COVID-19: Iowa sets new records for hospitalizations, deaths; Reynolds defends spending $21 million in federal pandemic aid on pre-pandemic projects

Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

The surge in the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients continued on Wednesday, with the Iowa Department of Public Health reporting 534 patients. This is an increase of 33 patients over the total on Tuesday, which was the first day Iowa ever reported more than 500 hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

One hundred and thirty-four of those patients were being treated in intensive care units, an increase from Tuesday, when IDPH reported 122 ICU patients.

The presidents of the two local unions that represent healthcare workers at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics issued a joint statement on Tuesday. Cathy Glasson of SEIU Local 199, a registered nurse, and Richard Frauenholz of AFSCME Local 12 called Iowa surpassing 500 hospitalized COVID-19 patients on Monday “a grim milestone.”

“Our members at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) have seen firsthand how devastating this illness can be,” the statement said. “In fact, more than 600 UIHC employees have themselves been infected with Covid-19. We and all workers on the frontlines of the fight against Covid need Iowa’s leaders to step up and provide the personal protective equipment and the resources necessary for us to care for Iowa.”

“Unfortunately, that leadership is lacking right now,” Glasson and Frauenholz continued. “This week we learned that Gov. Kim Reynolds tried to funnel $20 million of coronavirus relief funds into upgrading a state computer system. We need those funds for patients, not computers.”

The union leaders were referring to Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand’s conclusion that Reynolds had misused $21 million in federal CARES Act funds meant to cover expenses related to COVID-19. The Reynolds administration used the $21 million to pay Workday, a California-based computer firm, for a new cloud-based computer system to replace the current computer systems the state is using for accounting and human resource issues.

But Reynolds awarded the no-bid contract to Workday in October 2019, so the new system was no acquired in response to the pandemic and therefore CARES Act money cannot be used to pay for it, according to Sand. The auditor said the Inspector General of the U.S. Treasury Department Office agrees with him.

Reynolds’ office did not comment after Sand’s assessment was made public on Monday and the governor has not held a news conference this week, but reporters were able to ask the governor about the issue as she was exiting a Joni Ernst campaign event on Wednesday.

“Well, we think it’s an allowable expense,” Reynolds said. “We’re going to talk about why we believe that. So, we’ll send that to them and ask them to respectfully review the allowance. And if not, we do it another path.”

The “they” the governor was referring to was the Treasury Department’s inspector general.

The new record for hospitalized COVID-19 patients wasn’t the only grim milestone in Iowa on Wednesday.

Between 10 a.m. on Tuesday and 10 a.m. Wednesday, IDPH was reporting another 31 Iowans had died from the virus, the highest number of deaths the department has reported in a 24-hour period. Among the deceased was a resident of Linn County.


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These newly reported deaths brought Iowa’s COVID-19 death toll to 1,579.

At 10 a.m., on Wednesday, IDPH was also reporting 68 long-term care facilities had ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks, a new record.

The surge in new cases due to uncontrolled community spread continued on Wednesday, with IDPH reporting 1,276 more Iowans were confirmed as having the virus, including 22 residents of Johnson County and 75 residents of Linn County.

The new cases bring the total number of Iowans who have tested positive for COVID-19 to 109,573.

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