Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. Aug. 15, 2020

The Big Ten and Pac-12 became the first Power 5 conferences — those eligible for the college football national championship — to cancel fall play last week, putting caution ahead of pressure.

The decision came abruptly after both leagues had promoted conference-only football schedules. Iowa and Nebraska reportedly opposed cancellation.

The Southeastern Conference, the Big 12 -- including Iowa State -- and the Atlantic Coast Conference will play on.

President Donald Trump called cancellation “a tragic mistake.”

Big money is at stake. ESPN estimates college football generates $4 billion annually. In 2019, Iowa football revenue was $81 million and ISU $51.9 million.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 cancelled after medical experts described a serious complication from COVID-19: myocarditis.

It’s a sometimes fatal heart condition that can be caused by a viral infection. Ten players in Big Ten preseason football camps were diagnosed with it, including Indiana offensive lineman Brady Feeney,who went to the emergency room with breathing problems.

It causes 9% of fatal heart attacks among college athletes.

Myocarditis ended the season for Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, 27, and the lives of Michael Ojo, 27, a former Florida State basketball star playing overseas (months after “recovering” from COVID-19), and a 19-year-old former Washington state high school football player.

The Pac-12’s medical advisory team cited an editorial in the July 27 Cardiology issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association concerning a study of 100 recovering COVID-19 patients.

Seventy-one days after recovery “78% had demonstrable cardiac involvement via cardiac magnetic resonance imaging, 76% had detectable high-sensitivity troponin (proteins in heart muscle fibers regulating muscular contraction) and 60% had evidence of active myocardial inflammation.”

It concluded, “We are inclined to raise a new and very evident concern that cardiomyopathy and heart failure related to COVID-19 may potentially evolve as the natural history of this infection becomes clearer.”

Gung-ho Pac-12 football coaches reversed field.

“Whenever you start mentioning the heart, that is a whole different deal,” one coach told The Athletic. “That got everybody’s attention. When you hear that even people who are asymptomatic can get heart issues, that’s what I think really scared people. It is a novel virus — what do we really know?”

COVID-19 outbreaks temporarily benched the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals baseball teams while attacking college football teams during preseason practices.

Defending national champion Louisiana State had 30 cases; preseason favorite Clemson, 37.Others included Iowa (plus two basketball players), Iowa State, Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Alabama, Mississippi, Auburn, Florida State and UCLA.

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, formerly athletic director at the University of Northern Iowa and Iowa, defend its decision, which includes coronavirus testing three times per week as well as an EKG, troponin blood tests, an echocardiogram and a cardiac MRI.

“We know there can be complications with this virus, so positives have to be dealt with very carefully,” he said, “and follow-up and return-to-play has to be carefully managed and appropriately diagnosed.”

The Football Championship Series schools (formerly I-AA), including UNI, postponed football until spring 2021. NCAA Division I followed Divisions II (Upper Iowa University) and III (Wartburg College) by delaying all sports until spring. The Power 5 leagues oversee their own football.

Iowa high school boys and girls will play on as will prep athletes in 38 states, although Colorado, California, Illinois and Minnesota are among those delaying or canceling fall sports.

Iowa schools will rely on limited protocols, including temperature checks and questions, but no testing owing to limited resources. Masks will be encouraged, not required. Face shields must be attached to helmets.

Recommendations include not allowing players to congregate for coaching instructions, expanding sideline boxes, no pregame handshakes and timeouts every four minutes of running time to sanitize and hydrate.

If summer baseball and softball are any indication, problems await.

The tally by early July was 25 baseball teams and 20 softball teams sidelined temporarily (Cedar Falls boys and girls included) or permanently (top-ranked Des Moines Dowling’s baseball team) by COVID-19.

We’ll soon find out if the business “nearly-as-usual” advocates made the right call rather than more cautionary folks relying on medical advice.

Our position reflects a Pac-12 coach’s comments to The Athletic regarding players infected with COVID-19 developing heart conditions.

“Everybody else seems to be saying, ‘We can identify (myocarditis).’ Do they just take him out (of action)? What if he has long-term issues from it? If there’s a kid who had a heart issue on my team, I’d be very afraid. We want to prevent them from getting it.”

While the absence of sports has created a great void, the truly “tragic mistake” would be ignoring medical science — as many federal and state officials seem wont to do — which results in otherwise preventable fatalities.


Fort Dodge Messenger. Aug 14, 2020

Iowa farmers have been punished by weather, trade fights

It’s time to find a solution to help them move forward

In the best of times, farming is full of risk.

So much of a farmer’s livelihood depends on circumstances beyond their control. They must have faith that seeds will germinate and grow as expected, that livestock will remain healthy and that the weather will be favorable. The weather is a big factor, the ultimate unknown that farmers must deal with.

Recently, the weather has not been a friend to Iowa farmers.

For much of the summer, the state has been in a drought that is judged to be extreme in at least some places.

Then came Monday’s storm. It brought rain, but probably not enough to quench the drought. Worse, it packed high speed winds that flattened crops and wrecked many bins full of grain

That storm came in the aftermath of a couple years of trade disputes with China that greatly reduced exports. Those trade disputes were supposed to be settled by what officials have called the Phase One agreement between the United States and China. Under that agreement China is supposed to buy $36.5 billion worth of American agricultural products. Obviously, Iowa farmers would benefit from that agreement, but there seems to be some question if China is going to hold up its end of the deal.

Plus, the world is still dealing with the coronavirus pandemic that nearly crippled the economy.

All of those things combined must have some farmers close to despair when they look at their financials. And when Iowa farmers are hurting, the rest of the state is, too.

It’s time for famers to get some help.

We don’t presume to have the answer for this situation. Instead we call on government agencies and farm groups to work together to devise a plan that will get farmers through this latest series of problems.

Iowa’s future demands nothing less.


Dubuque Telegraph Herald. Aug. 15, 2020

Iowans deserve better explanation of state positivity rates

Iowa public health officials and a spokesman for Gov. Kim Reynolds have offered differing, conflicting and incomplete explanations as to how the state is calculating 14-day positivity rates for COVID-19.

After repeated requests for information about how the state is arriving at the percentages posted on its website, state officials responded to the Telegraph Herald, resulting in stories on Wednesday and Friday. But the answers they gave didn’t bring much clarity.

The TH has for months tracked and reported the number of positive cases and tests completed for Dubuque County and neighboring counties, based on the state’s website. When the state changed its site on May 19 to begin updating in real time instead of once per day, the TH began reporting those numbers twice per day, at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to have daily benchmarks to compare. At the outset, the state confirmed that the test number being reported was in reference to test results in, as opposed to tests given.

Therefore, it became clear that by dividing the number of new daily positives by the number of new daily test results, that would provide a positivity percentage that could be telling over time. For instance, in late June, the overall county positivity rate was about 5.5%. Today, it is about 8.2%.

That rate became even more significant when the state announced in late July that the 14-day positivity rate would be one of the criteria used to determine when schools might need to close. Immediately, the TH began to report a 14-day positivity rate, as did the state.

Only the numbers didn’t match up, and the state-provided percentages were significantly lower. School district officials and readers alike were confused by this.

When a TH reporter sought an explanation from the Iowa Department of Public Health spokeswoman, the answer from Amy McCoy was that the state-issued 14-day positivity rates were derived by adding up the “daily percentage of individuals positive” for each day over the course of two weeks and dividing that total by 14.

After the TH reporting of that method began to raise mathematicians’ eyebrows, a spokesman from the governor’s office gave a different answer on Thursday.

Pat Garrett reframed the state’s method for calculating such rates as the sum total of positive cases from 14 days divided by the sum total of total individuals tested over those 14 days.

But since that lined up with the TH’s methodology — and many others, when asked to calculate a 12-week average — why did discrepancies remain?

To that, Garrett had this to say, “It doesn’t make sense for school districts and, frankly, newspapers to constantly calculate something and expect to get the exact same result as our website.”

Well. We beg to differ.

During a recent two-week stretch analyzed by the TH, 76 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Dubuque County reported on the state website were not factored into the state’s 14-day positivity analysis. It still is unclear why, but the result was undeniable — a much-lower positivity rate.

This isn’t advanced calculus. If there are other factors at play, it could be that either the number of new positive cases reported by the state daily or the number of new test results reported by the state daily isn’t accurate.

That is something the citizens of Iowa clearly want and need to know. The state’s elaborate website is clearly meant to be transparent about public health information, but its value is diminished if the accuracy of the daily numbers is in question.

The state could take a lesson from math teachers across the state, many of whom are looking at this state website to assess their own risk in going back to the classroom. As those teachers instruct their students, the state must “show its work.”

Citizens, school districts and, yes, even newspapers have a right to understand how state officials are calculating this critical number, especially because it serves as a bellwether of the risk to schoolchildren and their teachers.

During this public health crisis, an accurate explanation of the numbers is essential, and Iowans should continue to demand that from state officials.