Lulu Merle Johnson would be a fitting namesake for Johnson County

The first decision of Iowa’s territorial Supreme Court affirmed a former slave’s right to remain out of bondage. Iowa gained statehood as a “free” state and sent thousands of boys and men to fight and die for the Union during the Civil War.

Nevertheless, our state’s fourth-largest county is named after a “particularly despicable” slave-owner. That needs to change, and the Johnson County Board of Supervisors took a first step toward doing so this week.

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Model shows distancing, PPE could reduce Iowa's COVID-19 cases, deaths

Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infections and deaths could increase or decrease substantially in the coming months, depending on how many Iowans practice social distancing or wear personal protective equipment (PPE) routinely in public, according to a modeling app designed by University of Iowa faculty and graduate students.

Six professors of biostatistics or epidemiology collaborated on the model, while a group of graduate students worked on the app and translated materials for a Spanish-language version. The university’s College of Public Health COVID-19 Response Team “developed this tool as a free public service to state and local policymakers, business leaders, and others to assist in guiding the community response to the coronavirus pandemic.”

This incredibly useful resource was derived from publicly-available data, so is not subject to restrictions on release state government imposed as part of the contract the Iowa Department of Public Health and UI College of Public Health signed in April to develop Iowa-specific modeling for COVID-19. Governor Kim Reynolds and state health officials largely ignored that modeling when drafting plans to reopen businesses and venues in May and June, saying “real-time data” was informing such policies.

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"Projections" on Iowa's COVID-19 website have no scientific basis

UPDATE: Hours after this piece was published, the plus/minus feature disappeared from the state website. Original post follows.

The state of Iowa’s official website for information about the novel coronavirus pandemic incorporated a few tweaks this week. The most noticeable: Department of Public Health staff update various statistics throughout the day, rather than once in each 24-hour period. During her May 18 news conference, Governor Kim Reynolds asserted that the new practice would make data on COVID-19 more “transparent.” Critics pointed out that the frequent updates would make it harder for Iowans to keep tabs on daily changes in coronavirus cases, tests, hospitalizations, and deaths.

Reynolds didn’t announce another addition to the website, which has attracted relatively little notice. Several of the bar graphs can now be adjusted to project the number of daily cases, tests, hospitalizations, or deaths weeks or months into the future.

The trouble is, those projections are not grounded in any principles of epidemiology.

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Homemade anti-virus hardware: Make your own face shield

Susan Nelson of Floyd County offers a great tutorial on how to make a face shield, which is more protective than a cloth mask. -promoted by Laura Belin

Remember when the public health community and all ID docs said we could eliminate HIV with testing and contact tracing and we didn’t need to distribute and encourage condom use? Me neither #FaceShieldsForAll” ~ @eliowa

I am going to show you how to make a face shield that costs a couple of dollars, but first I’ll explain why you should want one.

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Republicans have underfunded Iowa's State Hygienic Lab for years

Staff at Iowa’s State Hygienic Laboratory have been working around the clock to process tests that reveal the scope of the novel coronavirus epidemic. Governor Kim Reynolds has often lauded their “yeoman’s work” at her daily news conferences.

But as former Vice President Joe Biden famously said, “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” In real terms, state support for a facility critical to Iowa’s COVID-19 response dropped considerably over the last decade.

The Iowa legislature hasn’t increased dollars allocated to the State Hygienic Lab since 2013, when Senate Democrats insisted on doing so. Not only has state funding failed to keep up with inflation since then, the laboratory’s annual appropriation has yet to recover from a mid-year budget cut in 2018.

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Iowa governor's COVID-19 strategy more faith-based than data-driven

For weeks, Governor Kim Reynolds told reporters at her daily news conferences that “data” and “metrics” informed her approach to slowing the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Iowa.

That narrative flew out the window on April 27, when she unveiled her plan to lift some mitigation measures statewide and allow many kinds of businesses to reopen in 77 Iowa counties, effective May 1.

Reynolds and Dr. Caitlin Pedati, the state medical director and epidemiologist, sought to spin the new policy as “evidence-based.” In reality, they are betting Iowans’ lives on the potential for data collection that has barely begun.

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