Schools scramble to adapt to new state COVID policies

By: 
Travis Fischer

School districts have gone through a whirlwind of regulatory changes over the last two weeks as the state continues to look toward a post-COVID future.

On Friday, May 14, the Iowa Department of Public Health and Human Services sent word that they were revising their COVID-19 guidance for schools.

With COVID-19 now classified under the same common illness category as Chicken Pox and Diarrhea, the new guidance now recommends that symptomatic children stay home for 10 days after a positive test or after symptoms start so long as they’ve gone 24 hours without fever and improved symptoms. In addition, children exposed to COVID-19 will no longer be required to quarantine at home, regardless of mask usage.

With the end of the school year so near, this sudden change in policy may mean little in practical effect, however that was not the end of the abrupt policy adjustments coming from the state.

On Wednesday, May 19, the Governor surprised superintendents by signing House File 847 into law, amending several state laws regarding the education system. Among other things, the new section forbids school administrators from requiring that employees, students, or members of the public wear a facial covering on the property, effectively ending school mask policies just hours before classes began on Thursday morning.

This law also applies to county and city governments in the same way, forbidding them from implementing a mask policy at a local level that is more stringent than a state level policy.

As of Sunday, May 23, 1,321,468 Iowans have completed their vaccine series, increasing the total vaccinated population by 55,858. This includes 1,214,352 completing their two-dose series and another 107,166 receiving a single dose vaccination.

In total, the state has administered 2,706,259 doses of vaccine since they were made available. This includes, 1,433,405 doses of Pfizer, 1,165,738 doses of Moderna, and 107,116 doses of Johnson and Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.

As of Sunday, there have been 370,656 individuals positive with COVID-19 in the state, increasing the 369,433 total from the week prior by 1,223, further continuing a steady drop in cases seen over the last several weeks.

The state crossed the five million test milestone last week, reaching a current total of 5,006,670 tests on 1,752,701 individuals since the pandemic began, including 3,221,196 PCR tests and 1,785,474 antigen tests. In the last week, the state has processed 30,091 PCR tests and 21,789 antigen tests.

In the last week, 12% of new cases have been among the elderly (age 80+), 17% among older adults (60-79); 26% among middle aged adults (40-59); 41% among young adults (18-39); and 5% among children.

In addition, 125,056 Iowans have undergone serology testing for coronavirus antibodies, which would indicate that they have had the virus. Of that number, 23,677, about 19%, have tested positive for antibodies.

Of the 766 individuals tested in the last week, 178 of them (23%) have tested positive.

Hospitalizations also continue to drop, with 118 hospitalized as of Sunday, a decrease of 19 from the week prior. Severe cases requiring an ICU have also dropped over the last week, down to 33.

Reported deaths increased slightly over the last week, with the state reporting 29 new deaths, bringing the total to 6,035.

In total, approximately 3,514 elderly (58.23%); 2,087 older adults (34.59%), 380 middle aged adults (6.31%), 50 young adults (.83%), and at least one child (.05%) have died from the virus since the pandemic began.

Unfortunately, death tolls among the elderly will continue to crawl upward as yet another outbreak has broken out in a long term care facility. The state has also reported 22 additional deaths from long term care facilities, bringing the total to 2,337.

Two facilities with outbreaks reporting a total of 17 cases among residents and staff are currently active in the state.

 

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The Buffalo Center Tribune

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