Iowa's state universities won't follow Trump's payroll tax deferral

Tens of thousands of employees at Iowa’s state universities will have their payroll taxes withheld as usual this fall, despite a recent executive order from President Donald Trump.

Trump moved last month to suspend payroll taxes from September 1 through December 31, 2020. Affected employees would see slightly higher paychecks for the next four months, but would have lower take-home pay from January through April 2021 as employers withhold double the amount for payroll taxes.

Josh Lehman, communications director for the Iowa Board of Regents, told Bleeding Heartland on September 9,

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Kim Reynolds set young people up to fail. Now she's setting them up to blame

“Much of the spread that we’re seeing in Iowa continues to be tied back to young adults” between the ages of 19 and 24, Governor Kim Reynolds said during an August 27 news conference, where she announced a new proclamation closing bars in Polk, Dallas, Linn, Johnson, Story, and Black Hawk counties.

Reynolds noted that young adults are spreading coronavirus to classmates, co-workers, and others “by socializing in large groups” and “not social distancing.” She added, “While we still know that this population is less likely to be severely impacted by COVID-19, it is increasing the virus activity in the community, and it’s spilling over to other segments of the population.”

The official narrative seems designed to conceal three inconvenient facts. Reynolds didn’t follow expert advice that could have prevented this summer’s explosive growth in cases. For months, she discouraged young, healthy Iowans from worrying about the virus. And despite her “#StepUpMaskUp” public relations campaign, Reynolds has failed to practice what she preaches when attending large gatherings herself.

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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.

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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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