Des Moines Register. Nov. 24, 2020

Iowa nursing homes are in crisis; Gov. Kim Reynolds should bring in the Iowa National Guard to help

Troops could deliver meals, ensure proper use of protective equipment, coordinate visits with family and assist understaffed facilities.

When a restaurant’s cooks, servers and delivery drivers must quarantine because of COVID-19, the business has little choice but to close. The same goes for schools, banks, hair salons and other establishments that are abruptly and temporarily closing.

But nursing homes cannot just hang a sign on the door and close when staff are sick or need to isolate. Their patrons are living there. Staff need to provide around-the-clock care.

Iowa nursing homes are in serious trouble.

As of Tuesday, the state was reporting 144 COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities. Iowa defines an outbreak as three or more residents or staff testing positive. Nearly half of the Iowans who have died from the disease were nursing home residents.

The COVID-19 fire is raging in long-term care facilities. This is a crisis.

Gov. Kim Reynolds should call on the Iowa National Guard to provide assistance.

“We are in a war here,” said John Hale, a consultant and advocate for Iowa seniors who supports the idea of asking troops to help. He is understandably frustrated with state staffing guidelines for long-term care facilities that allow staff who test positive to continue working.

This “plays Russian roulette with residents,” Hale said.

The state’s guidelines, which includes suggestions to share staff and create work groups, assume there are enough workers to share, trade, relocate or call in. There are not. There are also not new job applicants banging down the door to work at COVID-19 hot spots.

Iowa already had a shortage of caregivers, and now the situation has gone from bad to worse.

It makes sense to utilize the National Guard.

During this pandemic, governors across the country have called on troops for everything from transporting supplies to helping with call centers to building medical field hospitals.

Members of the Texas National Guard were recently mobilized to El Paso to help with a morgue crisis as the state battles a surge in coronavirus deaths. Three-dozen troops are providing “mortuary affairs support,” such as helping move bodies, according to the Texas Division of Emergency Management.

Reynolds has relied on Guard members to assist at Test Iowa sites and with contact tracing for people who test positive for the virus.

In nursing homes, troops could perform important tasks such as ensuring protective equipment is used properly and delivering meals to residents. They could help facilitate teleconferencing or outdoor, distanced visits between residents and loved ones, which is desperately needed.

Too many long-term care facilities have banned visitors from the grounds, even posting guards at parking lot entrances. This prevents family and friends from visiting, even across a balcony outdoors.

Residents have already lost community meals and activities. Some are told they cannot leave. Widows and widowers eat alone in their rooms. They may not know how to use email or teleconferencing tools to connect with others. They may have a hard time hearing on the phone.

Banning visitors exacerbates isolation, loneliness and depression, which contribute to declines in health.

Additional staffing from the National Guard could make all the difference in improving quality of life and safety in long-term care facilities. Troops also bring expertise in medical care, logistics and other areas.

Reynolds has the authority to call up troops to respond to emergencies.

Iowa’s long-term care facilities are in a state of emergency.

Where will the $14 million for nursing homes go?

Gov. Kim Reynolds recently announced that long-term care facilities in Iowa will receive $14 million from the state’s share of federal coronavirus relief funds to help with staffing and testing needs. The best use of this money would be providing immediate bonuses directly to certified nursing assistants and other direct care workers.

Caregivers have long been in short supply. They are underpaid, frequently lack benefits, and are now putting their lives on the line to take care of our most vulnerable Iowans during an infectious disease pandemic.

Valuing them by financially rewarding them is the least Iowa can do.


Quad City Times. Nov. 29, 2020

Help in a time of need

We all know that 2020 has been an immensely challenging year.

The coronavirus pandemic has turned out lives upside down. We went through a spring shutdown, months of anxiety and, now, we are seeing surging infections that have left our health care providers and households overtaxed and anxious. Worse, we have lost too many in our community to the terrible effects of COVID-19.

All have been affected by the twin effects of the coronavirus and the economic fallout that resulted. But we know the most vulnerable among us face the greatest risks. That includes those who have little financial cushion, or who don’t have health insurance.

As we head into the holiday season, we hope that Quad-Citians will think about those most in need; that we will realize the blessings of our own good fortune and seek to share it with others.

It is with that in mind that we humbly ask that you turn some of your attention this holiday season to the Quad-City Times Wish List campaign, which is marking its 21st year.

In the days leading up to the holidays next month this newspaper will feature articles about several Wish List recipients, who have been nominated by non-profit agencies in this area.

Then, readers will have the opportunity to donate to meet the needs of these people and their families.

As we have seen over the years, the needs vary widely and are considerable.

Some examples:

Last year, a young family needed money to repair their van, so they could get to work and medical appointments.

A single mom from Rock Island who slept with her children on mattresses on the floor of her rental unit wanted money for beds and clothing.

A Davenport man in his 50s with a disability needed financial help to rid his home of bed bugs so he could go back to work at the social service agency that had become like a home to him.

Another disabled man, in his 60s, needed money for a better wheelchair.

Yet another example: A Rock Island woman wanted money just so she could get a table and some chairs so she and her children wouldn’t have to sit on the floor to eat their meals.

Often, the wishes are quite basic. They aren’t extravagant, just for the kind of help that will make their lives a bit easier. Other times, the need is greater.

These stories are many, unfortunately. But your donations can help reduce their number.

The United Way Quad-Cities coordinates the application process for Wish List and reaches out to the dozens of social service agencies in search of nominations.

This year, nominations from agencies are expected by Dec. 4. Organizations whose nominees will be highlighted in the newspaper will be notified by the middle of next month.

Wishes will be granted by the end of December and throughout January, as donations are available.

Since 1999, nearly a half millions dollars has been raised for Wish List recipients. The money goes to nominating agencies, which then use the funds to help the recipient.

Our news staff then will follow up with recipients in order to let you know how your generosity has affected their lives.

People who would like to give to Quad-City Times Wish List can donate by sending checks to United Way Quad-Cities, 852 Middle Road, Suite 401, Bettendorf, Iowa, 52722, or by visiting Donations may be designated to a specific wish. However, once a wish is fulfilled, your gift will be used to grant any additional wishes.

Please do not mail contributions to the Quad-City Times, and do not mail cash, either. A check or money order should be made out to “Quad-City Times Wish List.”

We understand that needs are great this year. Throughout the pandemic, we have seen and paid tribute to many organizations and individuals who have risen to the challenge of these unprecedented times to raise and donate money to help others.

The Quad-City Times Wish List is our own modest contribution to helping those who are in need. It also is our chance to help people understand the stories of those who often go unnoticed; those who struggle even in normal times and at all times of the year, but who during the holiday season have special wishes that need fulfilling.

We hope that you will be generous this year.

The pandemic has challenged us like never before, but we also know it has brought out in so many the spirit of giving that is one of the ways the Quad-Cities distinguishes itself.

We thank you for your consideration.

The pandemic has challenged us like never before, but we also know it has brought out in so many the spirit of giving that is one of the ways the Quad-Cities distinguishes itself.


Fort Dodge Messenger. Nov. 28, 2020

Koch Fertilizer project will be economic bonanza

Company to invest $140 million in local plant

On the south side of Webster County Road D20 about halfway between Fort Dodge and Duncombe is a sprawling maze of tanks and pipes that is the local Koch Nitrogen plant.

Every year this facility churns out hundreds of thousands of tons of nitrogen-rich fertilizer. It is a key element in the agricultural economy.

It is about to get some major upgrades.

Company executives have announced a plan to invest $140 million in the site, boosting production capacity by 85,000 tons annually. The work is expected to begin next year and be done by the fall of 2022.

This will be the latest in a series of upgrades Koch Fertilizer has conducted there since buying the plant from Farmland Industries.

Whenever a company announces such a big investment, it is logical to ask how many jobs will be created. Although some local officials have speculated that such a large increase in production will inevitably create new jobs, company officials haven’t said so.

Whether or not any new permanent jobs will be created, we must not lose sight of the enormous positive impact the project will have. When the work really gets underway, there could be as many as 1,500 employees of various contractors working at the plant. That means there will be 1,500 more people shopping in local stores, eating in local restaurants and even staying in local hotels.

And as the project progresses Koch Fertilizer will be ordering materials and supplies locally, across the state and perhaps even nationally. That means more money being pumped into the economy at a time when it’s really needed.

Upgrading that fertilizer plant promises to be an economic windfall.

We are pleased that the leadership of Koch Fertilizer sees fit to continue investing in our county. We believe that those investments are a reflection of the high quality local workforce which keeps the facility running smoothly and efficiently.