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White House moves toward promoting face masks to fight virus

By ZEKE MILLER and MIKE STOBBE

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is formalizing new guidance to recommend that many Americans wear face coverings in an effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus as the president defends his response to the crisis.

“Because of some recent information that the virus can actually be spread even when people just speak as opposed to coughing and sneezing — the better part of valor is that when you’re out, when you can’t maintain that 6-foot distance, to wear some sort of facial covering,” the top U.S. infectious disease official said Friday on “Fox & Friends.”

But Dr. Anthony Fauci also made clear that the aim is not to “take away from the availability of masks that are needed for the health care providers who are in real and present danger of getting infected from the people that they’re taking care of.”

The recommendations were expected to apply to those who live in areas hard hit by community transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19. A person familiar with the White House coronavirus task force’s discussion said officials would suggest that nonmedical masks, T-shirts or bandannas be used to cover the nose and mouth people go outside — for instance, at the grocery store or pharmacy. Medical-grade masks, particularly short-in-supply N95 masks, would be reserved for those dealing directly with the sick.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the proposed guidance before its public release.

President Donald Trump, who was tested again for coronavirus Thursday using a new rapid test, indicated he would support such a recommendation. The White House said Trump’s latest test returned a negative result in 15 minutes and Trump was “healthy and without symptoms.”

Dr. Deborah Birx, the task force’s coordinator, told reporters that the White House was concerned the mask guidance would lead to a “false sense of security” for Americans. She said new data shows the administration’s social-distancing guidelines were not being followed to the extent necessary to keep virus-related deaths to a minimum.

The discussions on face masks came as the White House defended its handling of the pandemic, particularly its efforts to speed the distribution of ventilators and protective equipment needed by medical professionals.

Trump sent a letter to Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York objecting to Schumer’s criticism of the administration’s response. “The Federal Government is merely a back-up for state governments,” Trump wrote. “Unfortunately, your state needed far more of a back-up than most others.”

Trump said states should have done more to stockpile medical supplies.

Vice President Mike Pence also announced Thursday that the White House was considering direct payments to hospitals to cover COVID-19 treatment costs for the uninsured.

The emerging guidance on masks appeared to be more limited than a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention draft that suggested the recommendation apply to nearly all Americans, according to a federal official who has seen the draft but was not authorized to discuss it on the record.

Officials were expected to limit the geographic scope to just those areas where the virus was spreading rapidly, the official said. An announcement was expected as soon as Friday.

Under the previous guidance, only the sick or those at high risk of complications from the respiratory illness were advised to wear masks. The new proposal was driven by research showing that some infections are being spread by people who seem to be healthy.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

On Wednesday, Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, urged his city’s 4 million residents to wear masks when they’re in public. On Thursday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio followed suit in his city, the epicenter of the virus’ spread in the U.S.

In response to recent studies, the CDC on Wednesday changed how it was defining the risk of infection for Americans. It essentially says anyone may be a considered a carrier, whether that person has symptoms or not.

The virus spreads mostly through droplets from coughs or sneezes, though experts stress that the germ is still not fully understood.

U.S. officials have been telling people to stay at home as much as possible and keep at least 6 feet (2 meters) away from others when they do go out. Other advice includes frequent hand washing and not touching your face.

But until now federal officials have stopped short of telling people to cover their faces out in public.

Scientists can’t rule out that infected people sometimes exhale COVID-19 virus particles, rather than just when coughing or sneezing, but there isn’t enough evidence to show if that can cause infection, according to a committee convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to advise the White House.

The question has to do with whether the new coronavirus spreads mostly by droplets that don’t linger for long in the air or also by tinier aerosolized particles. Certain medical procedures, such as inserting breathing tubes, can create those tiny particles, which is why health care workers wear close-fitting N95 masks during such care.

The World Health Organization on Monday reiterated its advice that the general population doesn’t need to wear masks unless a person is sick. Since the epidemic began in China, the WHO has said masks are for the sick and people caring for them. WHO’s epidemic chief Dr. Mike Ryan noted the risks from an improperly fitted mask or from someone improperly putting it on or taking it off.

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Stobbe reported from New York. AP Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard contributed to this report.

Ottumwa/Wapello County landfill & recycling center re-opens

The Ottumwa/Wapello County Landfill and Recycling Center is returning to normal hours. The landfill is now open weekdays from 7am to 4pm and Saturdays from 8am until noon.  Curbside trash and recycling pickups will be done weekly as normal.  Also, curbside yard waste and pick-up of bulky items will resume normal pick-up operations.  On Ottumwa’s south side, yard waste will be picked up on Tuesdays, with north side pickups on Thursdays.

Powerball jackpots shrink as people stay home

Look for Powerball jackpots to get even smaller as the coronavirus keeps more people at home, not out buying lottery tickets. It was only last week that the Powerball Product Group announced it would cut guaranteed jackpots in half and reduce the minimum amount the big prize could grow between drawings. On Thursday (4/2), the organization said it would toss out even those guarantees and instead decide new jackpots and increases prior to each drawing. The leaders of Mega Millions, the other national lottery game, haven’t said if they will make similar changes to that game.

Brown Promoted to Head Men’s Soccer Coach at Penn

Oskaloosa-William Penn Athletics Director Nik Rule is proud to announce the hiring of Simon Brown as the University’s new Head Men’s Soccer Coach.

Brown is being promoted from Associate Head Men’s and Women’s Soccer Coach, a position he has served in the past three seasons.  Over the last three campaigns, he helped the men’s squad to a 39-18-2 record (23-11 Heart), highlighted by a record-breaking 2019 campaign.  WPU finished 15-5-1 overall, took second in the Heart of America Athletic Conference at 9-2, was ranked inside the top 10 in the NAIA, and earned its first-ever berth to the NAIA National Championship.  The squad broke numerous records, mostly notably for wins and goals.

“We are really excited to have Simon as our next head men’s soccer coach,” Rule said.  “He has worked extremely hard the last few years at the University and is uniquely prepared to continue to build on the success that the program has had recently.  His vision and commitment to the big picture of what it means to be a student-athlete has been noticed during his time with the program.  His ideas for enhancements in the future were well thought out and fit directly in line with our culture.”

The Statesmen women owned a 23-30-2 mark (9-24-1 Heart) the last three years as well.

“I am over the moon to be the next men’s soccer coach at William Penn and build upon our recent success,” Brown said.  “I look forward to competing at the highest level within the NAIA and making this team a consistent national powerhouse.  With the support of the players, our alumni, and the University, the sky is the limit for this program in the coming seasons.”

Brown, who is replacing Jaymee Highcock who was the head coach from 2015-2019, started his collegiate coaching career at Hastings College (Neb.) where for two years he served as a graduate assistant on the women’s team and a volunteer assistant on the men’s squad.

In his first year at Hastings, he was the goalkeeper coach and helped the women’s keeper earn Great Plains Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year laurels.  In his second season, he was the forwards coach and guided three players to first-team all-conference recognition, including one being named GPAC Offensive Player of the Year.

While at Hastings, the women’s squad won two GPAC regular season titles (perfect 21-0 league record) and a trip to the NAIA National Tournament.  Brown also helped the men to the 2016 NAIA title.  Academically, Brown received his Master’s of Physical Education from Hastings in 2017 as well.

Brown’s coaching background also includes time at alma mater Ashford University (volunteer assistant coach) as well as with the Bettendorf Soccer Association (head coach of U-13 girls and U-14 boys teams) and with Pleasant Valley HS (assistant varsity and head JV coach).  He coached the U-18 Lincoln Maroon squad as well, guiding the team to a third-place finish in the Nebraska State Cup and a first-place finish in the Nebraska U-19 league.

A 2013 graduate of Ashford with a degree in Finance and Business Administration, he was a team captain of the 2013 team that reached the NAIA national semifinals.  Brown was also a member of the 2012 team that also advanced to nationals.  He was named a Capital One Academic All-American.

Prior to being at Ashford, Brown was a captain for North Iowa Area CC and led the team to a conference title.  An Honorable-Mention All-American, he collected a Second-Team Academic All-NJCAA accolade as well.  Brown also played for the Quad City Eagles while in college, helping the squad to two division titles.

A native of Dublin, Ireland, Brown owns a USSF Coaching C license and NSCAA Goalkeeping Level 1 and 2 certificates.  He is also a current Olympic Development Program Coach with Iowa Soccer.

“I want to thank several people, who without them, me being in this position would not be possible,” Brown said.  “My parents and family back home in Ireland for supporting me 10 years ago to come to America and pursue my soccer dream. My college coaches Mike Regan and Richard Markham, who recruited me, as well as Corbin Stone and Chad Lewis who gave me my first coaching job.  Also, to Chris Clements, formerly of Hastings, who gave me my first collegiate coaching job.  Finally, to Jaymee Highcock, and Nik Rule for hiring me, taking a chance on me.  Also, a big thanks to every other coach who helped me along the way.”

Brown becomes the 10th coach in program history.

Greater Ottumwa PIP receives grant from John Deere Foundation

The John Deere Foundation has awarded a $76,000 grant to Greater Ottumwa Partners in Progress—formerly known as the Ottumwa Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Organization.  The money will be used for technology upgrades and redeveloping the downtown area.  Up to $15,600 will also go to the Ottumwa Community School District to pay for all Ottumwa High juniors to take the ACT college admission test.

A record 6.6 million seek US jobless aid as layoffs mount

By CHRISTOPHER RUGABER

WASHINGTON (AP) — More than 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week — doubling a record high set just one week earlier — a sign that layoffs are accelerating in the midst of the coronavirus.

The stunning report Thursday from the Labor Department showed that job cuts are mounting against the backdrop of economies in the United States and abroad that have almost certainly sunk into a severe recession as businesses close across the world.

Applications for unemployment benefits generally reflect the pace of layoffs. Combined with last week’s report that 3.3 million people sought unemployment aid two weeks ago, the U.S. economy has now suffered nearly 10 million layoffs in just the past several weeks — far exceeding the figure for any corresponding period on record.

Some of last week’s jobless claims are likely delayed filings from the previous week, when state offices that handle unemployment benefits were overwhelmed by a surge of online and telephone claims.

The accelerating layoffs have led many economists to envision as many as 20 million lost jobs by the end of April. That would be more than double the 8.7 million jobs lost during the Great Recession. The unemployment rate could spike to as high as 15% this month, above the previous record of 10.8% set during a deep recession in 1982.

Many employers are slashing their payrolls to try to stay afloat because their revenue has collapsed, especially at restaurants, hotels, gyms, movie theaters and other venues that depend on face-to-face interaction. Auto sales have sunk, and factories have closed.

More than two-thirds of the U.S. population are under stay-at-home orders, imposed by most U.S. states. That has intensified pressure on businesses, most of which face rent, loans and other bills that must be paid.

The White House and Congress expanded the unemployment benefits system in last week’s $2.2 trillion economic rescue package. That legislation added $600 a week in jobless aid, on top of what recipients receive from their states. This will enable many lower-income workers to manage their expenses and even increase their purchasing power and support the economy.

It also makes many more people eligible for jobless aid, including the self-employed, contractors, and so-called “gig economy” workers such as Uber and Lyft drivers.

Kathryn Lickteig, a cook in Kansas City, signed up for unemployment compensation last week after the city shut down dine-in restaurants. She is hopeful that the extra $600 will help her ride out the shutdown instead of having to look for an interim job.

“It has eased my mind so much,” she said. “I do not have to actively go out and expose myself to the public and possibly get sick. I can stay home now and do my part in social distancing.”

The legislation will also help fund unemployment benefits for workers whose hours have been cut. That would enable these people to replace some of their lost income with unemployment aid even as they keep their jobs.

About 26 states allow workers with reduced hours to claim benefits. Most economists support doing so because it encourages companies to cut back on hours rather than lay off workers. Any program that encourages companies to maintain connections with their workers can help the economy rebound faster after the virus outbreak is contained.

Typically, people who receive jobless aid are required to actively look for a new job and to document their searches. But Congress has passed other legislation that encourages states to drop that requirement, given that so many businesses are closed, and most Americans have been ordered to stay mostly at home.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said this week that just 6% of companies surveyed by Moody’s say they’re hiring — down dramatically from 40% in the weeks preceding the coronavirus outbreak. The plunge in hiring underscores the difficulty that anyone out of work would have finding a new job.

On Friday, the government will issue the March jobs report, which economists forecast will show a loss of 145,000 jobs. That report is based on data gathered mostly before the spike in layoffs began two weeks ago. Though relatively small, that loss would still end a record-long 113-month streak of job growth.

Numerous state unemployment agencies have struggled to keep up with the flood of applications for jobless benefits. New York’s Labor Department asks people to file on different days depending on their last names. Monday, for example, is reserved for those last names that start with A through F.

De Groot appointed Mahaska Chamber & Development Group Director

Deann De Groot, who has been serving as the Interim Mahaska Chamber & Development Director for the past few weeks, officially became the permanent Chamber Director on April 1st.  De Groot will be responsible for leading the Chamber’s efforts in economic development, workforce, housing, and tourism/quality of life.

“We are very excited to have Deann become our Chamber Director. She has been a part of the Chamber staff for 9 years, so she is a known commodity and already has a lot of connections in the Mahaska County area. We are confident that with Deann’s leadership she will be able to take our organization and community to the next level,” stated James Feudner, Mahaska Chamber & Development Board President.

De Groot started at the Oskaloosa Area Chamber in 2011, after returning from Ames where she was the intern at the Ames Chamber of Commerce. She has been the Office Manager, as well as the Mahaska County Agricultural & Rural Development Director. She will continue to lead efforts in Mahaska County through business development, county-wide tourism, and workforce initiatives.

De Groot is from Oskaloosa and graduated from Pella Christian High School. After high school, she attended Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa and received her Associate of Arts degree. She then continued her education at Iowa State University graduating with a degree in Business Marketing. Deann is married to Layton and they have 3 children, Raegan, Jayde and Logan. Deann has previously served on the Mahaska County Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Board and is involved with church activities. Deann enjoys spending time with family and friends, cleaning, and working on projects around the house.

Penn’s Maciel and Papes Earn Volleyball Honorable Mentions

Oskaloosa-Pedro Maciel (Fr., Belo Horizante, Brazil, Psychology) and Ike Papes (Fr., Elwood, Ill., Sports Management) concluded strong first collegiate seasons by being named to the all-Heart of America Athletic Conference men’s volleyball teams that were announced Tuesday.

Both individuals received honorable-mention status, joining seven other student-athletes with that distinction.  A total of eight players were named to both the first and second squads as well.

The award is the first two in the history of the WPU men’s volleyball program.  The duo led the navy and gold to a 6-15 mark, including a 2-9 record in the Heart; the campaign was ended prematurely due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Maciel finished 2020 with 197 digs (2.94 digs per set) in addition to 39 assists, seven aces, and two kills.  He tallied 12 double-digit dig performances, highlighted by a 20-dig effort against Indiana Tech on February 8.

The freshman paced the Heart in digs per set and was second in total digs.  Nationally, Maciel was ninth in dig average and 13th in total digs.

Papes ended the season with 270 kills (3.97 per set) on a .165 attack percentage.  He also tallied 87 digs, 41 blocks (11 solos, 30 assists), 23 aces, and five assists.  The freshman recorded two double-doubles (kills and digs) and had 14 double-digit kill showings.  His year concluded with a season-best 27-kill performance against Clarke on March 10.

Papes ranked second in the league in both total kills and kills per set, while being fourth in the Heart in total aces and fifth in aces per set (0.34).  Within the NAIA, the freshman was 10th in kills, 11th in kill average, and 23rd in aces.

Felix Chapman of Grand View was honored as the Heart Player and Attacker of the Year, while his teammate Francisco Arrendondo was named league Setter of the Year.  Mount Mercy’s Ben Steffen collected the Heart’s Defensive Player of the Year accolade, and Joao Vitor Bonanoni of Missouri Valley earned the Freshman of the Year award.  Donan Cruz of Grand View was picked as Coach of the Year by his peers.

For the complete all-Heart list, go to http://www.heartofamericaconference.com/awards/0/24.php?skipMobile=1

Absentee ballot forms to be sent to all Iowa voters

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate says the state will mail an absentee ballot request form to every active registered voter in the state — for voting in the June 2 primary.

“The June 2 primary election will go on as scheduled.  Because it’s important for Iowans to make their voices heard by voting.  And the safest way to vote will be by mail.”

Mahaska County Auditor Sue Brown says you can ask for a ballot online at Mahaska Elections.org.

Ottumwa man accused of making threats

A man is in custody in Ottumwa for allegedly threatening to set fire to the Ottumwa Regional Health Center and also for allegedly making a bomb threat at a local motel.  Wapello County law enforcement says 63-year-old James Galbo, with no permanent address, threatened Friday night (3/27) to place an incendiary substance and set it on fire” inside the Ottumwa Regional Health Center lobby.  Galbo was arrested and charged that night.  Then around 6:15 Saturday morning (3/28), while Galbo was in the Wapello County Jail, he allegedly called 911, saying there was a bomb threat at a local motel.  The criminal complaint says that was a fake report and that Galbo knew that.  Galbo is being held in the Wapello County Jail on $10,000 cash only bond.

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