Des Moines Register. September 10, 2020

Want one fewer contagious disease to worry about? Get a flu shot.

Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Maintain physical distance from others. Stay home if you’re sick.

By now everyone is familiar with measures to prevent spreading and contracting the novel coronavirus, which has killed about 190,000 Americans.

Another benefit of those measures: protection against the seasonal flu this fall and winter.

Countries in the temperate Southern Hemisphere, where flu activity typically occurs from April through September, are reporting substantially lower numbers of flu and other respiratory infections this year.

Hygiene and distancing efforts intended to reduce the spread of coronavirus transmission “have likely played a role in reducing influenza virus transmission,” according to an Aug. 31 influenza update from the World Health Organization.

That makes sense. And while we can all hope for similar reduced transmission in the Northern Hemisphere during our flu season, let’s not bet our lives on it. Colder weather will drive people together indoors, where they are more likely to share air and viral particles.

So go ahead and get a seasonal flu vaccine. Then you can worry a little less about contracting another contagious illness.

In fact, flu immunization, which is formulated each year based on predictions about which strains will be circulating, is more important than ever, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The vaccine has long been pushed as a way to protect your own health and the health of your friends and family. Now it’s also being encouraged as a way to help reduce burdens on health care systems strained by COVID-19 patients.

The CDC estimates about 400,000 people were hospitalized from seasonal flu complications last year. Immunizing more people could help preserve hospital beds, staff and medical resources needed for COVID-19 patients this year.

A flu vaccine is especially important for people who are older and those with underlying health conditions. Of course, these are the same people who are most vulnerable and need to minimize close interactions with others during an infectious disease pandemic.

Those of us avoiding shared indoor spaces should consider an outdoor flu clinic. HyVee pharmacies, for example, are advertising schedules for “drive-up flu shot clinics” at stores through October.

Iowa pharmacies adapted quickly to the pandemic by offering parking lot, curbside, outdoor and drive-up immunization services, said Kate Gainer, executive vice president and CEO of the Iowa Pharmacy Association.

“An IPA member recently shared a story that he gave a flu shot to someone who had never received one before in his life, and he was comfortable receiving it from his pharmacist through the open passenger side car window in the pharmacy’s parking lot,” she said.

Gainer suggested Iowans should check with their local pharmacies and ask about opportunities to receive a flu shot and perhaps also catch up on other immunizations.

A flu vaccine delivered in circulating, outdoor air is a welcome opportunity right about now.

And it will be a critical model to get people safely inoculated when a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.

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Sioux City Journal. September 6, 2020

It’s time for face mask mandate in Iowa

In this space on Wednesday, we said Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds should, at a minimum, respond to a recent flurry of troubling Iowa COVID-19 news by freeing local leaders to impose and enforce face mask requirements - something prohibited by the governor’s coronavirus public health proclamation.

However, as members of our editorial board have continued to reflect on the disturbing, worsening coronavirus landscape in Iowa, we have concluded a patchwork of local mandates isn’t good enough - even if Reynolds permitted it.

No, we believe what is required in Iowa is a statewide mandate for use of face masks in public.

As a powerful acknowledgement of today’s coronavirus realities in our state and the agreement of health experts on face mask effectiveness, Reynolds should issue a face mask order as nearly three dozen other states have done. The order should remain in effect until proper state and federal health care officials say it’s safe to end it.

As August gave way to September, virus cases in Iowa surged. The state set records for number of new cases confirmed in a single day (1,477) and for its 14-day rolling total of positive cases (11,091). As we write this on Friday, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported another 1,183 positive cases, pushing the state’s total to almost 68,000 cases. More than 1,130 Iowans have died from the coronavirus.

In a report published last Sunday, the White House coronavirus task force said Iowa’s new coronavirus cases per 100,000 population ranked highest in the country, almost triple the national average. Among its recommendations was a statewide face mask mandate. This followed a letter sent to Reynolds in late July signed by nearly 300 Iowa doctors urging the governor to issue such an order.

On Friday, a model released by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation forecast more than 410,000 Americans could die from the coronavirus by Jan. 1, more than doubling the current death toll. That means another 224,000 lives could be lost over the next four months. However, the model predicts near-universal face mask use could reduce the number of projected additional deaths by more than half.

“We are not defenseless against COVID-19,” Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield said earlier this summer. “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus – particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families and their communities.”

A statewide mandate with a promise of enforcement sends the message about the importance of face mask use during this life-and-death public health crisis in stronger fashion than a recommendation too many Iowans ignore.

Frankly, we can’t conceive of a good reason for not having one in place.

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Fort Dodge Messenger. September 11, 2020

CJ Bio America remains committed to community

At a time when wearing masks is increasingly viewed as key to helping stop the spread of coronavirus, many local school students will be appropriately outfitted thanks to the generosity of a company with international reach that has a plant in Webster County.

CJ Bio America has donated about 7,000 masks to the Fort Dodge Community School District, St. Edmond Catholic School, Community Christian School and Manson Northwest Webster Community School District.

Many of those masks came from Seoul, South Korea, where the company’s parent firm, CJ CheilJedang Corp., is located.

The donation to the schools represents just a portion of the company’s recent mask donations. Company leaders estimate that about 30,000 masks have been handed out.

CJ Bio America makes amino acids used in livestock feed and liquid fertilizer in a plant west of Fort Dodge in the industrial park known as Iowa’s Crossroads of Global Innovation.

The company and its employees have proven to be very community-minded since the plant opened in late 2013. Its employees have helped the Lords Cupboard and Meals on Wheels. They have been very involved in various park and community cleanup efforts. However, the virus that has made the masks necessary has put the brakes on most of those cleanup projects.

Recently, the company distributed about $5,000 worth of gift cards to law enforcement, emergency personnel and frontline workers who have been on the job throughout the pandemic.

CJ Bio America and its workers haven proven to be indispensable on projects ranging from picking up tree branches in parks to providing school children with needed masks. We’re grateful that the company opened its first North American plant here in Webster County and continues to be deeply involved in our community.

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