have shuttered or reduced capacity temporarily.

A spokesperson for JBS did not immediately return a request for comment Monday evening. Amy McCoy with the Iowa Department of Public Health said in an email Monday evening she had no information to share.

Iowa is denying the public access to some records of its COVID-19 response

April 20: Gov. Kim Reynolds’ administration has denied some requests for information about Iowa’s preparedness and response to the novel coronavirus by citing a broad exemption in the state’s public records law.

Two Iowa agencies have denied Des Moines Register requests this month seeking documentation of the state's pandemic response plan and daily reports regarding the state's response to the virus and COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus.

In their denials, the agencies, which are leading Iowa's response to COVID-19, cited a broad confidentiality exemption in Iowa’s public records law that says information and records about “physical infrastructure, cyber security, critical infrastructure, security procedures or emergency preparedness” can be denied if “disclosure could reasonably be expected to jeopardize such life or property.”

► More: Iowa is denying the public access to some records of its COVID-19 response; 'When you lose transparency, you lose trust,' one advocate said

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► From columnist Randy Peterson: Valley High School graduate copes with a new lifestyle amid the Big Apple's coronavirus

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16 workers test positive for COVID-19 at Prestage pork processing plant

April 20: Prestage Foods of Iowa says 16 employees at its Eagle Grove pork processing plant have tested positive for COVID-19.

The plant’s operations will be limited while of its all employees and on-site service providers are tested over the next two days and the results are returned, officials with Prestage, which is based in North Carolina, said in a release Monday.

Wright County officials and the company agreed to test 62 employees who live in Black Hawk County and commute daily to the plant, given a growing number of COVID-19 positives in Black Hawk.

Sixteen of the 62 tested positive for COVID-19 but all were asymptomatic, Wright County said.

Prestage said that some of those commuting employees had been in contact with others in Black Hawk County who tested positive for the coronavirus.

“After learning that, we knew it was critical to move forward immediately in coordinating testing for these employees,” John Prestage, a senior vice president for Prestage Farms, said in the statement.

“We believe it was important to take this voluntary action as soon as possible for the well-being of not only these specific team members, but all of our Prestage Foods employees and their families, as well as our community,” Prestage said.

Prestage said employees who tested positive are isolating at home and will not be eligible to return to work at the plant until after a quarantine period specified by health officials. The company will continue to pay these team members during this time.

County officials said they asked the state to provide 950 tests and have received them.

► Previously, Thursday: Governor acknowledges suspected COVID-19 outbreak at still-operating Waterloo meatpacking plant

► Previously, Friday: As coronavirus spikes in Black Hawk County, local officials blast Tyson Foods for not closing its Waterloo plant

► Sunday: Spike in COVID-19 cases in Iowa packing plants a big part of 389 new cases, state's largest single-day increase

Reynolds discusses outbreaks at packing plants, nursing homes

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Gov. Kim Reynolds announces new case numbers, strike teams and surveillance testing at meatpacking plants Des Moines Register

April 20: Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Monday announced new steps the state is taking to detect and mitigate COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities, meatpacking plants and state prisons as the number of those outbreaks has grown.

Reynolds said she does not believe an executive order will be needed to close meatpacking plants, calling them essential workplaces and an important part of the food supply chain.

The state of Iowa has begun providing surveillance testing of meatpacking plants to more broadly test employees even if they are not experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. State "strike teams" made up of an epidemiologist, an infectious disease nurse and other personnel will advise facilities of preventative measures to take and administer contact tracing to determine who may have been in contact with any infected individual.

Those measures are also being implemented for long-term care facilities. Iowa has confirmed 10 outbreaks at long-term care facilities in Iowa, which the state defines as three or more residents having tested positive for COVID-19. 

► Read the full story here.

RAGBRAI called off for 2020 due to coronavirus concerns

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April 20: RAGBRAI organizers announced Monday that they will push this year’s ride — including the planned route — to July 25-31, 2021.

The decision was made after “deep consideration” and conversations with key team members, organizers said.

It will be the first time since its 1973 start that bikers haven’t pedaled their way from the Missouri to the Mississippi in Iowa’s July heat to take part in what's believed to be the oldest, largest and longest recreational bicycle touring event in the world.

“The safety of our riders has always been the most important focus for our RAGBRAI team, and we feel the decision to postpone to 2021 is the right one,” Dieter Drake, RAGBRAI ride director, said in a news release. “We strongly feel that this is in everyone’s best interest.”

With 10,000 riders descending on small-town Iowa’s roads, businesses and town squares, social distancing is near impossible during the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, better known by its acronym, RAGBRAI.

► Read the full story here.

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Linn County Jail deputy tests positive

April 20: A Linn County sheriff's deputy who works in the Linn County Jail tested positive for COVID-19, according to a news release. 

The deputy last worked during the evening shift Thursday. Prior to entering the jail that night, he did not have a fever and cleared a fever screening when he had his temperature taken as he entered the facility, Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner said in a news release. Near the end of his shift, the deputy left work when he became symptomatic and had a fever of 102 degrees. 

At the time, the deputy was assigned to book incoming inmates. No inmates were directly exposed to the coronavirus by the deputy, Gardner said in a news release. 

Eleven other staff members were exposed to the deputy. Patients with the coronavirus can be most infectious for days before they begin showing symptoms, according to USAToday. 

Iowa Department of Public Health guidelines state that essential staff members can remain on the job as long as they are asymptomatic and have their temperatures monitored at the beginning and end of their shifts. 

The 11 exposed staff members will remain on duty as long as they are asymptomatic, Gardner said in a news release. Enhanced cleaning procedures were already in place, before the deputy tested positive. Even more enhanced sanitation procedures are now in place, Gardner said. 

About 197 people work for the Linn County Sheriff's Office, Garner said.

"The reason they call it essential services is that some still need to be there," Gardner said.

"We're certainly not doing this in a silo. We're certainly involving the people that need to be involved." 

4 more COVID-19 deaths, another 257 positive tests reported

April 20: Another four people with COVID-19 have died, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported Monday, bringing the statewide total to 79.

Additionally, the state reported another 257 positive COVID-19 tests, bringing the state total to 3,159.

According to IDPH, the additional four deaths were reported in the following counties:

  • Black Hawk County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
  • Linn County, 1 middle-age adult, 1 elderly adult (81+)
  • Mahaska County, 1 middle-age adult

On Sunday, Iowa saw its largest one-day jump in COVID-19 cases, with 389 new positive tests.

More: Updated COVID-19 maps and charts track cases and data in Iowa and across the U.S.

Union leaders ask Reynolds to push for slower speeds at meatpacking plants

April 20: Five Iowa unions asked Gov. Kim Reynolds to push companies to slow down the line speed at meatpacking plants to ensure that social distancing can be practiced, mandate that workers wear non-medical grade masks or facial coverings in plants, and ensure safety standards are enforced.

Leaders from United Food and Commercial Workers from Davenport, Denison, Fort Madison, Marshalltown and Fort Dodge made the request in letters sent to Reynolds on April 9. The union leaders announced they sent the letters Monday.

They said the line speeds at the food processing plants “must be immediately slowed down to ensure a safe distance at all times between workers," the leaders said a joint statement.

“Food processing plants help keep Iowa running — our Iowa farmers sell their product to processing facilities, which makes them a critical component of our state’s economy. Our members in food processing plants then do their part to feed the entire country.”

The union locals said mandating “everyone to wear masks or facial coverings inside food production plants is also critical to keeping people safe.”

“The front-line workers in these places are already facing an out-sized risk of exposure because their jobs force them into frequent contact with others. An outbreak at these locations would represent a direct threat to our food supply and must be mitigated.”

The workers represented in the letter are from Locals 6, 431, 440, 617 and 1149.

“If we don’t act immediately to keep these essential workers and the millions of consumers they serve safe, many lives and our food supply will be in grave danger,” the union presidents said.

DART asks riders to wear masks

April 20: The Des Moines Area Regional Transportation Authority requests that bus passengers don a mask before boarding, hopefully preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

DART, which in recent weeks has reduced its bus service and added rules to encourage additional social distancing, said on its website that its employees will be wearing cloth masks in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

The transit authority also announced Saturday that it will limit access to the lobby at its central station in downtown Des Moines. DART security personnel will only allow one person in at a time to either use the restroom or speak to a customer service representative. 

Riders waiting for their bus will be asked to stay outside. 

“It has become increasingly difficult to ensure social distancing guidelines are followed with the lobby open,” DART said on its website.

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Iowa sees largest 1-day jump in COVID-19 cases with 389 new positive tests

April 19: Iowa saw its largest one-day jump in COVID-19 cases Sunday, with 389 new positive tests, according to Iowa Department of Public Health data, raising the state's total to 2,902 confirmed cases.

Iowa's largest one-day increase was previously 191 positive tests on Friday. 

The largest increases were in the following counties: 

  • Linn, 63
  • Marshall, 42
  • Polk, 40
  • Scott, 36
  • Washington, 35
  • Louisa, 35
  • Muscatine, 31
  • Tama, 28
  • Black Hawk, 26
  • Johnson, 20

"Two hundred and sixty-one or 67% of today's 389 additional positive cases can be attributed to surveillance testing of meat processing facilities," according to a news release from the Governor's Office. 

There were 177 new positive tests at National Beef's Iowa Premium processing plant in Tama County and 84 positive tests among Tyson Foods employees. 

National Beef suspended production at its Tama facility after several workers became infected. Outbreaks have been reported at Tyson Foods processing plants in Columbus Junction, Perry and Waterloo. Tyson closed the Columbus Junction plant closed April 6. The Perry and Waterloo plants remain open. 

"The Department of Public Health is working closely with some of our processing plants — the Tyson plants, especially in Columbus Junction and Waterloo — in an effort to test all employees and conduct contact tracing for all positive cases," Gov. Kim Reynolds said Friday. 

The Iowa Department of Public Health on Sunday also reported that one person with COVID-19 — an older adult (61-80 years) from Muscatine County — has died, bringing the statewide death total to 75. 

There are 198 Iowans currently hospitalized and 1,171 have recovered.​​​​​​​

More: Updated COVID-19 maps and charts track cases and data in Iowa and across the U.S.

Iowa reports COVID-19 outbreak at 10th long-term care facility

April 19: The Iowa Department of Public Heath has reported a COVID-19 outbreak at another long-term care facility. 

Eight people have tested positive for the virus at Bishop Drumm Retirement Center in Johnston, according to data released Friday by the Iowa Department of Public Health

It is the 10th outbreak at a long-term care facility in Iowa, meaning three or more residents have tested positive for COVID-19. 

On April 13, Gov. Kim Reynolds said more than half of the Iowans who have died of COVID-19 were residents of long-term care centers.

Older people are considered at particular risk for the disease, with mortality rates increasing among older demographics, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Heritage Specialty Care in Cedar Rapids had 110 positive cases of COVID-19 as of Friday, the most positive cases among Iowa long-term care centers, according to Department of Pubic Health data. 

Two other long-term care centers in Polk County reported outbreaks as of Friday. On With Life in Ankeny reported 31 cases and Trinity Center at Luther Park in Des Moines reported 25 cases.

► More: A look back at COVID-19 in Iowa, April 13-19

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