COVID-19: Archived Updates

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.