Des Moines Register. July 4, 2020.

Dear Iowa: Listen to public health experts and put on a damn mask

You’re on your own.

That remains the message to states from President Donald Trump as the novel coronavirus spreads like wildfire across the country. From leaving states to find their own ventilators and protective equipment to not providing clear guidance to industries, the absence of federal leadership is stunning.

That leaves Iowans looking to Gov. Kim Reynolds for direction as hundreds of us test positive each day and more than 700 have died.

Her message: Take personal responsibility. She has refused to require face coverings for businesses, state-licensed workers, schools or the general public. She has left each county, city, school district, business and individual to decide what to do.

Numerous governors, including Republican governors, have required face coverings in public.

Of course Reynolds should do the same. But she apparently isn’t listening to science these days.

What should Iowans do?

Cover your mouth and nose.

Wear a mask, scarf or whatever you have for a face covering when you’re around other people. The idea is to provide some filter for the air you inhale and exhale.

Businesses should mandate face coverings for customers. No shoes, no shirt, no mask, no service.

County and city officials should require them. Be leaders. Force the governor to decide if she wants to challenge your authority.

Masks should not be political. They should not be controversial. And they can help slow the spread of the virus, which is needed to save lives, reduce fear and get the economy on track.

A review of more than 170 studies in 16 countries published last month in The Lancet medical journal found “face mask use could result in a large reduction in risk of infection,” and “eye protection was also associated with less infection.”

A June 16 article published in Health Affairs found state mask mandates may have averted more than 230,000 coronavirus infections in the United States.

“Since mask wearing by infected individuals can reduce transmission risk, and because of the high proportion of asymptomatic infected individuals and transmissions, there appears to be a strong case for the effectiveness of widespread use of face masks in reducing the spread of COVID-19,” according to the authors.

When the country’s top public health experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, recently testified before Congress, all of them wore face masks when they were not speaking. They were reducing possible transmission of the virus and setting an example.

Yet too many Iowans are rejecting the experts. They stroll up and down grocery store aisles without a face covering or a seeming care in the world.

Maybe they haven’t lost a loved one to COVID-19 yet. Maybe they think they can’t get sick. Maybe they believe not wearing a mask exudes solidarity with Trump — the same president whose leadership in battling the coronavirus has included refusing to heed the advice of public health experts, maintaining the virus will “disappear,” promoting unproven drugs for treatment and floating the idea of drinking disinfectant.

After finding himself increasingly isolated on the mask issue, he recently decided he might like how he looks with his face partially covered.

“I’m all for face masks,” he told Fox News on July 1.

The United States has nearly 3 million confirmed COVID-19 infections, and about 130,000 people have died.

The virus doesn’t care if you believe it exists. It doesn’t care if you voted for Trump or Hillary Clinton. It doesn’t care that you’re itching to eat out in a restaurant, attend a graduation party or jump in a mosh pit.

It cares only about spreading to as many people as it can. And in the complete absence of leadership in this state and country, that is exactly what it will continue to do unless we take action to stop it.

Keep distance from others. Wash your hands. Don’t gather in large groups. And wear a damn mask.

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Fort Dodge Messenger. July 2, 2020.

Iowa’s renewable fuels industry gets a boost

Farmers, trucking companies, employees of ethanol and biodiesel plants – indeed all Iowans – will benefit from a couple of moves Gov. Kim Reynolds made recently to support the renewable fuels industry.

First, the governor signed into a law an extension of a fuel tax credit for diesel that contains more than 10 percent biodiesel. Her action extends a 3 cents per gallon fuel tax differential until 2026.

We previously urged the governor to sign this measure as soon as it hit her desk and we are pleased that she did so.

But the governor didn’t stop there.

She also committed $7 million of the money Iowa will receive from the federal COVID-19 relief package to a program that helps businesses pay for the equipment needed to sell biodiesel and ethanol. It’s called the Iowa Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program, and it provides grants to fuel distributors and retailers.

Usually, the program has $3 million. Now, it will have $10 million.

We thank the governor for making that commitment to a program that will ultimately make more biodiesel and ethanol available to consumers.

Biodiesel, ethanol and and Iowa are a natural combination. Soybeans are the raw material for biodiesel, and corn is the basic ingredient of ethanol. Hundreds of Iowans make their living working in the plants that produce those two renewable fuels. All Iowans benefit from fresh air made possible by these clean-burning fuels.

We’re glad we have a governor that realizes all of that and works to support the state’s renewable fuels industry.

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Dubuque Telegraph Herald. July 5, 2020.

Despite IBM loss, Dubuque ends up with net gain

It was a bitterly cold January day in 2009 when the TH reported that tech giant IBM would open an IT service center in Dubuque, with plans to bring 1,300 jobs to the city.

In the midst of the worst economic times the nation had experienced since the Great Depression, the global brand invested more than $100 million to open a huge office in a beautifully restored building in the heart of downtown Dubuque.

Luring IBM took significant resources. The development agreement included a $52 million incentive package from the city and state, $24.5 million of which went to Dubuque Initiatives for the renovation of the Roshek Building.

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While most saw it as an economic development victory, some thought the price of incentives was too steep and doubted IBM would stay in Dubuque long term. With Wednesday’s announcement that IBM will leave town this fall, no doubt the naysayers are saying, “I told you so.”

While it’s certainly disappointing to see hundreds of jobs leaving Dubuque, that doesn’t negate the 11 years of employment the company provided. Even if we had known IBM’s time in Dubuque would end in 2020, it was a deal that still made sense.

The excitement around 1,300 jobs infused into Dubuque’s economy was dampened over the years, as IBM did not maintain those kinds of employment numbers for long. Still, IBM pumped hundreds of millions of dollars in salary into the local economy.

Another silver lining lies in the historic building that takes up a whole block along Locust Street.

The Roshek Building has become a community centerpiece. It represents who we are: a community that cares for and about its old buildings and, in many cases, lovingly restores them to their former glory.

Three years ago, the city was relieved of its obligations as a guarantor on loans used to renovate the building. Would the transformation of the Roshek Building have taken place had IBM not come to town? That’s hard to know for sure, but it’s unlikely.

As IBM’s staffing levels ebbed, other companies’ flowed. Late last year, Cottingham & Butler and Heartland Financial USA announced plans to purchase the Roshek Building, with plans to spend at least $2.85 million on improvements to the structure. The companies collectively have committed to creating at least 32 new full-time positions.

It’s difficult to see Dubuque lose an employer, especially one the size of IBM. Our hearts go out to all those who will find themselves unemployed. Economic development deals are never ironclad or perfect, but IBM was worth the investment for the 11 years it was here.

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