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'It has really been a tough year': Gov. Reynolds reopens small business relief program for bars in 6 Iowa counties

As of Wednesday morning, 66,137 Iowans have tested positive for COVID-19 and 1,125 have died.

JOHNSTON, Iowa — Gov. Kim Reynolds is reopening the small business relief program to aid bars impacted by her closing order from last week

The announcement came Wednesday during a press conference on the state's continued COVID-19 mitigation efforts and storm relief for Iowans.

Businesses in the following counties can apply for grants up to $10,000:

  • Black Hawk
  • Dallas
  • Johnson
  • Linn
  • Polk 
  • Story

Reynolds said applications will be made available through the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA). The application period begins on Sept. 10 and will be open for two weeks. 

A release from Reynolds' office says the "extended program will be open to bars, taverns, breweries, distilleries, wineries or other businesses licensed to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on premises." 

More information can be found by clicking/tapping here

WATCH: Gov.  Kim Reynolds' full press conference for Sept. 2, 2020

Derecho assistance expanded

On Tuesday, the governor's office announced that 10 additional counties have been approved for FEMA individual assistance following the Aug. 10 derecho.

Individuals and business owners in Benton, Boone, Cedar, Jasper, Marshall, Polk, Poweshiek, Scott, Story, and Tama counties may now apply for the FEMA Individual Assistance Program. 

Linn County was approved for individual assistance on Aug. 20.

Iowans in these counties are also able to apply for Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Program (DSNAP) benefits, Reynolds said Wednesday. Information on that program can be found by clicking/tapping here.

Why isn't Iowa using all recommendations from the CDC or White House Coronavirus Task Force? 

During Wednesday's press conference, Reynolds cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics that say Iowa had the highest rate of increase in COVID-19 cases nationally and the fifth-highest positivity rate. 

"As we've made Iowans aware we've been experiencing a steady increase in positive cases and a gradual uptick and positivity rate over the last several weeks," Reynolds said. "Especially in our most populous counties and among adults aged 18 to 40."

RELATED: Coronvairus 'positivity rate', explained

Reynolds recited statistics from counties where universities are located. 

She reported that from Aug. 2 to Aug. 8, Iowa saw 3,444 new positive cases with a positivity rate of 7.9%. According to Reynolds, adults 18-to-40 years old made up 46% of those cases. 

"Just three weeks later from August 23 through the 29th, new cases rose to 6,868 at a positivity rate of 12.1% and 62% were among adults aged 18 to 40."

Each of the six counties that were ordered to close bars experienced a dramatic increase of cases for adults aged 18 to 40.

"That's why, additional mitigation measures are now in place in six counties," Reynolds said. 

"With access to real time data, along with the information that the [epidemiology] team and local public health have been able to gather through the case investigation process, we're able to determine what's driving the virus activity and make targeted decisions to help mitigate."

The governor continued to defend her position on issuing a statewide mask mandate, even though the CDC and task force are recommending one. 

A White House Coronavirus Task Force report on the state recommends state officials issue a mask mandate to help curb the spread of the virus.

Reynolds said her team continues to look at the data to determine strategic moves to help mitigate the spread, such as the recent closure of bars in certain Iowa counties.

"We're going to monitor this next week, and we're going to see if the mitigation efforts that we've applied starts to reduce those numbers," Reynolds said. "And if they don't, then we'll take additional steps, but right now I feel that that's the steps that we can take."

As of Wednesday morning, 66,137 Iowans have tested positive for COVID-19 and 1,125 have died.

Between 9 a.m. Tuesday and 9 a.m. Wednesday, the state reported 740 additional cases and a 13.05% positivity rate.

What's going on with the data fluctuations? 

Reynolds again blamed the "antiquated system" for last weekend's data fluctuations, with the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) saying maintenance was to blame

State Medical Director Dr. Caitlin Pedati explained the maintenance on the site. 

"IT systems require maintenance and surveillance and monitoring, to make sure that they're functioning and sometimes you know when we have scheduled maintenance we did see a disruption over this past weekend, but again, you know, performing this kind of maintenance and surveillance is what we're going to continue to do for this system," Pedati said.

Local 5 reached out to the IDPH to see how routine the maintenance is. Spokeswoman Amy McCoy sent the following via email:

"IT systems like the Iowa Disease Surveillance System (IDSS) require daily maintenance and performance monitoring. This is done to ensure the accuracy of hundreds of thousands of data points for disease activity reported each day. The state is providing all of this information for COVID-19 in real-time data flow directly to the website. All Iowans see the same information and results as they are received. This information is fluid and is updated along with case investigation."

Right at the end of the press conference, a reporter asked why the system hadn't been updated prior to the pandemic. 

"I didn't hear the question," Reynolds resp onded as she walked off the stage.

McCoy sent the following statement to Local 5 following the press conference:

"The IDSS system had been functioning appropriately for previous disease surveillance purposes, which of course, are unlike a pandemic response and the demands that have now come upon this legacy system.  

Many states are in similar positions with aging disease surveillance systems, and we look forward to additional leadership from HHS on future data reporting expectations. We'll be working with our state partners on system upgrade options, and this will be a significant effort."

TestIowa contract set to expire soon, what's next? 

Reynolds said the contract with TestIowa goes through the end of the year, and the Iowa Department of Public Health already found additional funding for it. 

"The tests were for six months, but we actually have the support for a year," Reynolds said. 

"And the reason that we did that is because as you're all aware of testing strategies are changing. We're talking about different methods, we're talking about different mediums, they're looking at you know saliva test and so we wanted to make sure that we had adequate supply a test to really meet the needs of Iowans."

Have a question about COVID-19 you want answered? Text it to 515-457-1026 or email news@weareiowa.com.

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