COVID-19: Archived Updates

March 18, 2021

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Wednesday that all adult Iowans will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine beginning on April 5. That change is expected to be made so long as the federal government follows through on plans to soon double the vaccine shipments to Iowa, from 100,000 to 200,000 per week.

The increased supply will come partly due to Iowa’s recent addition of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine to the vaccine offerings from Pfizer and Moderna. More than 595,000 first doses have been administered in the state so far.

The rules until April 5: The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) issued an amended 1-B Supplemental Vaccine Shortage Order that became effective on March 8, 2021. This order essentially opened up availability of vaccinations to people under the age of 65 who might be at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 due to medical conditions listed here, as well as the remaining tiers under phase 1B. Vaccine providers must follow the priority as listed per tier. This does include food, agricultural and manufacturing staff ONLY IF they work in or live in congregate settings that do not allow for social distancing. Please contact your local county health providers and vaccination sites for specific local information on which population group they are accepting for vaccination appointments. In limited cases, if there is any excess vaccine, they may vaccinate populations outside of these tiers.

Meanwhile, March 2, 2021 was our last weekly COVID-19 Manufacturers Weekly Roundtable.  We thank all of the attendees for the strong attendance over this last year of the COVID-19 pandemic. In its place, at the same timeslot of 7:30 a.m. each Tuesday, we commenced our weekly Business Resiliency Webinar Series. This series is intended to be a 30- to 45-minute weekly look at what it takes to keep your business flexible and able to overcome disruptions. Each week, we’ll take lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and use them to help you examine your own company to build a resilient business and prepare for the post-COVID world. For more, contact Marc Schneider at maschn@iastate.edu or register to attend here. Recent (available in our webinar library) and upcoming topics include:

March 2        Last Roundtable – COVID/Vaccine Update
March 9        Introduction to Business Resiliency
March 16      Diversify your Lead Generation
March 23      Government Contracting to Create Growth During Disruptions
March 30      Preparing your HR policies for the next disruption.
April 6           Developing a Resilient Leadership Team
April 13         General COVID-19 Updates
April 20         Leveraging On-Line Meeting Tools
April 27         Financial Planning for Business Disruptions
May 4           Growing Your Business Via Exports
May 11         Using technology to make your factory more agile.
May 18         General COVID-19 Updates
May 25         Finding better suppliers (supplier scouting).
June 1          Managing Business Risk
June 8          Developing a flexible labor force.
June 15        Using TCO tools to Reduce Supply Risk
June 22        General COVID-19 Updates

We also continue to add materials to our COVID-19 Webinar Library, including:

Current supply chain issue updates include:

  • There continues to be a large number of container ships waiting to berth and unload at the ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, along with similar delays not being seen at other West Coast and Gulf ports. While this condition may improve slightly, it is expected to continue through the summer or longer due to increased demand for consumer goods, changing sailing schedules and reduced efficiency and capacity at the ports due to the pandemic.
  • Vaccine distribution suffered some set-backs during the recent weather issues but has since now recovered.

As the world economy continues to recover from the pandemic, the demand for commodities has increased, including food products to China. Export of some of these items are hampered by limited export capacity or containers at US ports.

February 15, 2021

Today is the day Iowa schools were required by state law to begin offering full-time in-person learning despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Iowa legislators passed the requirement at the same time state officials are struggling to distribute coronavirus vaccines. On Friday, the state announced that it will withhold the next shipment of vaccine to five counties that did not use up at least 80 percent of the vaccine they were given last week.

Iowa currently is in Phase 1B, Tier 1 of the state’s vaccine distribution plan.  This includes vaccinations for anybody remaining in the phase 1B population (healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities), people over 65 years old, and certain populations that have a high risk of exposure – including first responders, school/education employees, and childcare workers.  You can refer to the Workforce Considerations section of the CIRAS COVID-19 Business Resources webpage for links to the various vaccination education and support resources.   We have also provided downloaded examples of vaccination policy templates that companies may use to formulate their own internal policies:

Mandatory Vaccine Policy Template
Voluntary Vaccine Policy Template

Other updates to our website include:

We also continue to add materials to our COVID-19 Webinar Library, including:

Join CIRAS at our weekly Manufacturers Roundtable every Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. for the latest updates and discussions of various COVID-19 topics, including the vaccination effort.  Upcoming scheduled topics include:

  • Manufacturing technology and Industry 4.0 on Feb. 16th
  • Building a Resilient Business on Feb. 23rd
  • COVID-19 Vaccination update on Mar 2nd

Current supply chain issue updates include:

  • The COVID-19 vaccination effort continues in Iowa with 410,771 total doses administered including nearly 195,000 individuals receiving their first does and 108,000 receiving their second.  Iowa’s vaccination effort continues to lag behind the national average.
  • BDO Consulting Group has released the results of a recent survey indicating that 22 percent of manufacturers surveyed said they will reshore their firms to the U.S., with many saying supply chain stability is the factor most critical to the recovery of the manufacturing industry.  See the 2021 BDO Manufacturing CFO Outlook Survey for the full results.
  • The American Shipper publication reports the container ship backlog at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach continues with no end in sight.  As of February 11, there were 25 ships berthed at the docks and 32 ships anchored waiting for a berth.  The average wait time is eight days.  Capacity remains tight due to reduced availability of ships to fill sailing schedules, increased cargo volumes, and COVID-19 impacts at the docks.
  • As a reminder, Chinese New Year starts on February 12, 2021, and ends on February 22, 2021, with many manufacturers and businesses in China and other Asian countries closed during this period.

January 11, 2021

Iowa businesses are able to apply for forgivable loans beginning today. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) reopened today for new borrowers and certain existing PPP borrowers.

The U.S. Small Business Administration released new guidance for the program last week. Check with your local lender for specific details.

Elsewhere, CIRAS has added various links and summaries of available information on the COVID-19 vaccination and its distribution within Iowa to the Workforce Considerations section of our COVID-19 Business Resources webpage:

IPDH COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy
IPDH COVID-19 Vaccination Information for the Public
IPDH Infectious Disease Advisory Council (IDAC) COVID-19 Vaccine and Therapeutics Priority Distribution Framework
Iowa’s Immunization Registry Information System (IRIS)

CDC’s Updated Planning Guidance on Allocating and Targeting Pandemic Influenza Vaccine during an Influenza Pandemic
CDC’s COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook for Jurisdiction Operations
CDC’s Roadmap to Implementing Pandemic Influenza Vaccination of Critical Workforce
Operation Warp Speed
CDC COVID Data Tracker – Vaccinations

IPDH’s Jan. 8th Webinar on COVID-19 Vaccine Information for Business, Industry, & Agriculture

We have also summarized the available information on vaccine distribution and considerations for your workforce in two roundtable presentations which can be found in our COVID-19 Webinar Library.  Some of the latest additions to this library are listed below:

Join CIRAS at our weekly Manufacturers Roundtable every Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. for the latest updates and discussions of various COVID-19 topics, including the vaccination effort.  Upcoming scheduled topics include:

  • Management Best Practices during a Pandemic with Rob Taylor on January 12
  • Updates of the latest CARES Act developments on January 19
  • Digital Marketing success stories on January 26

Current supply chain issue updates include:

  • The distribution of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine continues within the United States.  Per the latest numbers from the CDC on January 8, 22.1 million vaccine doses have been distributed.  However, the actual vaccination effort is lagging, with only 30 percent of that vaccine, or 6.7 million doses, having been distributed to-date. Shipments of the second dose of the vaccines have recently commenced.
  • Within Iowa, the state Department of Public Health indicates that Iowa is receiving between 14,000 to 15,000 vaccine doses per week and this number is expected to double next month.  The vast majority of the doses received have been administered to the targeted populations in Phase 1a of healthcare providers and long-term care residents.  Information on the timing of later phases has not yet been finalized.
  • The increased demand for electronic items (partially driven by consumers isolating at home due to COVID-19) has created supply gaps in semiconductor ships. The auto industry is starting to slow down production or have temporary short-term shutdown of select production lines to match production to available supply.
  • Container imports into the U.S. were strong at the end of 2020 and are expected to remain so during the first part of 2021. The industry is anticipating fewer reductions in capacity over the Chinese New Year period out of Asia compared to previous years.
  • As a reminder Chinese New Year starts on February 12, 2021, and ends on February 22, 2021, with many manufacturers and businesses in China and other Asian countries closed during this period.

December 12, 2020

Up to 172,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine could begin arriving in Iowa this weekend after what appears to be an imminent approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Reports say the FDA is expected to approve the drug either late Friday or early Saturday, kicking off vaccine distribution around the country.

At-risk populations in Iowa could start receiving the vaccine as early as the end of this month, potentially beginning with nursing home residents and health care workers shortly before Christmas.

Meanwhile, CIRAS is continuing to add information to our COVID-19 Webinar Library. The latest additions include recordings of our weekly COVID-19 Manufacturers roundtables and podcasts:

Current supply chain issue updates include:

  • Ocean capacity remains limited versus demand coming out of Asia to North America, especially to West Coast ports. Ocean and intermodal volumes are expected to remain high, with capacity issues until at least Chinese New Year.
  • Outbreaks of COVID-19 cases at the port of Los Angeles/Long Beach, along with a few selected East Coast ports, have reduced their capacity. This, combined with the higher seasonal container volumes has led to congestion in the ports and inland hubs with potential transit delays for containerized freight across the U.S.
  • Additional state COVID restrictions across the country (e.g. California stay-at-home order, Chicago travel restriction, New York travel ban, Minnesota 14-day quarantine for travelers through December 18, etc.) may impact business.

November 9, 2020

Iowa counted its 150,000 COVID-19 case over the weekend, roughly eight months after public announcement of the first case and less than a month after the 100,000th case.

The milestone came two days after Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, citing the state’s work “to find a balance to protect the lives and livelihood of Iowans,” announced a program to provide emergency aid for Iowa movie theaters. The program will provide up to $10,000 per screen to assist Iowa’s nearly 150 movie theaters (housing approximately 550 screens) with operational expenses.

Meanwhile, CIRAS is continuing to add information to our COVID-19 Webinar Library. The latest additions include recordings of our weekly COVID-19 Manufacturers roundtables and podcasts:

Under Workforce Considerations we have created a series of “mini-webinars” with the initial installments including:

We also have added Contact Tracing resources to our Protecting Your Business webpages. These include:

Other additions to our COVID-19 Business Resources webpages include:

Current supply chain issue updates include:

  • Ocean container shipping capacity from Asia to the United States and the rest of the world is currently very tight. This is due to a combination of retailers building 4th quarter stocks, holiday season shipping, and continued economic rebounds.  As a result, rates per containers continue to be strong.
  • The surge in shipping has led to port congestions and delays in the U.S, especially on the west coast.  This has cascaded to congestion and delays at inland intermodal hubs, including Chicago.
  • US freight market continues to experience strong rates and demand versus available supply.  See heat-maps on demand for U.S. transportation by mode at https://freight.ftrintel.com/coronavirus.
  • Spikes in COVID-19 activity in Europe have driven new lock-downs or restrictions in Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland, Belgium, and the Czech Republic (joining UK and others).  To date, these have not had large impacts on manufacturing and shipping activity.

October 9, 2020

Iowa had the sixth-highest coronavirus transmission rate in the country last week, according to a White House coronavirus task force report that was released Thursday by the Iowa Department of Public Health. According to the Oct. 4 report, “Community transmission has remained high across the state for the past month, with many preventable deaths.”

Recent COVID-19 exposures on the national stage, including infections tied to the White House and professional football teams, have increased the visibility of the impacts that a positive COVID-19 exposure can have.

Meanwhile, CIRAS is continuing to add information to our COVID-19 Webinar Library. The latest additions include recordings of our weekly COVID-19 Manufacturers roundtables:

We also have added the following to our COVID-19 Business Resources webpages:

Other updates related to supply chain issues include:

  • US domestic trucking network capacity remains very tight creating upward price pressure with shippers.
  • Boeing is predicting the global market for aircraft will decline next year and that the entire industry will take several years to recover.  This will have knock-on effects on suppliers and other firms in the aerospace industry and supply chain.
  • Amazon’s rescheduled two-day “Prime Day” is next week (October 13 and 14), and there could be potential delays in express and parcel deliveries overall as the level of e-commerce has increased significantly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

September 17, 2020

Iowa bars reopened Wednesday in Polk, Dallas, Linn, and Black Hawk counties after Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds cited “changing public health conditions” that she said made it prudent to rescind much of a closure order issued on August 27. For now, that order still applies to Johnson and Story counties.

In other news, CIRAS has added the following recordings of our weekly COVID-19 Manufacturers roundtables to the COVID-19 Webinar Library:

As a reminder, you can find food industry specific information on our COVID-19:  Food Industry page, including the archive of the previous food industry roundtables.  We also have added:

Other updates related to supply chain issues include:

  • Demand for ocean freight from China to the USA is outstripping supply resulting in a significant increase in container rates.  This demand is related to shipments being pulled forward due to the upcoming Chinese Golden Week (Oct 1–7), a switch to higher inventory levels (for both defensive and e-commerce reasons), and a recovering economy.
  • From a building materials and infrastructure material perspective, distributors are reporting that the supply of lumber is recovering from the surge in demand over the summer; however, electrical components and power transmission equipment is in short supply due to a series of natural disasters across the U.S. (Midwest derecho; hurricanes in the South and South-East).
  • There are reported delays from suppliers in the current COVID-19 international hotspots including Brazil, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and India.  In other areas (e.g. Asia), suppliers seem to have recovered but are still working through order backlogs.
  • The U.S. freight network continues to experience spot congestion and delays due to demand recovering faster than carriers are returning capacity to the network.

August 27, 2020

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds this week allocated roughly $100 million of CARES Act relief funding for farmers, producers, and agricultural industries that have been damaged by COVID-19. The money will flow through a variety of programs administered through the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. More details can be found here.

Meanwhile, CIRAS beginning in September will consolidate the weekly Manufacturing and Food Industry roundtables into a single weekly event held at 7:30 a.m. every Tuesday. If you are already registered for either roundtable, you will be registered automatically for the new single weekly roundtable.  If you would like to attend the roundtables for the first time, you can register here.

We have added the following recordings of our weekly COVID-19 Manufacturers and Food Industry roundtables, to the COVID-19 Webinar Library:

We also have added the following guide/white paper under Protecting Your Business:

 Other updates related to supply chain issues:

  • Several areas of the country continue to experience COVID-19 hotspots in terms of new infections. The list includes California, Texas, Georgia, and Florida.  If you have customers or suppliers in these regions, they may be experiencing spot supply chain disruptions.
  • The dual tropical storm/hurricanes Laura and Marco that are hit the Gulf Coast this week may also create disruptions to supply chains in those regions.
  • The group FTR Transportation Intelligence has created a U.S. freight COVID-19 intelligence web page which provides freight recovery indices for rail and truck freight as well as COVID-19 impact heat maps for truckload volumes and spot rates within the United States. These are useful for determining local market impacts on the freight market.

August 14, 2020

Iowa ended the week with more than 50,000 COVID-19 cases and storm-related disaster declarations in more than two dozen counties.

Meanwhile, CIRAS has added the following Selling to the Government webinars to the COVID-19 Webinar Library under Protecting Your Business -> Restoring Revenue:

We have also added the following recordings of our weekly COVID-19 Manufacturers and Food Industry roundtables, to the COVID-19 Webinar Library:

And, you can now find the following guides on PPE on the Supply Chain Disruptions page:

Other updates related to supply chain issues:

  • Trans-Pacific freight volumes are trending higher during this pandemic than initially forecasted, driving up freight rates.
  • Temperature-controlled warehousing capacity is tightening as manufacturers adapt to new consumer buying habits and anticipate increased pharmaceutical volumes due to COVID-19.
  • The reopening of schools and universities is driving new demand for PPE and cleaning & disinfection supplies.  Available supply of some of the brand-name products remains tight.

August 3, 2020

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds will resume 11 a.m. press conferences this week to provide Iowans with regular updates on COVID-19. The Tuesday and Thursday news conferences were announced two weeks after Reynolds released new guidelines for school re-openings and a week after she reauthorized social distancing requirements for bars, restaurants, and other public establishments.

In other news, CIRAS has decided to halt in-person events because of the coronavirus pandemic and move to online-only education through at least December 31, 2020.

As a result, we have built a library of online webinars to serve as useful business resources for Iowa manufacturers and other companies impacted by COVID-19.  All previous webinars and podcasts have been relocated to this library, including our weekly Manufacturers & Food Industry roundtables and our webinars and podcasts related to various COVID-19 support and business recovery topics.

Check back often, as we will continue to add content to this page.

Other CIRAS website news:

Other updates related to supply chain issues:

  • Supply chain industry players continue to report high demand for available and planned warehouse space driven by the ongoing pandemic and increase in e-commerce.
  • Parcel and express transport companies reportedly are starting to increase their rates with shippers due to the high demand for their services and increase in residential deliveries because of the pandemic.
  • The U.S. government and pharmaceutical companies are planning for the mass distribution of potential COVID-19 vaccines down the road.  It is anticipated this will have major impacts to the logistics and transportation industry and capacity on a global basis as capacity is redirected to vaccine distribution.

July 23, 2020

Iowa City’s mayor this week announced an order mandating cloth face coverings in public. This joins a string of other coronavirus-related restrictions implemented by cities and counties across the country – including the city of Chicago, which recently added Iowa to a quarantine list. Travelers entering Chicago from Iowa are required to quarantine for 14 days.

More on protection:

The topic of last week’s Manufacturers Roundtable (including the Food Industry Roundtable) was performing an assessment of your company’s COVID-19 Preparedness – a way to gauge potential problems as firms deal with resuming production, staff returning from remote working arrangements, and the recent spikes in COVID-19 infections. A link to a recording of this session can be found here. Companies can perform this assessment internally, or can engage CIRAS to help them conduct a no-cost assessment.

This week’s roundtable topic is Return to Business Visits. A link to the recording of this session can be found here.

CIRAS website news:

Other updates related to supply chain issues:

  • Severe summer rains have created flooding in China’s Yangtze River region, including Wuhan, and has delayed shipments of PPE to the U.S. by several weeks. The delays are expected through July at a minimum.
  • From a recent Reuters article, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has placed a halt order on import of rubber gloves from one of the top global suppliers, based in Malaysia, due to concerns over forced labor. They note that global consumption of protective gloves is expected increase by more than 11 percent to 330 billion pieces this year, two-thirds of which are likely to be supplied by Malaysia.
  • YCR Worldwide (previously known as Yellow Freight), the fourth largest LTL carrier in North America, received a $700 million loan from the U.S. Department of Treasury via the CARES Act in exchange for the government taking a 30 percent equity stake to help it avoid bankruptcy. There has been some push-back in the justification that YCR is critical to the defense supply chain; however, this step will help limit further short-term disruptions in trucking capacity for shippers in the U.S.

July 7, 2020

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds is placing $490 million of the $1.25 billion in COVID-19 relief funds that Iowa is receiving through the CARES Act into the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. State officials say this is a move to keep unemployment taxes stable for Iowa employers in 2021.

At the federal level, the U.S. government has extended the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) through August 8 using the current balance of undistributed monies for funding. This program was originally scheduled to end after June. Going forward, 60 percent of any money received from the program needs to be used to keep employees on a company’s payroll (down from the original 75 percent criteria). PPP money also can now be used to cover certain expenses for up to 24 weeks, up from an original eight weeks. There may be additional rule changes, so please check here for the latest updates from the Small Business Administration.

CIRAS website news

Reminder – We have changed the platform for our weekly Manufacturing & Food Industry Roundtables from Zoom to Go-to-Webinar. The topics generally are the same for both roundtables each week, though the discussion is slanted towards the respective audience. Each week we cover a new and timely COVID-19 business topic. Register for the General Manufacturing Roundtable here, or go here to register for Food Industry Roundtable.

Recordings of last week’s roundtable discussion of Thermal Screening can be found here.

Other updates related to supply chain issues

  • Trucking capacity within North America generally remains tight as volumes recover, but carriers have been slower to add capacity.
  • Manufacturers of retail and food products continue to narrow their product lines to streamline their supply chains. One of the latest examples is Coca-Cola eliminating their refrigerated products and associated specialized delivery and storage equipment in the supply chain.
  • The food supply chain from farm to factory remains at risk due to COVID-19 outbreaks with the latest concern being fresh fruit coming from the U.S. Northwest which is dependent upon temporary harvest labor.

June 24, 2020

After adding two Test Iowa sites to test for COVID-19 last week, Gov. Kim Reynolds this week announced the closure of two others, leaving a total of 18 after today.  Eight large-scale, drive-thru test sites are located in Black Hawk, Buena Vista, Dallas, Linn, Marshall, Polk, Pottawattamie, and Scott counties. Ten clinic-affiliated sites are also available in Black Hawk, Carroll, Cass, Crawford, Des Moines, Dickinson, Dubuque, Mitchell, Page, and Union counties.

Meanwhile, CIRAS has made several updates involving our COVID-19 website, including:

  • CIRAS is continuing our weekly COVID-19 Manufacturing Roundtables. These free webinars feature a different pandemic-related topic each week, including workforce issues during COVID-19, supply chain trends, return to work plans, temperature screening, and other topics.  Attendees are encouraged to ask questions and share their own examples of best practices with the group.  A general Manufacturers session is held each Tuesday from 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m., and a Food Industry session is held each Thursday at the same time. To register, go to the CIRAS Iowa Business Training, Events, and Workshop Recordings of our recent roundtable sessions can be found at these links:
  • Please note the reminder on our Financial Resources page about the end of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) on June 30. Almost $130 billion in funding still remains. If you have not accessed the PPP funding and are still interested, please contact a local lender NOW. It may take you a couple of days to find a lender, and they need to have time to process the application before submitting it to the SBA. You do not want to wait until June 30.

Other updates related to supply chain issues include:

  • Real estate firms continue to report increased take-up of warehouse capacity in North America because of the growth in on-line business due to COVID-19 and increased inventories across retailers and manufacturers.
  • Domestic freight volumes continue to increase from recent lows, however international freight volumes remain highly variable.
  • As a reminder, the scheduled implementation of the USMCA (United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement) which replaces NAFTA, is July 1 and is not affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

June 10, 2020

Beginning 6/12/2020, Iowa businesses will be able to open at full capacity instead of limiting themselves to 50 percent. However, restaurants, bars, fitness centers, theaters, hair salons, and other businesses still will have to take steps to allow for social distancing, according to a new emergency proclamation signed by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Meanwhile, CIRAS has made as series of updates to our COVID-19 Business Resources website:

  • We have added a specific page on managing COVID-19 in the Food Industry. It can be found here.
  • We have added a link to information on Virtual Recruitment Strategies to our Workforce Considerations
  • Please continue to watch our website for recordings of our weekly COVID-19 Update Roundtables with manufacturers.

Other updates related to supply chain issues include:

  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has extended its national emergency exemption for hours of service to July 14, but it has excluded grocery restocking, fuel, and precursor raw materials from the extension.  Items such as livestock & feed, medical equipment & supplies, and PPE and cleaning products remain included.
  • COVID-19 cases in Mexico are spiking, and the Mexican government may slow down its re-opening plan.  Currently, the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada borders are limited to essential travelers only until June 22.
  • The U.S. transportation industry is reporting some stabilization in volumes and pricing as the economy starts to slowly recover from COVID-19.

May 29, 2020

Iowa’s bars, wineries, and social clubs are now open at 50 percent capacity with casinos, bowling alleys, and outdoor performance venues slated to open on June 1. Details of the most recent proclamation can be found here.

Meanwhile, CIRAS has made a series of updates to our COVID-19 website:

Other updates related to supply chain issues include:

  • There has been an increase in transport companies considering or filing for bankruptcy protection due to decreased volumes and pricing.  Shippers should be prepared with risk mitigation and back-up strategies.
  • The FDA has removed authority for more than 60 China-based distributors of N-95 or equivalent masks to import into the U.S. due to quality concerns.  The current number of China approved masked providers is 14.

May 21, 2020

Iowa will allow museums, zoos, swimming pools, and wedding venues to open beginning tomorrow morning so long as they follow certain hygiene and social distancing restrictions outlined in a proclamation signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds on Wednesday. Movie theaters likewise will be able to open at 50 percent capacity. Summer high school sports activity will be allowed to resume on June 1.

Website Updates – CIRAS has made a series of updates to our COVID-19 resources on our website, including but not limited to:

Other updates related to supply chain issues include:

  • The re-start of auto assembly plants continues, but it is a slow process. Several plants are having intermittent pauses to respond to new infections, supplier issues, or increased cleaning and disinfection.
  • It has been reported that more than 1,200 passenger aircraft have been temporarily converted to carry freight cargo.
  • U.S. ethanol production appears to have hit bottom and has started a recovery with production increases in each of the last three weeks.
  • Most industry analysts anticipate more stable ocean capacity and rates for international shipments for the second half of the year, though there is a temporary over-capacity issue for cargo from Asia to North America due to pent-up supply and reduced ocean sailing capacity.
  • Many manufacturers of consumer products, such as Harley Davidson, are streamlining their product line to focus on production of their more popular items to provide them with a more efficient supply chain and managing fewer parts and suppliers.

May 14, 2020

A wide range of retail establishments can open for business across Iowa beginning at 5 a.m. tomorrow, according to a proclamation Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed Wednesday. The changes permit restaurants (but not bars), fitness centers, libraries, and racetracks to open in 22 counties that previously had been under increased restrictions due to higher COVID-19 activity. Salons, barbershops, and tattoo parlors also are able to reopen throughout the state “with appropriate public health measures in place.”

Other updates impacting Iowa industry include:

  • Mexico has announced a gradual reopening of its economy, stating that industries like construction, mining, and car and truck manufacturing will be allowed to operate beginning May 18 under certain health protocols to protect workers.
  • S. automakers are planning to reopen many of their assembly operations and plants on May 18 after installing protective barriers and other social distancing equipment and implementing new policies.
  • Many meatpacking facilities have reopened with changes as recommended by CDC and OSHA over the past week.  The USDA has released the list of reopened plants here.
  • Retailers have seen dramatic increases in on-line ordering and many have turned to shipping from previous retail-only outlets due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Carriers like FedEx and UPS are working with the retailers to better manage this flow of goods including, at times, some shipment limits to manage capacity.
  • Ocean shipping companies continue to reduce sailings and capacity to better match demand, which is between 20 and 25 percent lower than year-ago levels.
  • Available warehouse capacity in the U.S. continues to shrink as imports (purchased before or at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic) continue to arrive in the U.S. but face decreased consumer and business demand.

May 7, 2020

With some restrictions, Iowa dental offices, campgrounds, tanning facilities, and drive-in movie theaters will be open for business statewide effective tomorrow, according to a proclamation signed by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds earlier this week. Malls, fitness centers and aquatic centers also will be able to open at a reduced capacity in the 22 counties that still face tighter restrictions.

Reynolds today also announced changes to coronavirus.iowa.gov, including new ways to download and look at COVID-19 case data.

Other items impacting Iowa industry include:

  • Mexico has a generally broader shut-down of manufacturers compared to the U.S., and some U.S. factories who receive materials from cross-border suppliers in Mexico may see some disruptions to supply.
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is working with companies to identify and reduce the flow of counterfeit and subpar COVID-19 related products into the U.S., including such items as masks and test kits.  They have identified more than 19,000 suspect internet domain names and have stopped more than 500 shipments so far.
  • The Logistics Manager’s Index reports that logistics activity, including transport capacity, usage, and pricing, has hit an all-time low in April.  The U.S. trucking industry has dramatically reduced orders for truck tractors and trailers.  International air freight has seen dramatic price increases and price volatility.
  • The global apparel supply chain is under considerable stress due to the closure of many apparel retail outlets around the world due to COVID-19.
  • Some retailers have begun to limit meat purchases amid the spot shutdowns of meat processing locations across the U.S.  Overall, there is sufficient protein available in the supply chain; however, there may be spot shortages of specific types or cuts of meat.

April 27, 2020

Restaurants, fitness centers, retail stores, and shopping malls in 77 counties will be able to open at 50 percent capacity beginning May 1, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Monday. The newly lightened restrictions, which the state says applies to counties where COVID-19 activity is low or declining, also includes removal of restrictions on in-person church services.

Reynolds said all limitations currently in place in Iowa’s remaining 22 counties will remain in force through at least May 15. Those counties include: Allamakee, Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Dallas, Des Moines, Dubuque, Fayette, Henry, Iowa, Jasper, Johnson, Linn, Louisa, Marshall, Muscatine, Polk, Poweshiek, Scott, Tama, Washington, and Woodbury.

Monday’s announcement follows the governor’s decision on Friday to ease limits on elective surgeries and farmers markets.

April 17, 2020

Residents of 14 northeast Iowa counties are under new restrictions after Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Thursday signed a new emergency proclamation for RMCC Region 6. The new order limits most social gatherings to only people who live in the same household. It also requires that northeast Iowa businesses a) evaluate whether they can have more staff work remotely; and b) take reasonable precautions against COVID-19, such as implementing employee screening, social distancing in their plants, and increased cleaning and hygiene practices.

Other items impacting Iowa industry include:

  • China has implemented new regulations starting this week that target 11 classes of PPE items for extra inspections. The list includes masks and ventilators, protective clothing, infrared thermometers, surgical goggles and gloves, and medical disinfectants.  U.S. importers are reporting delays in getting export releases from the Chinese government for these items.
  • The $349 billion cap for the Paycheck Protection Program was officially reached on Thursday, and the SBA is unable to take any additional loan applications.  Congress has indicated it wants to expand the cap; however, nothing has been passed at this time.
  • There continues to be sporadic domestic freight delays due primarily to terminal congestion caused by stranded shipments originally meant for now-closed businesses.
  • The recent series of temporary closures of meat processing facilities in Iowa and across the US due to COVID-19 exposures has the potential for limited supply chain disruptions on both the supply of items into the plants and the outbound supply of meat.  Due to the previous high production levels and level of inventory in cold storage, industry experts do not see any widespread impacts, though specific brands or selection of meats may be impacted.

We also have made some additions to this website:

April 10, 2020

The Iowa Department of Public Health today issued a “shortage order” requiring the cancellation of elective medical procedures and minimization of patient contact whenever possible to preserve personal protection equipment. The order also allows medical workers across Iowa to use PPE past its expiration date, to stop changing PPE between patient encounters, and to discharge COVID-19 patients once they become stable. Iowa now has 1,388 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Updates of interest to industry include:

  • Honda, Nissan and Chrysler have extended US plant shut-downs into late April and potentially later.  This follows similar announcements from Ford and GM to delay their planned plant re-starts.
  • Class 8 heavy truck orders are down 50 percent in March from the previous year.  PACCAR extends factory closures to April 20.
  • US transportation capacity is shrinking across all modes as carriers face low rates.
  • The White House’s trade negotiating office assured that it will not impose import tariffs on certain Chinese medical products during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Ocean shipping lines remain concerned about the build-up of inbound containers at their US container terminals. Consignees are refusing to accept shipments because of shut-downs or reduced demand.
  • To ensure continuity of operations of essential functions, the CDC says critical infrastructure workers may be permitted to continue work following potential exposure to COVID-19 — provided they remain asymptomatic and additional precautions are implemented to protect them and the community.  See the recommendations here.

April 6, 2020

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds today announced that the state now has 946 COVID-19 cases in 75 counties. Reynolds also released a new emergency declaration ordering the closure of all malls, social and fraternal clubs, bingo halls, libraries, museums, and campgrounds, among other entities.

Meanwhile, CIRAS has added additional links on the Workforce Considerations section of this website, including a guide to the FFCRA act. We also have added a link to the Iowa State University Library’s summary of PPE specifications and standards.

Other updates impacting industry include:

  • The CDC is now recommending, in addition to a minimum 6-foot separation, the use of cloth masks by all people (including in the workforce).  Per the CDC, surgical and N95 masks should continue to be reserved for the use of medical and emergency services personnel.
  • Some west coast ports are seeing congestion and container storage capacity issues. A large amount of inbound, loaded containers are being off-loaded from ships, but closed businesses are not accepting deliveries.
  • There are starting to be limited, temporary, shutdowns of specific individual offices of supply chain companies (e.g. an Amazon warehouse in Kentucky, US Customs office in Alaska) due to employees testing positive for COVID-19.

March 31, 2020

Iowa passed 400 COVID-19 cases on Monday, as the governor issued a call for Iowans to follow state guidelines and make masks that can be donated to health professionals. CIRAS continues working with Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management to help the agency find sources for 500,000 medical gowns, 500,000 sewn cotton face masks, and 500,000 plastic face shields. Meanwhile, the U.S. government announced that it is extending social distancing guidelines through the end of April.

Other items affecting industry include:

  • Ceva Logistics and DHL Global Forwarding have invoked the force majeure clause in their logistics contracts due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • UPS, FedEx, and Amazon have temporarily suspended some of their service guarantees and premium service transit-times due to COVID-19.
  • Production in China has resumed (on average) to 70 to 80 percent of normal capacity, though the Wuhan area remains on lock-down until early April.
  • Truckload rates to areas hit hard by COVID-19 are increasing due to a lack of back-haul freight.  There are also traffic in-balances in higher shipment volumes for food and related products to grocery stores and significantly reduced volumes to other retail destinations, leading to variability in freight rates.
  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has expanded its list of goods included in the agency’s emergency hours-of-service (HOS) waiver.  Fertilizer, food packaging, and animal feed are now included, as well as raw materials used to manufacture bleach, disinfectants, hand sanitizers and similar items.  These are in addition to the original list of medical equipment and supplies, PPE, food and related raw materials.
  • Ford, GM, and Toyota have begun to shift a portion of their production capacity and resources to assist medical equipment and PPE manufacturers to increase production capacity.
  • Several manufacturers in Iowa have temporarily shut down their operations for a few weeks to protect their workforce from COVID-19 – including Bridgestone, Flexsteel, and Winnebago Industries. Other manufacturers have suspended operations for a few days to conduct environmental cleaning. This includes John Deere in Dubuque and Whirlpool in Amana.

March 25, 2020

President Trump has signed a declaration declaring Iowa a disaster area, state officials announced today. The decision removes a federal spending cap and opens the door for a Community Disaster Loan Program. As of this posting, a total of 145 Iowans now have tested positive for COVID-19, with one fatality.

The more specific impacts to Iowa industry include:

  • Northern European and US West Coast ports have fewer empty containers available to shippers than they traditionally have, but no outright shortages are currently being reported.
  • Many passenger airlines are making available a portion of their passenger fleets for cargo charters due to high demand and higher air freight prices in the market.

March 20, 2020

California residents on March 19 were ordered to stay home except for “essential” travel. New York followed this morning by closing all “nonessential” businesses and ordering most state workers to stay home. Federal authorities have pushed the deadline for filing taxes back to July 15. Meanwhile, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds today signed another Emergency Health Declaration that, among other things, temporarily halts the collection of interest and fees on back property taxes, allows governments to hold public meetings electronically, and suspends evictions.

Some of the more direct impacts to Iowa industry include:

  • The U.S. has reached mutual agreements with the Mexican and Canadian governments to implement restrictions on people traveling across the border, however this does not limit freight movements.
  • Amazon is limiting new receipts of some goods from their third-party resellers to free up space in their network for high-demand goods.
  • The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has issued a national emergency declaration to provide hours-of-service (HOS) regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers transporting emergency relief in response to the nationwide coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This has been expanded to include certain raw materials such as paper, plastic and alcohol. See: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/emergency/expanded-emergency-declaration-under-49-cfr-ss-39023-no-2020-002

March 18, 2020

Iowa restaurants and bars now are closed for everything but take-out and/or delivery business under an order signed March 17 by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds. The declaration of a “State of Public Health Emergency” also orders the closure of adult day care centers and public venues such as movie theaters, gyms, and casinos. Gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited.  The announcement followed a previous recommendation from the governor that Iowa schools close for classes though at least April 13.

Meanwhile, COVID-19’s impacts on Iowa manufacturers continue to ripple:

  • The school closings in Iowa may create some workforce issues with companies as parents may need to stay home to care for their children (or elderly).  Companies should consider alternative working arrangements as feasible to maintain their employees.
  • There are reports of higher levels of competition for domestic shipping as the U.S. food and grocery supply chains struggle to keep up with the spikes in consumer demand and this competition may affect shipping availability for shippers overall.
  • Air freight rates have increased more than 25% from China to the USA due to production picking back up out of China and reduced air freight capacity in the market.
  • The drastic reduction of passenger flights from Europe to North America will also impact the availability of air freight from Europe as the majority of air freight from Europe moves in the bellies of passenger aircraft.  Several airlines are looking to add charter freight capacity to this market, however shippers should expect to see higher freight rates.
  • Reports from China indicate that manufacturing levels are ramping up and shipping bottlenecks are being worked through.  Shippers should remain in close contact with their supply chain partners to understand these impacts.

March 8, 2020

  • Shipping activity to and from China has resumed to near normal levels, however supply chain disruptions will continue to be felt for a while as shippers and ports work through their backlogs; carriers replace capacity, and material works their way through the long lead-times from Asia to North America.
  • Passenger travel continues to drop impacting airlines and air freight capacity.
  • The first confirmed cases of COVID-19 have reached Iowa with three reported cases in Johnson county, all related to their participation on an international cruise in Egypt.
  • Manufacturers of retail and transportation goods should be aware of potential business disruptions from reduced consumer demand from end-users related to COVID-19 (e.g. reduced travel).

March 2, 2020

  • On Friday, February 28, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) raised the global risk level for COVID-19 to “very high”.
  • Airlines have begun to withdraw some capacity from South Korea and Milan due to the COVID-19 impacts on passenger and cargo demand.
  • It has been reported that ship arrivals and container volumes at the Port of Los Angeles are down 25% due to reduced sailings from China.
  • Some U.S. companies have started implementing COVID-19 Response Plans including limited non-essential travel and enhanced facility cleaning activities.
  • Within China the national government has started a push to restart factory production and provinces (outside of Wuhan/Hebei province) have relaxed restrictions to support employees returning to work.  Most factories have re-opened however most are also operating with reduced workforces.
  • The FDA is reporting potential supply chain disruptions for some animal drugs, human drugs, and medical devices.

February 21, 2020

  • Freight forwarders are reporting significant increases in air freight charter rates to/from China, and are expecting short-term general air freight cargo rates rate spikes as production ramps back-up in China.
  • Containerized refrigerated cargo to China is being diverted to alternative ports due to existing reefer plug-in outlets in the ports being fully used due to cargo not being able to move inland.
  • Internal transport (rail, truck) within China is still severely impacted.  Export capacity from southern and eastern China are in a better position than the central and western parts of China but still well below normal levels.  Transport and port activities around Wuhan and Tianjin basically remain at a standstill.
  • The rate of new Infections within China is starting to slow, however infections outside of China are increasing, especially in South Korea.
  • Factories are slowing resuming production in areas outside of the quarantine zones (e.g. in the Shenzhen/Guangzhou area, Shanghai/east coast areas, etc.)
  • There are some initial reports that the supply of available empty containers for loading in North America is getting tight.

February 18, 2020

  • Ships entering ports in Australia, Singapore, the United States and others have various docking restrictions in place until 14 days after they left a Chinese port.
  • Travel bans and limitations in China have slowed the movement of hard-copy shipping documents to ports – a step that is delaying the clearance of import and export shipments into and out of China.
  • Metal industry is expecting a reduction in supply due to a significant part of China’s metal production being based in affected areas.
  • General production in China is likely to be impacted by delays in their full workforce returning to work and a slow, general ramp-up of parts from suppliers to their assembly plants and factories.
  • Ocean carriers have “blanked” or cancelled sailings into China to avoid having empty vessels returning to Europe and North America.
  • Passenger airlines have reduced or eliminated flights to China, reducing belly cargo capacity and impacting total air freight capacity into and out of China.