State auditor to review Iowa's COVID-19 "strike teams"

State Auditor Rob Sand announced on January 26 that his office will examine the state’s use of COVID-19 “strike teams” involving the Iowa National Guard. A news release noted,

Reports show public record emails in which a metal-working manufacturer owned by major donors to Governor Reynolds received a strike team deployment upon a personal request made to her office, while the same county’s public health department saw its requests for locations with higher needs ignored.

Bleeding Heartland exclusively reported on those emails. In one exchange, an employee of the GMT Corporation in Waverly told Bremer County’s public health administrator, “I requested testing and was told that we would most likely be denied with only one case. Our owners contacted the governor directly and she authorized the testing for us.”

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Exclusive: Governor fast-tracked COVID tests for firm linked to major donor

Governor Kim Reynolds authorized using state resources to conduct COVID-19 tests at a workplace that had only one confirmed case after the company’s owners reached out to her last May.

Iowa National Guard and Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) personnel facilitated coronavirus testing at GMT Corporation, a machine parts manufacturer in Waverly, on May 22, 2020. Fewer than a dozen Iowa businesses received such visits during the two months the state’s “strike team” program was active, when coronavirus testing kits were not widely available.

Summit Ag Investors, the asset management arm of Bruce Rastetter’s Summit Agricultural Group, owns a majority interest in GMT. Emails Bleeding Heartland obtained through a public records request indicated, and GMT’s top executive confirmed, that someone from Summit Ag “contacted the governor directly” after GMT staff learned they “would most likely be denied” testing assistance from the state.

Neither Summit Ag executives nor staff in the governor’s office responded to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries.

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Birthing a conference: A celebration of Black kin

Des Moines-based holistic doula and lactation counselor Olivia Samples first published this post on Kismet Doula Services’ blog. -promoted by Laura Belin

Last year I attended two conferences centered around Black Maternal Health. After the first one I attended, I had a dance party in my room to the playlist they sent us. The discussion, resources, and connection I got from this event totally filled my cup; left me energized and ready for more.

A few weeks later, during the second conference, I felt the anger rising from my gut into my face. I cried and stepped away after hearing so many statistics of the disparities for Black birthing people in Iowa. I learned a lot from other sessions throughout the conference, but at the end of the day, I closed my laptop, journaled, and took a nap.

Something that sticks out from the entry that day:

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The 20 most-viewed Bleeding Heartland posts of 2020

Since I started reviewing Bleeding Heartland’s most widely-read posts at the end of each year, I’ve had mixed feelings about the practice. My organizing principle on any given day is not chasing clicks, but looking for ways to add value, either by covering Iowa political news not reported elsewhere, or by offering a different perspective on the big story of the day. I try not to be hyper-aware of traffic numbers, so as not to let those drive editorial decisions.

On the other hand, it is fun at year-end to recap the posts that were particularly popular with Bleeding Heartland readers, and I usually find a few surprises.

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Best of Bleeding Heartland's original reporting in 2020

My primary goal in running this website is to provide Iowa political news and analysis that’s not available anywhere else. I’m proud of what Bleeding Heartland accomplished in 2020 and want to highlight some of the investigative reporting and accountability journalism published first or exclusively here.

A forthcoming post will review the site’s most popular pieces from 2020, which included many I worked hardest on or most enjoyed writing.

As always, I’m grateful for readers whose appetite for this kind of reporting keeps me going.

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Maternal health in Iowa: You don't know what you don't know

Rachel Bruns is a volunteer advocate for quality maternal health care in Iowa. -promoted by Laura Belin

As I plan to write several posts in the coming weeks related to maternal-child health in Iowa, I want to introduce myself to Bleeding Heartland readers. For this piece, I’m going to provide some high-level information on the landscape around maternal health in Iowa from my perspective as a maternal-child health advocate.

But first, some background on myself and how I became involved in this work.

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