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Newscast 08.17.23: New COVID-19 variant causes concern, but Iowa rates remain low; Iowa's jobless rate steady at 2.7%

Iowa COVID-19 Rate as of August 17, 2023
Iowa COVID-19 Rate as of August 17, 2023

COVID-19 levels are on the rise across the country. That’s due to a new omicron subvariant called EG-5.
The World Health Organization has identified it as a quote variant of interest.

Nancy Wilde, the manager of infection prevention at UnityPoint Health, says this variant appears to be more contagious, but doesn’t appear to cause more severe illness. However, she says Iowans will want to take precautions to avoid getting sick.

"Even though when we look at severity, and we say it's not as severe, you can still feel pretty puny for a few days, even if you're a healthy individual. So if you can avoid that it's better."

Wilde says Iowans should check with their doctor for advice and to make sure they are up to date on their COVID vaccinations. Especially those who are older or have underlying illnesses.

Iowa COVID-19 levels remain low. Over the last week, Iowa had 53 new COVID hospital admissions (1.7 for every 100,000 residents).

The state unemployment rate held steady at two-point-seven percent for the third straight month in July. Iowa Workforce Development spokesperson Jess Dougherty says the number of people entering the workforce continues to increase. He says the workforce participation rate has steadily worked its way back since the pandemic.

Iowa unemployment rate for July
Iowa unemployment rate for July

Some economists say they see concern among businesses about ongoing inflation and the state of the national economy. Dougherty says that is an issue in Iowa as well.

Grants from the Iowa Veterans Trust Fund are meant to be used for things like car or home repairs or medical expenses. But since the COVID-19 pandemic, money for the grants has been dwindling.

The Iowa Veterans Commission ran out of money when it raised income and asset tests for the grants and the governor used pandemic relief funds to address the deficit. Fund managers are recommending grants again be limited to veterans at no more than 200% of the federal poverty level who have no more than $15,000 in assets that could be quickly converted into cash.

According to the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs, there are 185,000 veterans living in Iowa and 6% of them are at or below the federal poverty line.