A look back at COVID-19 in Iowa, March 23-29: Deaths increase to 4; total cases up to 336
Social distancing, quarantine and isolation are terms that some are using interchangeably, though their exact definitions are quite important. Wochit
Get more information about COVID-19 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at CDC.gov/coronavirus, or call 211, the Iowa Department of Public Heath's hotline, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Personnel at health care facilities, schools, the state government and businesses in Iowa are taking a series of measures in response to the novel coronavirus, which causes a disease known as COVID-19.
► Looking for the latest? Here's what we know, March 30-April 5.
Here's the latest on what Iowans need to know:
Scoop the ‘Lighted’ Zoo Loop
April 2: Staff at the Blank Park Zoo inspired by teacher parades set-up lighted displays around the parking lot and invites the public to drive from Thursday-Saturday from 8 p.m.-10 p.m. to view the lights.
“We wanted to create an event that allows people to get out of the house, but stay in the car with the windows up and follow social distancing guidelines,” Anne Shimerdla, president and COO said in a news release.
“Blank Park Zoo is a non-profit organization, and we rely on revenue from admissions, memberships, classes, and donations to fund the operations of the Zoo,” Shimerdla said. “We are continuing our mission of excellent animal care, and your generous donations will help out greatly at this time.”
Fourth death reported in Iowa, total cases rise to 336
March 29: One more person with COVID-19 has died, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported Sunday. Officials said there also have been an additional 38 positive COVID-19 tests, bringing the statewide total to 336.
There have now been four deaths in the state attributed to the novel coronavirus. The most recent was an Iowan in Linn County between the age of 61-80 who died Saturday.
The locations and age ranges of the latest 38 individuals who tested positive include:
- Cedar County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Cerro Gordo County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 1 middle-aged adult (41-60 years)
- Dallas County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Dubuque County, 1 child (0-17 years), 2 middle-aged adults (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Henry County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Iowa County, 1 middle-aged adult (41-60 years)
- Jasper County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Johnson County, 2 adults (18-40), 2 middle-aged adults (41-60 years)
- Linn County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 3 middle-aged adults (41-60 years), 2 older adults (61-80 years)
- Marshall County, 1 middle-aged adult (41-60 years)
- Polk County, 2 adults (18-40 years), 2 middle-aged adults (41-60 years) 5 older adults (61-80 years), 1 elderly adult (81+)
- Tama County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
- Washington County, 1 middle-aged adult (41-60 years), 1 elderly adult (81+)
- Winneshiek County 1 middle-aged adult (41-60 years)
- Woodbury County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
Iowa's coronavirus 'peak' might be 3 weeks away
March 29: Iowa’s first “peak” of novel coronavirus infections could still be two or three weeks out, a public health official said at Sunday’s news conference with Gov. Kim Reynolds.
The state announced the fourth death related to COVID-19 on Sunday morning. The Iowan was 61-80 years old and a Linn County resident. An additional 38 Iowans have also tested positive for coronavirus, bringing Iowa’s total confirmed cases to 336.
“It should be every Iowan’s assumption that the virus is currently circulating in their community,” Iowa Department of Public Health Deputy Director Sarah Reisetter said Sunday.
Reisetter and Reynolds expect the total confirmed cases to continue to rise as more people show symptoms and the state’s increased testing capacity shows more results.
“We might see a peak, a first peak, in the next two to three weeks,” Reisetter said, adding that circumstances are changing and that estimate could change as more information becomes available.
Deputy Director of the Iowa Department of Public Health Sarah Reisetter says current estimates for the peak of COVID-19 cases is still two to three weeks away. Des Moines Register
Another 64 test positive for COVID-19 in Iowa
March 28: The Iowa Department of Public Health says 64 more people have tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Saturda's announcement brings the total cases in Iowa to 298.
There have been three deaths in Iowa related to COVID-19.
There have been a total of 4,375 negative tests to date, according to the department, including testing reported by the State Hygienic Lab and other labs.
The news release from Gov. Kim Reynolds' office on Saturday also said one of the cases in Black Hawk County will no longer count toward the state's total.
Amy McCoy, an Iowa Department of Public Health spokeswoman, told the Des Moines Register that the case was one of two cases announced Friday in Black Hawk County and involved a middle-aged person between 41 and 60. She said that person is not an Iowa resident and that the state has "no other details to provide" on the case.
JBS employee tests positive for coronavirus
March 28: Food processing company JBS says an employee at its pork processing plant in Ottumwa has tested positive for the coronavirus.
The company said the employee is in isolation, and its staff has worked with Wapello County Public Health to contact those who may have had close contact with the employee.
As a result, a second employee who had direct and prolonged exposure with the coronavirus-positive worker is in self-quarantine at home for two weeks.
JBS said the Ottumwa facility will remain open. The company also has a pork processing plant in Marshalltown. Both plants have about 2,200 employees.
The company said it has implemented precautionary measures to keep its employees and products safe, such as taking employees' temperatures before they go to work each day, and staggering workers' start times and break schedules, and adding more workers to clean and sanitize plants.
Des Moines' public golf courses remain open, but the issue's under review, mayor says
March 28: As temperatures reached the upper 60s on Saturday, some Des Moines residents ventured to Waveland Golf Course to get some fresh air and play a few holes.
Many businesses and public areas around the state have closed in recent weeks due to Gov. Kim Reynolds' public health emergency declaration, but municipal golf courses like Waveland remain open.
Mayor Frank Cownie said Saturday afternoon that whether the Des Moines courses stay that way is under review.
“We’re asking our Parks Department to take a look at it and decide whether it’s good policy to stay open at this point,” he said.
Golf course staff are taking precautions, he said, such as only allowing one person to a cart and letting visitors come inside buildings only to use the restrooms.
Cownie has advocated for Gov. Kim Reynolds to issue a shelter-in-place order that would limit residents from leaving their homes except out of necessity for essential tasks like getting groceries or medical care. Last week, he called on Des Moines residents to only leave home for essential items for two weeks.
He said Saturday that he believes a shelter-in-place order from the governor would likely result in the golf courses closing.
"At the same time, we’re trying to do the conscientious, right thing — regardless of what the governor does," he said. "We’re speaking with public health people and asking, 'What do you think?' "
Cownie said the city is finding as many ways as possible for city employees to work from home and is trying to constantly review its practices to ensure their safety. Leaders are also working to find a balance between giving people public places to exercise while also keeping everyone safe. For example, city parks remain open, but the public playground equipment in the parks is closed.
As of Saturday afternoon, Polk County had 40 reported cases of the coronavirus, second only to Johnson County's 61. There are 298 reported cases in Iowa so far.
Iowa National Guard soldiers activate for COVID-19 response
March 28: Approximately 75 more Iowa National Guard soldiers activated on Friday to help with the state’s response to the coronavirus.
The soldiers are with the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment of the 734th Regional Support Group and its subordinate units, the 1034th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion out of Camp Dodge in Johnston, and the 1133rd Transportation Company out of Mason City.
Working with the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the soldiers delivered around 32 pallets of personal protective equipment to 23 county distribution centers on Friday.
Since beginning distribution missions Tuesday, Iowa National Guard soldiers have delivered 166 pallets to more than 75 counties, according to an Iowa National Guard news release.
Eight soldiers from the 186th Military Police Company out of Camp Dodge also set up two tents at the Central Iowa VA Healthcare System in Des Moines. The tents will house COVID-19 screening for those entering the hospital.
There are now more than 120 soldiers and airmen on duty to support the state’s response effort, according to the guard.
Help us report this story
The news surrounding the coronavirus outbreak in Iowa is unlike anything the Register has covered. We'll be updating this story as news develops.
You can read what happened in central Iowa prior to this week regarding COVID-19 here.
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ISU veterinary lab partners with State Hygienic Lab to speed up COVID-19 testing
March 28: Leadership at Iowa State University’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory has sent resources to the State Hygienic Lab at the University of Iowa to increase its ability to test for COVID-19.
The extra equipment will allow the state lab to run more tests simultaneously, said Stephen Pradarelli, a spokesman for the University of Iowa's Office of the Vice President for Research. He said the lab estimates the ISU resources could expand its capacity by a third or more, although it's hard to assign a specific number to the fresh equipment.
"Thanks to the support of IDPH (the Iowa Department of Public Health), the governor, general assembly and, now, ISU — and with SHL (the State Hygienic Lab) working three shifts — the lab has been able to keep pace with demand and can grow its capacity as needed in the near term," Pradarelli said in an email.
The Coralville-based lab has been able to test for COVID-19 since late February. Pradarelli said the lab can do about 500 per day right now, but it's working on increasing that number to 750.
Iowa State’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory typically runs tests to detect infectious agents in livestock, poultry and pets. It runs more than 1.25 million tests each year, according to the news release.
The transferred equipment includes some of the lab’s high-throughput molecular diagnostic test methods, reagents, supplies and instrumentation.
“To have the opportunity to help a human testing lab in this way has been very rewarding for us,” Dr. Karen Harmon, clinical associate professor in the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, said in the release.
Reynolds’ office, along with the Iowa Economic Development Authority, facilitated the partnership between the two laboratories.
DNR closes bathrooms, limits camping
March 28: Parks managed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources are still open, however, all bathrooms are now closed through April 15. As a result, no soap or hand sanitizer will be available to visitors. The department advises visitors to bring their own hand sanitizer.
Shelters, camping cabins, youth camps and lodges are closed because of the lack of bathroom access.
Closed bathrooms mean that camping is limited to self-contained campers with their own bathrooms.
Visitors are advised not to use the playgrounds because park staff cannot clean them according to guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Last week, the DNR closed the Olofson shooting range near Big Creek State Park and the Banner shooting range near Summerset State Park through March 31.
For a full list of closures, visit the Iowa DNR closures page.
'Hang in there': Gov. Reynolds tears up in plea that Iowans stay home
March 27: As Iowans learned Friday that two more people in the state had died after contracting COVID-19, Gov. Kim Reynolds began to tear up at her daily news briefing.
She was talking about the hardships Iowans have faced because of business shutdowns and social distancing, and conflicting views over whether those restrictions should be tightened or were already an overreaction, when she paused, as if to let the gravity of the situation take hold.
“You know, Iowans are scared and they’re nervous, and I appreciate that, but we’re going to get through it,” Reynolds said, her voice cracking. “If you keep doing what we’ve asked you to do, we will be back to those good days. So hang in there.”
► Find complete coverage of Friday's news conference here.
She soon regained her composure and the more stoic demeanor she’s projected at the briefings since they’ve begun.
The news conference came one day after Reynolds ordered new restrictions on businesses and non-essential medical care to try to cope with the virus outbreak.
Another 2 COVID-19 deaths in Iowa
March 27: Two more people with COVID-19 died on Thursday, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported Friday. Officials said there have also been an additional 56 positive COVID-19 tests, bringing the statewide total to 235.
According to IDPH, an elderly adult (81+ years) in Poweshiek County and an older adult (61-80 years) in Allamakee County died Thursday night. The first death was reported Tuesday.
According to IDPH, the locations and age ranges of the 56 individuals who tested positive include:
- Benton County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Black Hawk County, 2 middle-age adults (41-60 years)
- Butler County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Cedar County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Cerro Gordo County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Clinton County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Dallas County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 1 elderly adult (81+)
- Dickinson County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Dubuque County, 2 middle-age adults (41-60 years)
- Hardin County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Harrison County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years), 3 older adults (61-80 years)
- Henry County, 1 elderly adult (81+)
- Iowa County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
- Johnson County, 2 adults (18-40 years), 5 middle-age (41-60 years), 2 older adults (61-80 years)
- Linn County, 3 adults (18-40 years), 7 older adults (61-80 years)
- Mahaska County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Monona County, 1 elderly adult (81+)
- Marshall County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
- Montgomery County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Muscatine County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Page County, 1 older (61-80 years)
- Polk County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years), 2 older adults (61-80 years)
- Tama County, 1 elderly adult (81+)
- Washington County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 2 older adults (61-80 years)
- Webster County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
- Winneshiek County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
- Woodbury County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Wright County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
Waukee officials expand paid sick leave for employees
March 27: Waukee officials approved multiple resolutions this week to expand paid sick leave and family leave for city employees affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
City Council passed a temporary change to its paid sick leave policy on Monday, giving part-time employees two weeks of paid sick leave for absences related to quarantine, illness or caring for family members with COVID-19. Those workers previously had no paid sick leave, human resources director Michelle Lindsay said.
The resolution also allows full-time employees to take more paid sick leave days than they have and "go negative" if needed, Lindsay said. The changes also apply to roughly 75 union workers employed by the city.
City Council also held a special session on Friday to approve policies related to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed into law last week.
Des Moines mayor applauds business closures
March 27: Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie commended Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday for extending the duration of business closures to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Cownie, who’s declared a state of emergency in Iowa’s capital city and urged its residents to stay home, also credited statewide school closures for keeping the virus from spreading more aggressively.
He’s previously asked the governor to issue a statewide stay-at-home order, but she’s yet to do so.
"It’s important that we remain disciplined and focused on staying home and staying healthy," he said in a news release. "It is the single most effective way for us to slow the community spread of COVID-19."
More Iowa Guard troops deployed in fight against pandemic
March 27: IOWA CITY, Ia. — More than three dozen more Iowa Army National Guard members have been activated to join the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
The soldiers from the 67th Troop Command have established an operations and planning cell at the Iowa City Readiness Center, the guard said in a news release. They will prepare and coordinate guard support to agencies in the eastern half of Iowa.
Other guard members have been delivering medical supplies in support of the Iowa Department of the Homeland Security and Emergency Management. The guard has delivered nearly 140 pallets of personal protective equipment to 55 counties since distribution missions began Tuesday.
More than 90 guard members are on duty to handle coronavirus response missions across Iowa, the guard said.
— Associated Press
Des Moines Film Society to launch Virtual Cinema
March 27: The Des Moines Film Society is allowing film lovers to watch new releases at home through Virtual Cinema.
Virtual Cinema allows users to stream a new release film on their television or computer with a split in the ticket price between the distributor and local film organization. Moviegoers can watch a new flick and shop locally simultaneously.
“Our mission is to grow the film culture in Des Moines, and we’ve done that with special premiere events like this in the past,” said Ben Godar, Board President of DMFS. “We can’t go out to the cinema, but this gives us a way to still deliver quality new films that we can watch alone, together,” he added.
Visit DesMoinesFilm.org for more information.
Republican Party cancels April's in-person district conventions
March 27: The Republican Party of Iowa announced Friday that it will not hold in-person district conventions April 25. Instead, the party will mail paper ballots to all district delegates to avoid potentially spreading the coronavirus.
“These are obviously extraordinary circumstances, and the State Central Committee agreed that using paper ballots is the most reliable and feasible option,” party spokesman Aaron Britt said in a statement. “This will allow us to conduct our conventions and proceed with important party business, including electing delegates to the state convention, national convention, and electing members of the State Central Committee.”
The Democratic Party of Iowa delayed its county conventions because of coronavirus concerns, and it has not yet announced how it will handle county or district conventions.
Universities give students a grading option amid pandemic
March 27: Iowa's three public universities have announced grading options as the COVID-19 pandemic forces students into online education instead of classroom instruction.
As University of Iowa and Iowa State University undergraduate students returned from spring break this week, they are being allowed to take the letter grades their instructors record or choose a pass/nonpass option. The Gazette reported that the new option could help students who, for example, don’t do as well as they believe they could have without the coronavirus-related disruptions.
University of Iowa graduate students will be allowed to take letter grades or choose a “satisfactory/unsatisfactory” grading option. Iowa State announced its graduate college is working on a similar temporary grading option.
The University of Northern Iowa already had a “credit/no credit” option but has announced that, “due to the extraordinary circumstances,” the campus has modified and expanded its use.
The three universities will add a designation on all student transcripts “indicating the extraordinary circumstances encountered during the 2020 spring semester,” according to a message sent to University of Iowa students Wednesday.
The pass or not-pass marks won’t factor into a student’s grade-point average.
4 residents at Cedar Rapids nursing home test positive for coronavirus
March 26: Four residents have tested positive for the coronavirus at the same Cedar Rapids nursing home where two employees tested positive earlier this week.
Officials at Heritage Specialty Care learned of the patients’ conditions on Thursday, according to a statement from Care Initiatives, the nonprofit that owns the nursing home.
Workers at the nursing home quickly isolated the residents away from the rest of the population, and they will remain separate for at least two weeks, the statement said. Nursing home officials have not shared details of the residents' conditions.
The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported the new cases at the nursing home earlier Thursday night.
► Read the full story here.
Iowa City examines 'stay at home' order
March 26: Mayor Bruce Teague of Iowa City said he is prepared to issue a shelter-in-place order for the city if Gov. Kim Reynolds does not make "serious movement" on a statewide or regional order.
"My preference is that a 'shelter-in-place' order would come from Governor Reynolds, or through a coordinated county-wide or regional action recognizing that business activities and individual travel is not bound by municipal borders," Teague wrote in a text message. "Consistency in messaging is critical to mandate an order of this nature."
At a Thursday news conference, Gov. Kim Reynolds said she conferred with the Iowa Attorney General's Office and does not believe cities have the authority to issue a shelter-in-place order.
Gov. Kim Reynolds orders more business closures, halts elective surgeries, dental procedures
March 26: Gov. Kim Reynolds expanded the state's disaster health proclamation Thursday, halting elective non-essential surgical and dental procedures and expanding the breadth of the state's retail closures.
Here are some of the changes Reynolds outlined as part of the expanded Public Health Disaster Emergency Proclamation:
- All existing closures, including restaurants and bar closures, were extended an additional week to April 7 - effective as of 10 p.m. Thursday.
- She also ordered the closure of additional retail — book stores; clothing and shoe stores; jewelry stores; luggage stores; cosmetic, perfume and beauty supply stores; furniture stores; florists and home furnishing stores.
- Starting at 5 p.m. Friday all non-essential and elective surgeries that can be delayed without "undue risk to patients" are suspended. Also, all elective dental procedures including hygienic, orthodontic or cosmetic procedures are suspended. Emergency procedures are allowed still, the governor said.
- The recommendation that schools be closed until April 13 continues.
Kemin Industries employee tests positive for coronavirus
March 26: A Kemin Industries employee has tested positive for the coronavirus, the Des Moines nutritional ingredient manufacturer reported Thursday.
The company declined to provide any information about the employee, other than to say the worker has received treatment and is recovering.
The employee has self-isolated at home since March 13 after not feeling well, and was awaiting test results, the company said.
All Kemin employees who may have been in contact with the impacted individual have been notified. The facility where the employee works has been deep-cleaned and sanitized, the company said.
Kemin has ordered employees to work from home where they're able to and for those coming into the company's facilities, workers must check their temperatures twice daily.
COVID-19 cases increase to 179 in Iowa
March 26: The Iowa Department of Public Health says 34 more people have tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
The announcement on Thursday brings the total cases in Iowa to 179 . There has been one death in Iowa related to COVID-19.
According to IDPH, the locations and age ranges of the 34 individuals include:
- Appanoose County, 1 elderly adult (81+)
- Black Hawk County, 1 middle-age adult (18-40 years)
- Cedar County, 1 middle-age (18-40 years), 1 older (61-80 years), 1 elderly (81+)
- Clayton County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
- Des Moines County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
- Jasper County, 1 elderly (81+)
- Johnson County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 4 middle-aged adults (41-60 years), 1 older (61-80 years)
- Linn County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 3 middle-aged adults (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Mahaska County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Monona County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Page County, 1 middle-aged adult (41-60 years)
- Polk County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 2 middle-aged (41-60 years), 1 older (61-80 years)
- Pottawattamie County, 1 middle-aged adult (41-60 years)
- Scott County, 1 elderly, 3 middle-aged (41-60 years)
- Sioux County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Washington County, 2 older adults (61-80 years)
Des Moines Bucs donate $10K of food to Urbandale Food Pantry
March 26: When the Des Moines Buccaneers had their final six home games canceled by the United States Hockey League due to the spread of the novel , the team had a lot of food remaining and a partnership they wanted to fulfill.
Buccaneers president Nate Teut said the team donated about $10,000 worth of food to the Urbandale Food Pantry on Thursday. The food was leftover items that team had been planning to sell during its final home games.
Teut said the Buccaneers were planning to use three of those games as food pantry donation nights where if fans brought three non-perishable items to the game, they could get a general admission ticket. The games didn’t happen so the team never got a chance to donate the non-perishable items. Instead, they found another way to make it up to them.
“We still wanted to do something and with the arena being closed, I just didn’t have any source or means for having the food just sitting here,” Teut said.
Ernst: Now is not the time to be nickel and diming
March 26: U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst praised the nearly $2 trillion emergency aid package the Senate passed unanimously late Wednesday night, and she urged the House to pass it quickly.
“I’ve served in times of crisis — in floods, in hurricanes and in war,” she said on a call with reporters Thursday morning. “Our country is in a time of crisis. We in Congress have a duty to act.”
Ernst called the package — which includes direct payments to most Americans as well as sweeping relief across numerous industries — “the largest package that has ever been passed in United States history.”
She said it’s important to be fiscally responsible, but relief to American workers and families is critical. If more is needed, Congress would consider passing additional rounds of emergency aid, she said.
“What we have to understand, folks, is this is a pandemic,” she said. “So arguing, nickeling and diming at a time like this is unwarranted when we have a carefully crafted package that will provide relief to Iowans and to all Americans.”
Des Moines Art Center launches virtual tours of galleries and exhibitions
March 25: The Des Moines Art Center has officially launched seven virtual tours of their permanent collections and special exhibitions. Due to the novel coronavirus, the Art Center is closed until April 7, thus the idea of creating virtual tours.
The Art Center partnered with EMC Insurance Cos. to produce the tours led by EMC Vice President of Innovation and Art Center Board Member Jason Gross.
The seven gallery and exhibitions include:
- Three floors of artwork from the permanent collections in the Richard Meier building
- Artwork from the permanent collections in the Blank Two and Three Galleries
- Artwork from the permanent collections in the W.T. and Edna M. Dahl Gallery and West Gallery
- Karla Black: 20 Years in the Anna K. Meredith Gallery
- Karla Black: 20 Years in the I. M. Pei Galleries
- Hedda Sterne: Imagination and Machine in the Blank I Gallery
- Researchers: Women Artists Inspired by Science in the John Brady Print Gallery
The virtual tours can be found at DesMoinesArtCenter.org.
Hy-Vee giving workers bonuses
March 25: Hy-Vee announced it is awarding a 10% bonus to its part-time and full-time store employees for hours worked between March 16 and April 12. The bonuses will be paid on April 17.
“Our employees are our most valuable asset, and we must do everything we can to support them and their families during this critical time,” said Hy-Vee CEO and President Randy Edeker said in a statement.
The eight-state grocery chain will also extend job leave protections for employees who are required to self-quarantine. Employees enrolled in short-term disability will be eligible for at least two weeks paid time off.
In addition, Hy-Vee will waive co-pays for its full-time employees to use telehealth services. Part-time employees will be charged a “minimal fee.”
Johnson County, hospital officials say shelter-in-place order not necessary yet
March 25: As several states have implemented varying stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus pandemic, Johnson County public health officials and representatives from local hospitals say the measure is not yet necessary here and should be avoided.
“There are a lot of things already in place that we’re doing locally," said Dave Koch, director of the Johnson County Department of Public Health, at a press conference Wednesday.
He said Johnson County officials have had several conversations with elected officials, Linn County representatives and the Iowa Department of Public Health to determine what scenarios would be necessary to reach that point. He said there are both economic and healthcare supply chain concerns locally.
Hospital representatives from the University of Iowa and Mercy Iowa City expressed concern that a shelter-in-place order could further interrupt supply chain concerns and staffing.
► Read the full story here.
Metro hoteliers see occupancy, profits vanish
March 25: Profits for Des Moines-area hotels cratered last week as they lost more than half their usual customer base and about a third of their revenue, according to data released Wednesday.
The occupancy rate for the metro was 23%, down from 56% around the same time last year, according to STR Data. Worse, for local hotels: They earned only about $17 in revenue per room, down from about $59 last March.
Profits for Des Moines-area hotels cratered last week as they lost more than half their usual customer base and about a third of their revenue, according to data released Wednesday.
The occupancy rate for the metro was 23%, down from 56% around the same time last year, according to STR Data. Worse, for local hotels: They earned only about $17 in revenue per room, down from about $59 last March.
► Read the full story here.
University of Iowa Hospitals asking Iowa City restaurants for food
March 25: The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is asking Johnson County restaurants to help feed their staff.
The medical facility’s director of food and nutrition services, Douglas P. Robertson, put out the call Wednesday afternoon, and is asking for three deliveries to make sure workers for all three shifts can keep their energy up.
All sales would be tax-exempt and the restaurants would be paid via a university procurement credit card, Robertson said in his letter asking for the aid.
YMCA of Greater Des Moines considering when to reopen
March 25: A local physician who formerly served on the board of the Wellmark YMCA is calling on the YMCA of Greater Des Moines to reconsider its plan to reopen to the public as soon as April 1, the day after a statewide order temporarily closing fitness centers is set to expire.
An email sent to donors this week from YMCA of Greater Des Moines President and CEO Leisha Barcus read, in part: “As of today, Monday, March 23, we still plan to reopen our fitness branches and Y-Camp on April 1. However, depending upon changing conditions and further communication from (Gov. Kim Reynolds), that decision may change.”
Dr. David E. Drake, who is president-elect of Physicians for Social Responsibility, worried the email downplayed the importance of social distancing measures.
A spokesperson for the nonprofit said the April 1 reopening is "definitely subject to change, maybe more than once, before that date would be here."
► Read the full story here.
Des Moines hospitals restrict visitors
March 25: All Des Moines-area hospitals enacted visitor restrictions Wednesday, effective immediately.
A single visitor is only allowed if they are a designated caregiver and the patient is in the emergency department, outpatient area or clinics. For patients in other areas, the single caregiver visitor is only allowed if the patient is: imminently dying; under age 18; suffering from confusion or delirium; having surgery; or in labor, delivery or having recently given birth.
The pregnancy exception does not include doulas or outside birth coaches. Surgery patients are only allowed to have the caregiver on-site through the pre-surgical area and in the waiting room during the surgery and post-operation course of treatment.
Caregivers must be free of any sign of illness, and people with high risk of severe disease, such as poorly controlled diabetes or underlying health complications, should not visit. They may be screened by hospital personnel and are required to wash or sanitize their hands upon entering and exiting the patient's room. Additional steps, such as donning personal protective equipment, may also be require
The order restrictions were announced in a joint news release by UnityPoint Health, MercyOne and Broadlawns Medical Center.
"We understand these visitor restrictions may be difficult for you," the statement reads. "While we are committed to providing a family-centered care environment, right now, restricting visitors is in the best interest of our patients and staff."
4 long-term care facilities' employees, 1 resident test positive for coronavirus
March 25: Five people at four long-term care facilities in Iowa have tested positive for coronavirus, according to a health care group.
Four of the cases involve employees and one case involves a resident at one of these facilities.
The Iowa Health Care Association confirmed to the Des Moines Register on Wednesday that five individuals at four long-term care providers — either a nursing home or assisted living facility — have tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus. Health Care Association officials reported the information to the state, spokeswoman Lori Ristau said.
The facilities are located in Dubuque, Linn, Poweshiek and Washington counties.
► Read the full story here.
COVID-19 cases increase to 145 in Iowa
March 25: The Iowa Department of Public Health says 21 more people have tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
The announcement on Wednesday brings the total cases in Iowa to 145. There has been one death in Iowa related to COVID-19.
According to IDPH, the locations and age ranges of the 21 individuals include:
- Allamakee County 1 middle-aged adults (41-60 years)
- Benton County, 2 middle-aged adults (41-60 years)
- Hancock County, 1 middle-aged adults (41-60 years)
- Johnson County, 4 adults (18-40 years), 1 middle-aged adult (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Linn County, 1 middle-aged adult (41-60 years)
- Muscatine County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
- Polk County, 3 older adults (61-80 years)
- Poweshiek County, 2 older adults (61-80 years)
- Scott County, 2 middle-aged (41-60 years)
- Washington County, 2 adults (18-40 years)
Attorneys general, including Iowa's, warn stores, sites to monitor for price gouging
March 25: Attorneys general from more than 30 states, including Iowa, sent letters Wednesday to Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Walmart and Craigslist, warning them to more rigorously monitor for price gouging as the coronavirus pandemic drives up demand.
The letters listed several examples of price-gouging around the country: On Craigslist, a 2-liter bottle of hand sanitizer was being sold for $250; on Facebook Marketplace, an 8-ounce bottle was being sold for $40; and on Ebay, packs of face masks were being sold for $40 and $50.
"While we appreciate reports of the efforts made by platforms and online retailers to crack down on price gouging as the American community faces an unprecedented public health crisis, we are calling on you to do more at a time that requires national unity,” the letters said.
► Read the full story here.
University of Iowa Hospitals begins testing patients for COVID-19 in its own laboratory
March 25: The University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics is the first hospital in Iowa to be able to conduct COVID-19 tests in its own laboratory, a move that lessens the burden on Iowa’s primary testing site at the State Hygienic Lab.
UIHC has been testing its own patients since Friday, said Dr. Bradley Ford, medical director of clinical microbiology at the hospital and leader of the team of 25 people who developed the test there.
The hospital started work on its testing capacity in early March after the FDA issued an emergency use authorization that allowed smaller local labs to do so. The result is the same test that is being used at the State Hygienic Lab and by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For now, Iowa’s largest hospital will limit tests to patients who have either completed a video visit with its medical staff and have been recommended for testing or those who are patients at the hospital.
UIHC doesn’t have enough supplies, such as swabs used to collect samples, to conduct tests on the general public.
► Read the full story here.
► More from the University of Iowa Hospital CEO: Iowans, we stand with you. Thank you for helping us.
Des Moines firefighters using pool cleaner to fight virus
March 25: Paint sprayer + swimming pool disinfectant = clean Des Moines ambulances.
That’s how Des Moines firefighters are disinfecting their emergency response vehicles that might be contaminated with coronavirus.
Clad in impermeable protective gear, firefighters fill the sprayer with a solution made from SoftSwim, a hydrogen peroxide-based swimming pool purifier approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. They spray the inside of ambulances, letting the moisture sit on surfaces for at least five minutes to ideally kill any viruses that might be there.
“With traditional decontamination supplies out of stock, we had to be resourceful. We heard from another fire department that had successfully implemented this system to fight COVID-19, and we decided it was the right step to take in protecting our team and those we serve,” said Des Moines Fire Department Capt. Bob Suarez.
Drake University cancels live commencement
March 25: Drake University announced Wednesday that live commencement ceremonies scheduled for May are canceled.
The university plans to hold a virtual commencement for the Class of 2020. Students who graduate in the spring will also be invited to participate in the December 2020 commencement ceremony.
Drake also announced its plans to use online learning through the end of the spring semester.
"The second half of the spring semester is a particularly special time at Drake and it is painful to lose this," Drake president Marty Martin wrote in the email to students. "However, this action is in the best interest of your health and safety, and in the best interest of our broader community."
Iowa National Guard delivers needed medical supplies to 5 Iowa counties
March 25: The Iowa National Guard continues its medical equipment deliveries across Iowa, with them hauling personal protective gear to more than 20 Iowa counties on Wednesday.
The deliveries are expected to continue for the foreseeable future. The Iowa National Guard said requests for gear should be made through local county emergency management coordinators.
March 24: Iowa National Guard Soldiers arrived in Iowa five counties on Tuesday with four semitrailers carrying medical personal protective equipment, according to a release from the Iowa National Guard.
Soldiers from the 1133rd Transportation Company of Mason City and its detachment in Iowa City made the deliveries. Personal protective equipment is specialized clothing and equipment worn by healthcare professionals to protect them from COVID-19 at work.
Working with the support of the Iowa Department of Public Health, the Iowa National Guard delivered the equipment to distribution sites in Black Hawk, Johnson, Polk, Pottawattamie and Tama counties.
The missions will continue for the foreseeable future as additional request are processed by the State Emergency Operations Center and assigned to the Iowa National Guard for distribution.
Iowa has first COVID-19 death
March 24: Iowa public health officials say a person who had tested positive for coronavirus in the state has died.
Gov. Kim Reynolds' office announced the death in a news release sent Tuesday night. The death is the first in Iowa linked to COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus.
"Our hearts are heavy with the first loss of an Iowan to COVID-19. The thoughts and prayers of our state are with the family during this difficult time," Reynolds said. "I continue to urge all Iowans to protect their health and the health of others, especially older individuals and those with chronic health conditions who are most at risk. We all have a role to play in limiting the spread of this virus."
The person lived in Dubuque County and was between 61 and 80 years old. No additional information was released.
► Read the full story.
Cedar Rapids nursing home employees test positive for COVID-19
March 24: Two employees at Cedar Rapids-based nursing home Heritage Specialty Care have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Cedar Rapids Gazette.
The workers had not been at the facility since at least Friday and started to feel symptoms on Monday, a spokesperson for the facility told the Gazette. Officials with the facility have notified the Iowa Department of Public Health and is starting to notify residents’ families. The employees are not being identified, and officials did not tell the Gazette if they were directly involved in patient care.
Downtown Farmers' Market postponed due to pandemic
March 24: Due to the novel coronavirus, the Downtown Farmers' Market is postponing its opening day that was scheduled for May 2.
The Downtown Farmers' Market is continuing to evaluate health precautions related to Gov. Kim Reynolds' 10-person social gathering policy to determine a new date to kick off the market. Information will be provided to the public and vendors throughout the evaluation process.
“Our priority is the health and safety of our vendors and market patrons,” said Kelly Foss, Director of the Downtown Farmers’ Market. “We are thankful to all of our sponsors, vendors and community members who participate in The Market. We look forward to again hosting this world-class event and being one of the top farmers’ markets in the country.”
Sally Worley, who is the Executive Director of Practical Farmers of Iowa, gave her thoughts on what Practical Farmers' next steps are with members following the announcement of the Downtown Farmers' Market postponement.
"We will hold a virtual meeting on Friday to discuss with members on how to sell their products to different restaurants, markets, and customers."
Shelter for homeless COVID-19 patients to open at fairgrounds
March 24: Polk County is opening a shelter for homeless people who test positive for the novel coronavirus at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.
In a news release, Polk County Health Department officials said the people who contract COVID-19 will be able to stay at the fairgrounds' 4-H building, the Iowa Youth Inn, to recover. A fence will surround the building to ensure that the public doesn't enter, minimizing the chance at additional community spread of the virus.
Nola Aigner Davis, the health department spokeswoman, said the shelter will only be used for homeless people who test positive for COVID-19 and there are currently no plans to open the fairgrounds to people who haven't tested positive.
“When we are sick, we want to be comforted in a place where you feel safe and can get well. For people experiencing homeless, they do not have a home,” said Helen Eddy, Polk County Health Department director, in the news release. “Everyone needs care and compassion during this time.”
COVID-19 cases in Iowa climb to 124
March 24: The Iowa Department of Public Health says 19 more people have tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
The announcement on Tuesday brings the total cases in Iowa to 124.
Waived regulations for Office of Medical Cannabidiol
March 24: The Iowa Department of Public Health has waived certain administrative rules for the Office of Medical Cannabidiol during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- To allow for additional social distancing, curbside pickup of medications at dispensers is being allowed. Patients or caregivers are encouraged to call ahead.
- If patients are needing their certificate for telemedical, they are encouraged to inquire with their physician about the ability to certify them electronically. If that’s not possible, you can call the OMC at 515-725-2076.
- Patients and caregivers are encouraged to call their local DOT to let them know they are coming to secure an appointment to have their registration card made.
CITYVIEW suspends publication because of coronavirus shutdowns
March 24: CITYVIEW magazine announced it will suspend publication for at least six weeks, joining the long list of businesses forced to alter its operations because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"Today, we unfortunately need to share that we have decided that, if there is any chance of seeing life on the other side of this storm, CITYVIEW must 'go dark' and suspend publishing," publisher Shane Goodman wrote in a note on the monthly alternative magazine's website. "We will be doing so for a period of six weeks, and we will then redetermine our next steps."
CITYVIEW's sister publications, the monthly, neighborhood-specific Iowa Living magazines, also will be suspended for six weeks. Both titles are operated by Goodman's company, Big Green Umbrella Media.
Ankeny Chamber of Commerce starts small business support initiative
The Ankeny Chamber of Commerce along with other local businesses launched the "#ANKENY2GETHER movement" Tuesday, to raise money to support small businesses in the city and their workers during the COVID-19 shutdown.
The chamber is selling t-shirts and asking for donations online and at Ankeny Hy-Vee stores, with 100% of the profits going towards helping Ankeny-area businesses and workers in need.
The money raised will be distributed through a grant program by the Chamber. Applications are due May 1, but the organization is posting a webinar about the program on Friday at 12 p.m. to help explain the process.
Businesses will be selected for the grant "based on financial assistance needed, a three-month business forecast, employees in need, and the business’s community story," according to a news release.
Dubuque furniture manufacturer Flexsteel will close its plant for two weeks
March 24: Flexsteel Industries, the Iowa manufacturer of home and office furniture, said it was closing its Dubuque manufacturing facility for two weeks.
The company also said it would temporarily close its corporate headquarters, as well.
Flexsteel pointed to a drop in demand for furniture it makes for recreational vehicle manufacturers for the two-week shutdown.
On Monday, RV manufacturer Winnebago Industries said it would suspend work at its factories. The Forest City-based manufacturer said it expects the suspension to begin this week and run through April 12.
Flexsteel said the Dubuque plant will begin its two-week production shutdown on Friday.
“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt many industries, the capital markets and American workers across the country," Flexsteel said in a statement.
"While no one can fully anticipate the ultimate impact of the pandemic, Flexsteel is taking steps to protect the health and safety of its employees, as well as the long-term viability of the company," the company said.
Poet has stopped buying corn at some ethanol plants as demand for gasoline falls
March 24: Poet, a large U.S. ethanol producer, said the company has temporarily stopped buying corn at some locations due to the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus.
Poet, which owns seven ethanol plants in Iowa, declined to say which plants were no longer buying grain. Ashton, Emmetsburg and Gowrie say on their websites that they’re accepting only contracted corn. Poet also has plants in Corning, Coon Rapids, Hanlontown and Jewel.
The company buys about 125 million bushels of Iowa corn annually. Iowa is the nation's largest corn and ethanol producer. Farmers grew about 2.6 billion bushels of corn last year.
About half of the state's corn production typically is used each year to make ethanol.
Poet also said it was evaluating its renewable fuel production to better match falling gasoline demand. About 15 billion gallons of ethanol is blended into the nation's fuel supply each year to cut carbon emissions and improve air quality.
“Experts project a 957 million gallon drop in ethanol demand from March to May, which equates to a 331 million-bushel loss in corn demand,” Poet said in a news statement.
Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, said an Iowa ethanol plant has temporarily shuttered due to reduced demand for gasoline as the nation shuts down to prevent the COVID-19’s spread. He declined to name the plant.
Iowa City Hy-Vee employee tests positive for COVID-19
March 23: An employee at an Iowa City Hy-Vee has tested positive for COVID-19.
The news comes around 10 days after a DJ who performed at several venues in Johnson and Linn counties, including the Hy-Vee, located on North Dodge Street, self-reported that he had become symptomatic from coronavirus.
Tina Potthoff, Hy-Vee's senior vice president of communication, confirmed that a company employee had tested positive.
"Immediately upon notification by the employee, we followed all appropriate safety, sanitation and cleaning procedures and communicated with those who may have worked with the individual," Potthoff said in an email. "The store is open."
The North Dodge Hy-Vee is one of the locations where Iowa City DJ Don Morrison performed prior to testing positive for COVID-19. He performed March 5 in the Market Grill area at the store.
Potthoff stressed that the Hy-Vee employee who tested positive had had contact with Morrison outside of work. No other employees at the location have tested positive to date.Potthoff confirmed that the employee is not being scheduled to work at his time and that this is the only instance of a Hy-Vee employee in Johnson County testing positive.
Des Moines, Norwalk, Urbandale schools have new COVID-19 case
March 23: Des Moines Public Schools has its first confirmed case of an employee or student with COVID-19, the district said Monday in a statement.
The staff member was last at the school on March 13, the last day that Des Moines schools were open before closing in an effort to halt the spread of coronavirus.
The district sent the following statement to parents and staff at Cowles Montessori School:
Dear Cowles families and staff:
A member of our Des Moines Public Schools community has self-identified as testing positive for COVID-19.
A staff member at Cowles Montessori School shared the news with both school and district leadership today, who have also been in contact with Polk County Public Health. The individual was at Cowles through March 13.
Norwalk and Urbandale schools also said Monday they had staffers test postive for COVID-19.
The Norwalk employee works in the district's central office, and the Urbandale staffer works primarily at Webster Elementary, but was at Karen Acres Elementary on March 13, according to the districts' statements. Another employee who worked at Karen Acres Elementary School had previously tested positive for the respiratory illness, the district confirmed on March 16.
State public health officials said Monday that an additional 15 people had tested positive for the coronavirus in Iowa, bringing the state's total to 105 at that point.
Polaris closes Spirit Lake plant for a week, citing reduced demand
March 23: Polaris Inc. said the maker of recreational sports vehicles is closing its Spirit Lake manufacturing plant for a week in response to reduced demand stemming from the coronavirus outbreak.
The Minneapolis-area company said Monday that the north Iowa plant, which employs about 600 workers and makes the Indian motorcycle, is one of six U.S. “power sports” plants to close for a week, beginning Tuesday. It’s also closing a plant in Mexico and Poland.
“As anticipated, pandemic concerns ultimately began to impact demand, which dropped suddenly in the middle of last week, and we are adjusting our operations accordingly,” said Scott Wine, Polaris’ CEO, in a statement.
Polaris is offering U.S. employees up to 10 days of pay, under its new COVID program, to replace income lost due to quarantine, illness or suspension of plant operations.
The company said it expected the COVID-19-released economic slowdown will have a “significant impact” on 2020 results. “While broad-based economic uncertainty is creating headwinds, I am confident that we have the foundation and team we need to withstand these challenges,” Wine said.
Trump cites Iowa as handling coronavirus 'very, very well'
March 23: President Donald Trump shouted out Iowa as one of the states containing the spread of coronavirus "very, very well" and compared it to New York state at his Monday press conference in Washington, D.C.
"Parts of our country are very lightly affected. Very small numbers," Trump said, before shouting out Nebraska and its governor, Pete Ricketts, specifically. "... You look at Nebraska, you look at Idaho, you look at Iowa, I could name many countries [sic] that are handling it very, very well, and are not affected to the same extent, or frankly, not even nearly to the extent of New York."
The three states Trump calls out are all more rural than New York, which has nearly three times as many residents as the other three states have combined. All three are also on the country's interior.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Iowa, Idaho and Nebraska have each reported fewer than 3 positive cases of coronavirus per 100,000 residents. The state of New York has reported more than 77 cases per 100,000 residents. (Note: The CDC's reporting lags behind reports from individual states, but was cited here for uniformity.)
According to the Washington Post, however, state-by-state comparisons may not be reliable indicators because of shortages of tests and states using different criteria for determining who qualifies for a coronavirus test.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Monday that increased testing in the state means more cases will be discovered. With news Monday that the number of cases hit 105, Iowa's per capita number of infections topped 3 per 100,000.
"As expected, the number of positive cases is increasing, in large part due to the expanded testing capability," Reynolds said. "As the volume of testing continues to expand, we will likely see that number grow for a while."
Reynolds has urged social distancing and for people to work from home, and to stay home, as much as they're able to stem the spread of the disease.
DART temporarily trimming bus services
March 23: The Des Moines Area Regional Transportation Authority will reduce the frequency of some of its bus routes and how late they’ll run as the transportation provider grapples with the novel coronavirus.
As more people work from home and Iowa mayors tell their residents to not leave the house, DART has seen a drop in ridership, even telling its customers to only take the bus if absolutely necessary.
On its website, DART said the temporary service reductions, which begin Thursday, should allow the buses to keep taking people where they need to go without putting as many drivers at risk.
“This temporary service reduction will help DART ensure the safety of its employees by allowing those who are at high-risk, or those who have to take care for young children, to stay home,” the authority wrote online.
Service on 12 local routes will end earlier in the evening, and four of those routes will be less frequent, according to DART. It will also reduce service on its express routes and reduce the frequency of the D-Line downtown.
DART will temporarily discontinue its Link shuttle downtown, as well as cutting the hours of its paratransit service.
Click here for a complete list of the changes.
Only 'essential' Iowa DOT services will be offered in-person through May 1
March 23: The Iowa Department of Transportation announced Monday it will only offer services it deems essential, and only offer them by appointment until May 1.
Gov. Kim Reynolds' public health disaster declaration on March 17 already postponed the need to renew driver's licenses that expire during the crisis, including commercial driver's licenses.
In a news release, the DOT's examples of essential services include commercial driver's licenses and chauffeur's licenses needs and specific events, such as starting a new job or needing services to qualify for financial services, benefits, legal purposes or starting a new job.
CDL holders with an expired or about to expire medical examiner's certificate also will not have their license downgraded during the emergency.
General services will be offered again after May 1. The Iowa DOT is also taking appointments for after that date, and offering its online services, at IowaDOT.gov.
Des Moines playground equipment off limits due to coronavirus concern
March 23: Des Moines' public playground equipment is now off limits to prevent the spread of coronavirus, city Parks Director Ben Page said Monday.
The closures will be self-regulated. Des Moines does not plan to fence off playground equipment or issue citations for children or families who do not abide by the order, Page said.
The city still encourages people to use public parks, which have been busy in the last week, Page said.
Des Moines has adopted guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from the National Recreation and Park Association to guide the public in how to appropriately use the parks and avoid possible coronavirus exposure. The precautions call for limited use of public restrooms and water fountains and following distancing guidelines.
"We want to be part of the solution for people to get out and get some fresh air," Page said. "The only way that changes is if further declarations shut us down. We're open until we're told it's not a safe thing to do anymore."
Grocers association: Don't panic buy
March 23: The Iowa Grocery Industry Association is asking customers to only purchase one week’s worth of groceries to avoid the all-too-common site of empty shelves.
"This will allow us to get products back on store shelves and for everyone to get what they need," Iowa Grocery Industry Association President Michelle Hurd told WHO-TV.
She said grocers are working to keep up with demand caused by shoppers amid the novel coronavirus pandemic but says "there is plenty of food to go around."
Most grocery stores have reduced hours to give staff time to restock shelves and sanitize stores. Most supplies should be restocked within one or two days, Hurd told WHO-TV.
Firefighters visiting Waukee kids from afar
March 23: The Waukee Fire Department is promising to help its community celebrate birthdays and other special occasions after having to cancel education events and station tours due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Families with "kiddos stuck celebrating their birthdays or other special occasions at home" can request a special "mini-parade of sorts" from the on-duty firefighters, a Monday news release said.
Waukee residents can call 515-978-7998, or message the Waukee Fire Department’s Facebook page to make a request. Visits are granted on a first-come, first-served basis and could be delayed if crews are called to incidents.
Total cases of COVID-19 in Iowa surpass 100
March 23: State public health officials say an additional 15 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Iowa, bringing the state's total to 105. Gov. Kim Reynolds made the announcement on Monday. She is scheduled to hold a news conference later in the day.
State launches new coronavirus website
March 23: Iowa state officials have launched a new website for the public to get information about the coronavirus.
Gov. Kim Reynolds announced on Monday during a radio program that Iowans can go to https://coronavirus.iowa.gov/ for updates about the state's response to the virus.
The website includes data about known cases of the virus in Iowa. It also lists information from various state agencies involved in providing public assistance to people affected by the virus.
Polk County sheriff suspends sheriff's sales of foreclosed homes
The Polk County Sheriff's Office suspended its sales of foreclosed homes until May 4. In a news release Monday, Polk County sheriff's Lt. Heath Osberg said the office suspended sales of foreclosed homes after Gov. Kim Reynolds prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people and ordered the closure of bars and restaurants last week.
90 cases of COVID-19 in Iowa
March 22: There are 22 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Iowa, the Department of Public Health announced Sunday, bringing the total number of cases to 90 across 24 counties.
Salons, spas, tattoo parlors to close; day care centers stay open for children of essential workers
March 22: Gov. Kim Reynolds mandated the closure of Iowa's salons, barbershops, medical spas, massage therapists, tattoo shops, tanning facilities and swimming pools.
Those closures, as part of her State Public Health Emergency Declaration proclamation signed Sunday, went into effect at 10 p.m. Sunday and is to last until March 31. She is open to extending those closures as needed, said her spokesperson, Pat Garrett.
In a news conference on Sunday, March 22, 2020, Governor Kim Reynolds says a shelter in place order is not needed in Iowa during coronavirus outbreak. Des Moines Register
Reynolds' proclamation also suspends foreclosures on residential, commercial and agriculture properties and relaxes some professional licensing rules to allow more medical professionals to be able to practice, including suspending professional license expiration and in-person continuing education requirements.
Also Sunday, Reynolds and Iowa Department of Human Services Director Kelly Garcia asked schools, churches or community centers to open day care centers for children of essential service workers.
The department will conduct an on-site visit to ensure the facility is age-appropriate and can accommodate groups of 10 children, and that all caregivers have passed background checks. The department also will help locate caregivers to staff the pop-up locations.
Seamstresses make protective masks to help hospitals with shortages
March 22: Facing a nationwide shortage of masks and other personal protective equipment, Iowa hospitals and nonprofit organizations are asking seamstresses to make homemade, reusable masks to increase their supply as workers fight the novel coronavirus pandemic.
A Facebook group of seamstresses across Iowa is answering the call, teaming up virtually to purchase fabric, make masks and deliver them where needed.
Jess Mazour of Dexter started Masks for the Frontlines Iowa on Friday. By Sunday morning, the group had more than 600 members volunteering their time while sheltered at home to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
UI Hospitals and Clinics makes 'urgent request' for donations of personal protective equipment
March 22: Leaders at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics have made an "urgent request" for face shields to protect all employees who interact with patients, visitors and coworkers as it works to fight the spread of COVID-19 in Johnson County — the epicenter of confirmed cases in Iowa.
UIHC currently has a supply of face shields for staff who provide patient care or do screenings at hospital entrances but is wanting to be able to extend those protections to all employees. The health system is asking businesses and individuals to donate new or used protective face shields.
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