There was a milestone of note recently, and it is a shame there was not a big public celebration. Twenty years ago, Gov. Tom Vilsack and the Iowa Legislature had the foresight to create a program that has brought important changes to communities large and small across Iowa. The program was called Vision Iowa – and it certainly provided that. The initiative enabled communities to bring projects to life that probably never would have gotten off the ground without the unusual financial arrangement that was the beauty of Vision Iowa. State government provided part of the investment for these projects.
Iowa counties with the highest rates of COVID-19 infection are home to large meat packing plants. Part of a collaborative reporting project called “Lesson Plans: Rural schools grapple with COVID-19” in partnership with the Institute for Nonprofit News and several member newsrooms.
Demographics: Iowa’s immigrant children: In 1990 only 2.4 percent of Iowa kids (17,000) were from immigrant families – by 2018 that number jumped to 12 percent (84,000). Multigenerational households: 2011 U.S. Census Survey: 2.6 percent of Iowa’s 750,000 households are multigenerational households and of those include three generations (parent, child, grandchild, ie.) and the majority identify as Hispanic (map broken down by county is on page 4 in the linked census survey). Iowa school districts: According to the Iowa Department of Education there are 330 school districts throughout the state with over 480,000 students and over 37,000 teachers. Districts with meatpacking plants have higher enrollment of Hispanic, Black and mixed race children. These populations are at higher risk of getting coronavirus.
ByJamie Smith Hopkins / Center for Public Integrity |
We heard from more than 200 disaster survivors and people helping them. Here’s what we learned. The Center for Public Integrity, Columbia Journalism Investigations and our partners in newsrooms around the country, including IowaWatch, have been reporting on this for months. We’ve learned a lot by asking experts: people who’ve lived through disasters and the professionals who study this or provide hands-on help. More than 230 shared their experiences in our detailed survey, and we interviewed dozens of additional people.
The Center for Public Integrity and Columbia Journalism Investigations collaborated on this project with newsrooms around the country: IowaWatch, California Health Report, Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, City Limits, InvestigateWest, The Island Packet, The Lens, The Mendocino Voice, Side Effects and The State. We created our survey for disaster survivors and mental-health professionals with guidance and vetting from Sarah Lowe, clinical psychologist and assistant professor at Yale School of Public Health; Elana Newman, professor of psychology at the University of Tulsa and research director for the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University; Gilbert Reyes, clinical psychologist and chair of the American Psychological Association’s trauma psychology division disaster relief committee; and Jonathan Sury, project director for communications and field operations for the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University. HIDDEN EPIDEMICS: Weather disasters drive a mental health crisis RELATED: Iowa’s Parkersburg tornado survivors offer support, hope after derecho turmoil RELATED: How to heal emotional wounds after disaster
No government agency in the United States regularly tracks the psychological outcomes of disasters. And while academic studies may shed light on specific events, the questionnaire was meant to understand experiences from multiple disasters across the country, furthering on-the-ground reporting. It is not a formal, randomized survey.
Regardless of what you think of his political positions, Terry Branstad knew instinctively what being governor entailed. A core duty is looking out for people when they most need help after a disaster. Branstad’s skill, and the skill of local officials, too, was on display in the summer of 1993 in the hours after one of the biggest natural disasters to hit Des Moines. Unfortunately, last week’s devastating storm through Iowa’s midsection showed that today’s state and local government leaders lack some of those instincts Branstad used effectively. Early in the morning of July 11, 1993, three days after torrential storms dumped 8 to 10 inches of rain northwest of Des Moines, the Raccoon River carried that water over the top of the levee surrounding the city’s water treatment plant.
In 2008, residents of Iowa waited a day for a major disaster declaration when an EF-5 tornado struck Parkersburg. That twister cut through Black Hawk and Butler counties, killed nine people and injured dozens. It destroyed nearly 200 homes, totaling several millions of dollars in damages.
President George W. Bush granted then-Gov. Chet Culver’s disaster declaration request within 24 hours. Culver used a provision in the federal code available to all governors: if a catastrophic event is so severe the state can ask for a waiver to begin the flow of federal help immediately. It’s been a week since the massive derecho storm hit.
COVID-19 has Iowans wanting more information from federal, state and local governments to guide life-or-death decisions raised by the unprecedented pandemic. Is it safe to go to the store? Do masks prevent spread of the virus? Should my kids go to school in the fall? At a time when Iowans need accurate and complete information, some state agencies, including the Governor’s Office, are ignoring questions from reporters, refusing to do interviews and stalling on public records requests – sometimes for months, Iowa journalists said.