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Waterloo councilman calls for public mask mandate

WATERLOO — Councilman Jonathan Grieder is calling for a face mask mandate in Waterloo to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Grieder said he will present a proposal to the full City Council on Monday asking members to adopt a requirement for people to wear masks in public places throughout the city.

He said not enough has been done to stop the virus, which causes COVID-19 infections, and pointed to research from the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization, and other sources showing masks will help.

“We have lost 150,000-plus Americans to COVID-19, which has only been in the United States since the beginning of February, based on current scientific data,” Grieder said. “In addition, over the weekend, we passed a grim milestone here in Iowa, with over 800 Iowans dead, which is faster than what modeling showed we would be at at this point in the year.

“I think I speak for a lot of people that we have not received the support that we need from state-level government or from the federal government on taking this issue seriously so that we can get back to a sense of normalcy, so that our businesses can open quickly, so that our children can go back to school and learn, so that we can combat this virus in a way that will allow us to engage in economic activity.”

Grieder said his proposal would require people to wear masks in all public places but would include exemptions for very young children, persons in medical distress, driving alone, eating in a restaurant, and other situations where proper social distancing can be achieved.

Many cities and more than half the states across the country have adopted similar mandates. But Gov. Kim Reynolds has resisted calls from medical professionals and others to require masks, saying she trusts residents to behave responsibly.

The Iowa Attorney General’s Office has said cities and other local jurisdictions do not have the authority to mandate masks.

Grieder and Councilman Pat Morrissey, who also supports the mask requirement, both said they believe there are court decisions and the state’s “home rule” law that allow a city to enforce a mask requirement in the interest of public health.

Waterloo would not be the first Iowa city to mandate face coverings. Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague issued a mask mandate last week, which was followed by a similar move by the Johnson County Board of Supervisors.

At least one Waterloo council member said she would not support a local mask requirement.

“I am not about fear-mongering,” said Councilwoman Margaret Klein. “I happen to believe that Gov. Reynolds is doing a fantastic job managing this economy through these hard times.

“(Monday) night wasn’t the first time I’ve heard Mr. Grieder bash the political party he doesn’t belong to,” she added. “It has become tiresome, and I believe harms our city’s ability to work well with our state’s leaders.”

Photos: COVID effects on businesses

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8 Over 80: Lillian Thomas shows youths how to make a difference

WATERLOO — Lillian Thomas wasn’t initially sure if she should accept the honor of being in the Eight Over 80 class of 2020.

“I was hesitant,” the 80-year-old said. “I just felt that the journey I had taken in my life — I didn’t do it for any recognition.”

It was her son-in-law, Robert Smith, executive director of UNI-CUE in Waterloo, who finally convinced her.

“He said, ‘Oh, I don’t know why you would be. I think it’s important that young people hear things about the older generation,’” Thomas remembered.

Telling Thomas that young people would benefit from hearing her story was all it took — for one big reason.


Lillian Thomas’ life has been shaped by the ways she’s helped local children find success.

From working in the Waterloo schools to helping start Club Les Dames to serving on local boards helping foster care and abused children to continuing to read with children long after she retired, Thomas’ life has been shaped by the ways she’s helped local children find success.

“I’ve always like to work with youth. I’ve always wanted to make a difference in young people’s lives,” she said.

Born Aug. 9, 1939, Thomas grew up in small-town, segregated Durant, Miss., in the 1940s and 1950s. But she said she was sheltered from much of the era’s racial prejudices and violence by virtue of living in a close-knit, all-black neighborhood.

“We really just looked after each other, protected the children, and the church was in the neighborhood — I really think I grew up in a true village,” she said.

One of her grandfathers lived in Waterloo, and Thomas remembers spending summers here as a child, she said.

After high school graduation, Thomas attended Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss.

“That experience was good, I wish I would have finished the four years — I did two-and-a-half,” she said. “But I came to Waterloo and got a job.”

In Waterloo, she met back up with Clyde Thomas unexpectedly — the two had dated for a time in high school, and like her, Clyde had moved to Waterloo because he had family connections and sought better opportunities.

The two quickly reconnected, had two daughters — Terri and Krystal — and will celebrate 60 years of marriage in December.

“When you love someone, you’re willing to work at it,” Thomas said of her long marriage.

An aunt helped Thomas land an interview with Waterloo Community Schools, where she was hired on as a teacher’s associate, or what’s known today as a para-educator, in a kindergarten class, which she immediately “loved.”

Later, Thomas worked in the library at the Bridgeway Project, the remodeled Grant Elementary School that began in 1970 as an alternative education program for elementary students.

The school’s model was to keep a 50/50 balance of white and nonwhite students, and Thomas said that extended to staff and teachers as well — something she noted was important for students and their parents to see.

“I think, when you get to know people on more of a personal level ... it’s educational,” she said. “You might think that you know me, but unless you have really visited with me and talked with me, our kids played with each other and visited each other’s homes, (you won’t find out) we like the same things you like.

“We all wanted most of the same things for our families: We wanted them to be healthy and productive.”

Thomas ended her career as a home school worker at Waterloo East High School, figuring out the reasons a student would be late or miss school and connecting them with resources like transportation to help get them to class.

“I just felt I wanted to show young people, ‘You can do this, you can make a difference,’” Thomas said. “It takes hard work sometimes. You’re gonna be disappointed sometimes. You might fall down, but you can get up again.”

Thomas has a long list of volunteer work: She’s a charter member of the nearly 60-year-old black female empowerment group Club Les Dames; volunteered in the intensive care waiting room at Allen Hospital and served on Allen’s auxiliary board, including as president; mentored students in Bridgeway’s Reading Buddies program; served as her daughter’s Brownie troop leader and on the Girl Scout board of directors.

She’s also served on the foster children’s review board and on the Family and Children’s Council board of directors; delivered meals to seniors through the Jesse Cosby Center and served on the center’s board of directors; raised funds for KBBG Radio and was elected to serve two terms on Black Hawk County’s 4-H board.

An avid bookworm, Thomas belongs to two book clubs. She’s also served as a Sunday school teacher at Antioch Baptist Church and Sunday school superintendent at Payne Memorial AME Church.

“I’ve always had God first, then myself, then my family,” Thomas said. “Keep those three things in order. Then out of those will come respect, compassion and understanding.

“Live a life of love and respect,” Thomas added. “Treat others the way you want to be treated, and be as productive as you can in your community to make it a better place to live for you and your family — and all families.”

‘You might fall down, but you can get up again.’
— Lillian Thomas

Scientists closer to blood test for Alzheimer's disease

An experimental blood test was highly accurate at distinguishing people with Alzheimer’s disease from those without it in several studies, boosting hopes there soon may be a simple way to help diagnose this most common form of dementia.

Developing such a test has been a long-sought goal, but scientists warn the new approach still needs more validation and is not yet ready for wide use.

But Tuesday’s results suggest they’re on the right track. The testing identified people with Alzheimer’s vs. no dementia or other types of it with accuracy ranging from 89% to 98%.

“That’s pretty good. We’ve never seen that” much precision in previous efforts, said Maria Carrillo, the Alzheimer’s Association’s chief science officer.

Dr. Eliezer Masliah, neuroscience chief at the U.S. National Institute on Aging, agreed.

“The data looks very encouraging,” he said. The new testing “appears to be even more sensitive and more reliable” than earlier methods, but it needs to be tried in larger, more diverse populations, he said.

The institute had no role in these studies but financed earlier, basic research toward blood test development.

Results were discussed at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference taking place online because of the coronavirus pandemic. Some results also were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

More than 5 million people in the United States and many more worldwide have Alzheimer’s. Current drugs only temporarily ease symptoms and do not slow mental decline.

The disease is usually diagnosed through tests of memory and thinking skills, but that’s very imprecise and usually involves a referral to a neurologist. More reliable methods such as spinal fluid tests and brain scans are invasive or expensive, so a simple blood test that could be done in a family doctor’s office would be a big advance.

Last year, scientists reported encouraging results from experimental blood tests that measure abnormal versions of amyloid, one of two proteins that build up and damage Alzheimer’s patients’ brains. The new work focuses on the other protein — tau — and finds that one form of it called p-tau217 is a more reliable indicator. Several companies and universities have developed experimental p-tau217 tests.

Dr. Oskar Hansson of Lund University in Sweden led a study of Eli Lilly’s test on more than 1,400 people already enrolled in dementia studies in Sweden, Arizona and Colombia. They included people with no impairment, mild impairment, Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases.

The p-tau217 test outperformed a host of other measures for indicating which patients had Alzheimer’s as verified by brain scans. It also was comparable to the brain scans and some spinal tests in accuracy.

The Arizona portion of the study included 81 people who had donated their brains upon death, so researchers were able to show that blood testing while they were alive closely matched evidence of disease later.

The Colombia part of the study included people with a rare gene that virtually destines them to develop Alzheimer’s at a young age, typically in their 40s. In those with the gene, p-tau217 blood levels started to rise “around 20 years before symptoms,” Hansson said.

The study’s sponsors include the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Swedish government health groups, the Alzheimer’s Association, many foundations and several companies. Some study leaders work for Lilly or consult for the company.

Two other research groups independently reported evidence for p-tau217 testing at the conference.

Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, found it helped distinguish people with Alzheimer’s from those with another neurological disease — frontotemporal lobar degeneration — with 96% accuracy in a study of 617 people.

Dr. Suzanne Schindler of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, also found p-tau217 better than some other indicators for revealing which patients had plaques in the brain — the hallmark of Alzheimer’s.

“When patients come to me with changes in their memory and thinking, one of the major questions is, what’s the cause? Is it Alzheimer’s disease or is it something else?” she said. If tau testing bears out, “it would help us diagnose people earlier and more accurately.”

Schindler has already launched a larger study in a diverse population in St. Louis. Researchers have done the same in Sweden.

If benefits are confirmed, Masliah, Carrillo and others say they hope a commercial test would be ready for wide use in about two years.