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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Grief in the time of COVID

Amy Ward: “We heard that Jay’s passing was peaceful and that two nurses held his hands, but oh, how we hungered to make sure the last words he heard were from those who really loved and knew him.” -promoted by Laura Belin

In early February, our family watched the news about the novel coronavirus. We hoped, as I imagine others did, that our family would somehow remain untouched by the pandemic. That was not to be our fate.

Many of the most powerful COVID-era images that I have seen were taken from New York City or Los Angeles: stark cityscapes that seem far away and nearly foreign. In May, we buried my father-in-law Jay at a peaceful suburban cemetery – not in a big city, but in our verdant hometown of Des Moines, Iowa.

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Staying 6 feet apart won't stop COVID-19 from spreading at church

Religious institutions across Iowa are now allowed to hold large services, under Governor Kim Reynolds’ latest proclamation related to novel coronavirus, which took effect on May 1. While most churches declined to schedule in-person services for this Sunday morning, some are looking at ways to modify their space or practices in order to resume face-to-face worship soon.

In mid-March, the governor temporarily prohibited religious or spiritual gatherings of more than ten people. Her April 27 order lifted that ban, provided that houses of worship “implement reasonable measures […] to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 consistent with guidance issued by the Iowa Department of Public Health.” Among other things, the department recommends that people practice good hygiene and adjust the layout so congregants not from the same household can “sit at least six feet apart.”

That advice is insufficient to keep those carrying the virus from infecting others.

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A dangerous time in Iowa

Tanya Keith is an activist and small business owner in Des Moines, and author of the recently published Soccer Stars on the Pitch. -promoted by Laura Belin

On Sunday, my son coughed as he was unloading the clean dishes. Thus began my adventure of losing faith in Iowa’s COVID-19 response.

I grabbed the forehead scanner and “beeped” him. Normal. But it gave me pause. With three kids, and kids not presenting with symptoms, I decided to beep all the foreheads in the house. I was normal, the teen was normal, but the preschooler scanned at 100.4 and my husband at 99.9. 

Holding out hope that testing standards had relaxed enough to include all symptomatic Iowans, I called the Urgent Care associated with our doctor’s office. They told me I would need to call the Iowa Department of Public Health’s hotline at 211. So I did.

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