Mild winter ushers in wasp-ish spring for Iowans

An unwelcome buzz — wasps — this spring forced teachers to shutter classroom windows. Anecdotally, there seem to be more than usual hovering this spring, following a somewhat mild winter in Iowa, according to weather experts. Iowa State University professor of entomology Donald Lewis said he has heard from Iowans who have felt there were more of the insects than usual. He, too, suspects it was a “good winter” for the them. Gabrielle Smithman, a teacher at Merrill Middle School in Des Moines, experienced the effect of that good winter.

Evans: The population problem Iowa should discuss

Through the years, the Iowa Legislature is the place where Iowans gather to debate the biggest issues and challenges facing our state. It has been this way for 175 years. 

The 2021 session is days from adjournment, but there has been precious little time spent discussing one of the thorniest problems confronting this state in decades or looking for solutions. The issue is the quality of our water. Our lakes, streams and rivers are so polluted with agricultural runoff that experts urge people, for health reasons, to not swim in many lakes and to avoid eating fish caught in certain rivers. While most lawmakers dodge this issue, a University of Iowa researcher has become a no-nonsense voice on the problem and its solutions. Chris Jones is a scientist at the Iowa Institute of Hydraulic Research. Water quality is his area of expertise.

Where, oh where, are today’s Bob Rays?

It’s hard for those of us of a certain vintage to realize it has been 39 years since Robert Ray was Iowa’s governor. In spite of the passage of so much time, his name was on the minds of many people last week. What triggered the Bob Ray memories was Gov. Kim Reynolds’ interview with WHO Radio on Thursday. Reynolds was asked about the thousands of children, mostly from Central America, who are showing up this year at our border with Mexico without their parents. They arrive hoping to be allowed to live in the United States with relatives or sponsors, freeing them from the deadly violence and the grip of poverty so common where they came from.

Non-English speakers get support understanding details of COVID vaccine

The Midwest is home to tens of thousands of immigrants — including refugees from countries like Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Iraq. It has been a challenge to provide information about COVID-19 and vaccines to those who don’t speak English. 

The Johnson County Public Health Department in eastern Iowa has COVID-19 information available in about a half dozen languages. But Samuel Jarvis, who works for the department, said getting this translated information out during the pandemic can be really hard. “Because the information changes quickly. And really, it’s just — it has to be at a faster pace,” said Jarvis.

Weeks into vaccine rollout, some in Iowa worry about being left behind

Like many states, Iowa is now weeks into distributing the coronavirus vaccine to residents who are 65 or older. With vaccine demand still far outstripping supply, many Iowans are struggling to get an appointment and are frustrated. But some worry the state’s most vulnerable residents are also at risk for getting left behind. 

Chuck Betts is 74 and lives in eastern Iowa. He says getting an appointment to get vaccinated was anything but easy. He started by calling 2-1-1.

Rural areas face challenges in COVID vaccine rollout

Across the Midwest, the rollout of COVID vaccines has been spotty. Lots of people are having a trouble with online signups. And vaccine demand far exceeds supply. That’s made the process challenging, especially in rural areas. For years, the Girls State Training School in central Iowa has sat mostly empty.

Evans: U.S. House is wrong place to decide who won

Tone-deaf. That’s the dismal state of the political discourse in our nation these days. Regrettably, Iowa has an all-too-prominent role in this bumbling lack of awareness of how our democracy is being eaten away by the people who want to be our leaders. Pour yourself a glass of Maalox. You will need it, because your acid indigestion will flare up before we get far in today’s discussion.