ByNatalie Krebs / Side Effects Public Media and Iowa Public Radio |
It’s a hot evening at the Broadway Neighborhood Center in Iowa City, home to the University of Iowa. Student volunteers have set up a mobile COVID vaccination clinic among the apartment complexes that house many immigrant and refugee families.
But the clinic struggles to attract residents. In recent weeks, demand for the COVID-19 vaccine in Iowa has declined sharply, even though less than 70 percent of Iowans have had at least one dose.
Andrew Coghill-Behrends, the center’s site director, hits the streets. His goal is to get at least 20 people in for the shot. “It’s really about talking to people and seeing if you can find them where they’re at, and encourage them to come over, said Coghill-Behrends.
A year ago, Darcy Havel-Sturdevant couldn’t have imagined what was in store for her: splitting headaches, exhaustion, shortness of breath, being unable to focus, the memory lapses. Here is her story, in her words.
Seventy-six of Iowa’s 82 critical access hospitals ended the last fiscal year with negative operating margins, an IowaWatch analysis of their most recently reported financial data shows. Iowa’s situation falls in line with a national report that shows 46% of the nation’s rural hospitals are working with a negative operating margin.
Gov. Kim Reynolds said Thursday she has approved sending $25 million in CARES money the state received to Iowa hospitals for COVID-19 relief, based on average hospital censuses in September and October. Report includes an IowaWatch podcast on hospital capacity and financing.
Vicki and Matt Bruening live on a Floyd County acreage with six children ranging from a sophomore in high school to a fourth-grader. Like others in Iowa, the family makes a living in agribusiness: both Bruenings operate an agricultural repair business in New Hampton, and Matt farms with his uncle on family land nearby.
At home, the family raises goats and chickens, with the help of their kids. When COVID-19 shut down Iowa schools over the spring break season in March, farm life gave the Bruenings the benefit of staying busy — but as time progressed, the family was still concerned whether school doors would open in the fall.
“We were most worried about if they wouldn’t be able to go back at all,” Vicki Bruening said. “It’s been a different kind of school year so far, but it’s also been good to get them back in the classroom, back with their friends.”
Bruening drives her kids to school in the morning as a way to provide more time to get ready. In the afternoon while she’s at work, the family relies on school transportation from Charles City’s joint high school and middle school campus, and one of the district’s two elementary schools.
This piece is part of a collaborative reporting project that includes the Institute for Nonprofit News, Charlottesville Tomorrow, El Paso Matters, IowaWatch, The Nevada Independent, New Mexico in Depth, Underscore News/Pamplin Media Group and Wisconsin Watch/The Badger Project.
One by one, COVID-19 outbreaks popped up in April and May at meatpacking plants across the country, fanning fears that the infectious coronavirus could spread rapidly into rural states. Plants closed temporarily in small metro areas like Waterloo, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, but also smaller Iowa towns like Tama, Columbus Junction and Perry.
Leaders at Buena Vista Regional Medical Center in Storm Lake, a northwest Iowa town of 10,500 with a Tyson Foods packing plant, knew their time would come. “We just didn’t know to what degree,” Rob Colerick, the hospital CEO and administrator, said. “I mean, you saw it in Columbus Junction. You saw it in Waterloo.
This story is part of a nationwide collaboration of Institute for Nonprofit News members examining the effect COVID-19 is having on rural health care. IowaWatch reporting in this project was made possible by support from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.
Hurricane Laura drilled Louisiana before moving north in late August, causing widespread destruction and death behind. A few weeks later, so many storms had been reported that the National Hurricane Center ran out of names and had to dip into the Greek alphabet for one striking the Texas coast. A little more than two weeks earlier, a straight-line derecho had pounded several Midwest U.S. states, hitting Iowa particularly hard with property damage, crop destruction and death. A massive storm ripped up portions of southwest Georgia in April.
Quicker planning. Working together as networks. Focused staff deployment. The COVID-19 pandemic is giving hospital administrators and their healthcare providers ample opportunity in real time to learn new best practices to delivering medical care.
The quick fixes they’ve tried since the pandemic broke have included more reliance on telemedicine, communicating frequently with the public and an old standard: getting government money. This story is part of a nationwide collaboration of Institute for Nonprofit News members examining the effect COVID-19 is having on rural health care.
Business and community leaders in Albert Lea, Minnesota, were set to build out some abandoned mall space this year for a new local healthcare center after Mayo Clinic Health System closed a large share of the town’s hospital in 2019. COVID-19 altered the plans but not the goal.