Des Moines Register. Feb. 11, 2021.

Editorial: A silver lining of this pandemic: Iowans are connecting with health care providers

Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines recently received an unexpected allocation of COVID-19 vaccines. It quickly organized a weekend “pop-up” clinic, made appointments over the telephone and got shots into the arms of more than 1,000 eligible Iowans, including seniors, child welfare workers and teachers.

“People were really happy to be here,” said hospital spokesperson Katie Wengert.

Iowans who may not have previously visited Broadlawns got a firsthand look at the dedicated staff and excellent care provided by Polk County’s hospital. They will return for a second dose of vaccine in a few weeks and may choose to return later for other health services provided there.

Therein lies a silver lining of this pandemic. Iowans are connecting to health care providers. If you didn’t have a physician or know your local pharmacist before, needing a vaccine may change that. We’re reconnecting with family doctors, talking on the phone to nurses and discovering the important work done by county health offices.

And the federal government is working to ensure more people have health insurance to pay for their care, instead of working to dismantle the law that makes health care more affordable for millions of Americans.

Ryan Frerichs, head pharmacist and owner of Meyer Pharmacy in Waverly, administered about 400 initial doses of COVID-19 vaccine by early February. He is giving shots to his own eligible customers as well as dentists, emergency responders and other health care providers in an effort organized by the county.

He said the additional work — which includes meetings, setting up online scheduling systems, numerous incoming phone calls and figuring out the logistics of providing first doses to some while simultaneously delivering second, booster doses to others — is worth the effort.

“It’s extremely rewarding as a health professional,” he said. “You can just feel the relief” people experience when they receive a shot.

They are grateful. They will always remember these vaccinations.

The pandemic is opening people’s eyes to the fact that pharmacists are highly trained practitioners. Some of us are relying on them for shots that may save our lives. We are realizing they are easily accessible, have vast knowledge and provide numerous other vaccinations. Many of us see our pharmacists more often than our family doctors.

COVID-19 vaccinations are helping to forge health care relationships that will extend beyond the current crisis.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden is working to make sure health insurance is available to more people.

Shortly after taking office, he signed an executive order directing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish a special enrollment period for people to obtain coverage through exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act. The agency quickly announced a three-month period that begins Feb. 15.

Starting next week, Americans who need insurance, including those who have lost jobs, can visit to find private coverage. Many will receive federal subsidies to help pay for it, and the lowest-income people will be connected to Medicaid.

After four long years, this country again has a president who understands the importance of health insurance to help cover the cost of hospitalizations, prescriptions and mental health care. He knows insurance pays the doctors, hospitals and pharmacists who have been there for us during this pandemic. We will need those providers going forward.

This is what working to make America great for average people looks like.


Dubuque Telegraph Herald. Feb. 12, 2021.

Editorial: Iowa choosing vaccine system vendor should have been done weeks ago

The Iowa Department of Public Health on Monday awarded an emergency contract to Microsoft to develop and deploy an online registration system to schedule COVID-19 vaccination appointments. Meanwhile, IDPH said it would announce today which contractor had been selected to operate a vaccine call center.

An optimist might say, “Better late than never.”

An Iowan might say, “Why weren’t we planning for this?”

Nearly two months after the first vaccine doses began arriving in Iowa, the state is just now putting structure into place to facilitate scheduling distribution.

While Iowans have been lamenting the meager share of vaccine the state has received, the state has been ill-equipped to manage the distribution of the doses it does have. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data this week has shown Iowa at the bottom of the list in its ability to distribute vaccine.

Last week, IDPH put out an emergency request for proposals, giving potential vendors just one day to respond with a plan for distribution.

A one-day notice calling for RFPs? Awarding “an emergency” contract? Did the fact that we needed to facilitate vaccinating millions of people come as a surprise to Iowa officials?

Here’s hoping Microsoft can do what the state has not been able to manage and quickly facilitate getting the precious vaccine into the arms of Iowans.

No doubt there will be some trepidation as students and teachers head back to school full time on Monday, Feb. 15. But take heart, the science over the last several months shows schools are safer than most people would have suspected.

A recent article published in the journal of the American Medical Association by key scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at schools that had held in-person instruction throughout the fall. The research showed no evidence of significant COVID-19 spread in schools.

“The type of rapid spread that was frequently observed in congregate living facilities or high-density worksites has not been reported in education settings in schools,” the report noted.

While that won’t allay all fears, it should bring some comfort. This is scientific evidence, after all, not just speculation.

The decision of whether to return to full-time, in-person learning is a weighty one, with ballast on both sides.

While families worry about the possibility of virus transmission, we also have learned more about the emotional and academic impact remote learning has had on students, particularly those who were already at risk. That scenario will take a toll as well and might affect student trajectory for years to come.

Godspeed to all teachers and students back to school full time next week. Here’s hoping for a safe and engaged learning environment.

Soil health might seem like a topic only farmers and gardeners would care about. But new efforts to make improvements in this area could lead to creating healthier watersheds, improving water quality, flood resiliency and mitigating climate impacts.

Dubuque County has embarked on a set of programs that seek to engage farmers in the conservation program.

By benchmarking and tracking stewardship on a field-by-field basis, scientists can glean key information for farmers and conservationists alike. Better still, the program financially compensates farmers for their participation based on stewardship improvement over time. Meanwhile, farmers will learn more about the kinds of practices that can help improve soil health — and their bottom line.

This is just one piece of the county’s efforts, but a big one. The county is now earnestly searching for farmers interested in participating. Interested participants can contact County Watershed Program Director Eric Schmechel at or call 920-327-0908.


Fort Dodge Messenger. Feb. 12, 2021.

Editorial: Ernst, Grassley press EPA on biofuels. Bill they co-sponsored will benefit all Americans

Here in the Midwest, we are well aware of the environmental benefits of clean burning ethanol and biodiesel. But not everyone realizes just how good those fuels are for the air we breathe.

Unfortunately, some of the people who are not up-to-date on the benefits are at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, setting rules for the use of biofuels.

That’s why Iowa’s United States senators, Joni Ernst and Charles Grassley, have joined other Midwestern senators in introducing a bill that would require the EPA to update its thinking in a way that will ultimately be good not only for corn and soybean growers, but all Americans.

The legislation is called the Adopt GREET Act. GREET stands for Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use Act in Transportation Model. That’s a big mouthful, but the bill can be essentially boiled down to one key requirement. That requirement would force the EPA to rely on the most recent scientific research that shows that greenhouse gas emissions from ethanol are 46 percent lower than those from gasoline.

Less greenhouse gases in the air are better for everyone. The EPA’s work should reflect that.

The bill would also require the EPA to update its data on biofuels every five years.

This proposal is a bipartisan effort. Republicans Ernst and Grassley have introduced the bill with senators John Thune, R-South Dakota; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota; Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota; and Dick Durbin, D-Illinois.

So much good can be accomplished with this legislation. It will reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It will provide steady markets for corn and soybean growers. It will create and protect good-paying jobs at the plants where biofuels are produced.

For those reasons, we call on Congress to pass this bill and we urge President Joe Biden to sign it promptly.