Exclusive: Iowa's state medical director received 45% pay raise

The base pay for Iowa’s medical director and state epidemiologist Dr. Caitlin Pedati increased by 45 percent as the current fiscal year began on July 1, records obtained by Bleeding Heartland show. The additional $3,144 that Pedati began receiving per two-week pay period would translate to an extra $81,744 in base salary over twelve months.

The doctor leading the state’s COVID-19 pandemic response also received more than $55,000 in overtime pay from March through early July, even though her job class would not normally be eligible for overtime compensation.

Continue Reading...

Now she tells us

More than four months into the novel coronavirus pandemic, Governor Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Public Health are finally acknowledging that slowing the spread of COVID-19 will require many more Iowans to routinely cover their faces in public.

Their “#StepUpMaskUpIA” campaign might have been more successful if state officials had pushed the message before reopening businesses and lifting other COVID-19 mitigation strategies in May and June. Instead, top officials waited until new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths had been trending upward in Iowa for weeks.

Public health experts at the University of Iowa urged state leaders months ago to call for universal use of face coverings. But at her televised news conferences, Reynolds repeatedly asserted that expanded testing would allow the state to “manage” and “control” the virus. At the same events, the governor regularly portrayed face masks as something vulnerable Iowans might need, or a precaution people could bring with them in case they found themselves in a crowded setting.

As recently as last week, Reynolds was photographed in close proximity to others, with no one’s face covered. Even now, she refuses to delegate authority so local governments can issue enforceable mask orders.

Continue Reading...

State won't clarify how Iowa counts COVID-19 deaths

This project started with the goal of clearing up some confusion surrounding Iowa’s novel coronavirus (COVID-19) death statistics.

Specifically, I wanted to debunk a conspiracy theory making the rounds on Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit.

I also planned to explain why the number of deaths for a given day on the state’s official website (coronavirus.iowa.gov) didn’t always match the number of new deaths that had been announced on that date. Many readers had asked about the discrepancy.

I was almost ready to publish in early July, but I needed to nail down one detail. Did the total fatalities on the state website (793 at this writing) reflect all of what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control describes as “multiple cause” COVID-19 deaths, or only what the CDC labels “underlying cause” deaths?

After asking that question more than half a dozen times over two and a half weeks, I still haven’t received an answer. So much for the Iowa Department of Public Health’s supposed “transparency” and “constant communication with media” on the pandemic.

Continue Reading...

Iowa OSHA visits two more meatpackers; other plants cleared with no inspection

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) staff conducted on-site inspections of two more Iowa meatpacking plants this week, the Iowa Division of Labor confirmed to Bleeding Heartland on June 2.

Documents provided the following day show regulators closed at least four coronavirus-related complaints against Iowa pork processors with no inspection.

Inspectors toured the Tyson Foods turkey plant in Storm Lake and the Perdue Premium pork facility in Sioux Center on June 1. Both site visits stemmed from “media referrals” rather than complaints, meaning officials acted on unspecified news reports or information relayed to OSHA by a journalistic source.

Continue Reading...

Test Iowa's contractor discouraging some from seeking COVID-19 tests

A company hired to ramp up Iowa’s capacity to test for novel coronavirus has been sending messages to sick Iowans that could discourage them from seeking a COVID-19 test.

Some people who reported respiratory symptoms when completing the Test Iowa online assessment, but did not qualify for an appointment at a drive-through site, received a message warning that COVID-19 testing “is quite invasive and uncomfortable” and that tests should be reserved “for those who need it the most.”

Neither Nomi Health nor state officials have clarified whether the Iowa Department of Public Health helped write or approved the wording.

Continue Reading...

Iowa governor didn't isolate after trip, wear mask at events with VP

The gaslighting was strong during Governor Kim Reynolds’ White House meeting on May 6 and Vice President Mike Pence’s Iowa visit two days later. Pence described Iowa as a COVID-19 “success story” on Wednesday. He elaborated in West Des Moines on May 8,

“Iowa has been leading the way with Governor Kim Reynolds […] From very early on, the strong steps and mitigation efforts have made a difference here. We grieve the loss of life here in Iowa, but the numbers speak for themselves. The outbreak in Iowa has not been like we’ve seen in other states and other metropolitan areas around the country. It’s a tribute to your early, strong steps.”

Meanwhile, Sioux City still tops a national list of “metro areas with the most recent cases and deaths, relative to their population, in the last two weeks.” Waterloo/Cedar Falls is fourth. Confirmed COVID-19 cases are rising rapidly in several smaller counties where Reynolds lifted restrictions on some business activities last week.

But that’s a topic for another day.

I was struck by Reynolds’ failure this week to follow best practices for slowing the spread of the virus.

Continue Reading...
View More...