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COVID booster vaccines available to all Iowans over 18

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The Iowa State Capitol building Friday, July 31, 2020, in Des Moines.

A roundup of state government and Capitol news items of interest:

COVID-19 BOOSTERS EXPANDED: Officials with the state Department of Public Health say COVID-19 vaccination “booster” doses are now available for all Iowans over the age of 18.

Eligibility had been limited to people 65 and older and those who lived or worked in high-risk environments, but state officials say the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has authorized boosters of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for all adults. Those who received a single shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine already were eligible for a booster two months after their initial dose.

To date, 74% of Iowans 18 and over and 71% of Iowans 12 and over have received at least one dose of the vaccine. With the recent authorization of the pediatric Pfizer vaccine, more than 31,000 Iowans ages 5 to 11 also have received their first vaccine. Also, heading into the holiday gathering season, health officials are urging Iowans to get their flu vaccines as soon as possible — noting that influenza activity in the state still is low, but cases have increased in the last week. Vaccine providers can be found at vaccinate.iowa.gov.

NEW 2022 STATE TAX WITHHOLDING TABLES: Officials with the state Department of Revenue have issued updated income tax withholding formulas and tables for the 2022 tax year. The state agency updates withholding formulas and tables each year because individual income tax brackets are indexed annually to adjust for inflation. Employers can find the 2022 withholding formulas and tables online at https://bit.ly/3r1KtEe.

The department also updated the online withholding calculator at https://bit.ly/3nGrkoW to help people calculate their 2022 withholding amounts. Employers will update withholding amounts starting Jan. 1, but employees also can make changes to their Iowa W-4 (withholding) form by contacting their employers.

IOWA SOLDIERS RETURN HOME: Officials with the Iowa National Guard say about 150 soldiers will be honored in a community welcome home ceremony for the 3654th Support Maintenance Company at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday at the Endeavor Air hangar at Des Moines International Airport. Members of the public are welcome to attend. Iowans also can view the ceremony live by going to the Iowa National Guard Facebook page.

The unit — which is based in Knoxville and supported by a detachment based in Oskaloosa — covered a vast area, maintaining military equipment at 22 locations within U.S. Central Command.

The CENTCOM region encompasses 27 countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Members of the company provided a broad spectrum of support — including COVID-19 response teams, Afghanistan retrograde operations, non-combatant evacuation operations and area recovery support.

TIPS TO AVOID SHOPPING SCAMS: Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller’s office is offering consumers some tips heading into the holiday shopping season to avoid scams while facing potential supply chain shortages and shipping delays.

According to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, consumers looking to safeguard their personal information when buying gift cards or shopping online are advised to shop smartly and be vigilant when scouring the internet for hard-to-find gifts through online marketplaces or with retailers you’ve never heard of before. Buyers should pay using a safe method like credit cards and check the rules about refunds and returns, and what happens if there’s a problem.

Other tips are designed to avoid ID theft. The office cautions consumers to be wary of unexpected emails and calls, know the rules for using gift cards, and properly research any donations to charities or organizations seeking contributions.

HARVEST WINDING DOWN: Iowa’s fall harvest activity is winding down as farmers look to a Thanksgiving break.

“A dry weather pattern and seasonal temperatures allowed farmers to wrap up nearly all of soybean harvest last week,” Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig said. “With a lack of rainfall in the forecast, farmers should make good progress on finishing corn as we head into Thanksgiving.”

According to the government’s weekly crop report, dry weather with only spotty light showers allowed Iowa’s farmers six days suitable for fieldwork last week, bringing the corn harvest to 95 percent complete with areas of south-central Iowa lagging behind the rest of the state.

Currently, topsoil moisture levels in Iowa are rated 2 percent very short, 14 percent short, 79 percent adequate and 5 percent surplus, while subsoil moisture levels are rated 6 percent very short, 27 percent short, 65 percent adequate and 2 percent surplus.

EXTRA PAID HOLIDAY: State employees are getting an extra paid holiday Wednesday compliments of Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Alex Murphy, the governor’s communications director, said the day off is in addition to a paid holiday Friday that is covered by Iowa code, enabling state workers to have an extended Thanksgiving holiday period.

“The governor has this authority as chief executive officer of the state of Iowa,” Murphy said in an email. “For those collective bargaining agreements which include provisions covering paid holidays, the state and the respective unions have negotiated terms designating November 24th and 26th as paid holidays.”

Murphy said there is no additional cost incurred by the state because salaries already are covered via each state agency’s annual general-fund budget.

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