As COVID-19 cases rose across the country – with a daily record of 55,000 reported Thursday – scheduling coronavirus test appointments in Iowa through a free program became impossible before the July 4th weekend.  

Test Iowa sites were closed Friday for the holiday, and on Wednesday and Thursday many of the eight sites were at capacity and not allowing people to schedule appointments online. The City of Dubuque tweeted at 11 a.m. on Thursday that it was unable to accept any more patients at its clinic because of long lines. Test Iowa has locations across the state and is meant to be a free and accessible way for Iowans to get COVID-19 testing. In the past, ample time slots have been available. There has been an increase in scheduled appointments at the sites, said Pat Garrett, spokesperson for the governor’s office. 

Here is a recap of key events of the past week:

Confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to increase: As of 10 a.m. Monday, Iowa had 31,656confirmed COVID-19 cases. All of Iowa’s 99 counties have at least one confirmed case. Clinton County has a total of 113 confirmed cases and one death. Jackson County has a total of 32 cases. The state recorded 17 deaths last week, continuing a downward trend in the last six weeks, bringing the total to 721. At least 2.56 million Americans have tested positive for the virus, according to the New York Times database. More than 125,800 patients with the virus have died. Worldwide, more than 11.4 million people have been sickened by the coronavirus pandemic, and at least 534,425 have died. The virus has been detected in nearly every country.

Ongoing claims drop fifth straight week: Continued unemployment claims in Iowa were 143,488 the week ending June 27, down 9,293 from the previous week, the state reported. The number of initial claims filed were 8,300, up 92 from the week before. The most recent week’s unemployment benefit payments totaled $34 million. Since May 27, almost $1 billion in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) has been paid. 

Local business receives state grant: One more local businesses received a grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority. So far, 68 business in Clinton County and 28 in Jackson County have received about $2.66 million through the Small Business Relief Program. The Iowa Small Business Relief Program grants range from $5,000 to $25,000. The businesses added recently is Free Spirit Yoga Fitness LLC in Clinton County, $5,000. 

Reynolds leaves COVID mask decisions to schools: Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds declined Tuesday to pressure school districts to require students and staff to wear face masks and said the state stands ready to act if COVID-19 infection rates spike again. Reynolds said it should be up to each school district to decide whether students and teachers should wear masks when in-person classes resume this fall. Guidelines issued by state education and health officials give districts information they will need to consider changes if the number of COVID-19 cases spike, including what types of masks to consider, how to launder them, and possible scenarios for group activities.The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention didn’t push most Americans to wear masks when the pandemic started, fearing shortages at hospitals and clinics. Later, when supplies improved, the agency recommended people wear masks in public to protect themselves and others.

Changes in state data on recovery: Reynolds said the state is changing how it counts the number of people who have recovered from the coronavirus. The state previously had not counted as recovered those who didn’t answer messages from state health investigators following up on positive cases, and the recovery rate stood at 62%. Now, any case in which that happens will be counted as recovered after 28 days, which is equal to two incubation cycles for the virus. Using that approach, almost 80% of Iowans who have tested positive have recovered, Reynolds said. 

Proposal allowing secretary of state to mail ballot request forms defeated: A panel of state lawmakers turned down a Democratic proposal Wednesday to allow the Iowa secretary of state to send out absentee ballot request forms to all Iowa voters for the November general election. Pate exercised emergency powers to send out request forms before the June 2 primary, which was widely hailed as a successful election with record participation despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The council turned down the proposal on a party-line vote, 13 Republicans to 9 Democrats. Voters can download an absentee ballot request form online. They must hand-deliver or mail it to the county auditor’s office to receive a ballot. 

Citizens group petitions Reynolds to require masks in public: Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement has started a #MaskUpIA petition drive asking Reynolds to require Iowans to wear masks or other face coverings in public. More than 4,000people have signed the petition since it was posted at midday Tuesday. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says everyone should wear a mask for face covering in public to not only protect others but at least partially protect the wearer from the highly contagious virus.

Iowa is first in the nation to permanently legalize to-go cocktails: Iowa has officially legalized the sale of to-go cocktails, making the COVID-19 fad a permanent fixture in the state. In the past, drinks sold by bars and restaurants had to be consumed on-site. While other states have implemented temporary measures allowing for the sale of to-go cocktails, Iowa is the first one to make it a permanent fixture, said Jessica Dunker, president of the Iowa Restaurant Association. 

Compiled by Nancy Mayfield from Iowa Capital Dispatch and other sources.