Coronavirus in Iowa, live updates for March 20: Linn County Jail suspends visits for inmates

People move out of Burge Residence Hall during a scheduled move-out from the University of Iowa in Iowa City on Thursday
People move out of Burge Residence Hall during a scheduled move-out from the University of Iowa in Iowa City on Thursday, March 19, 2020. Students have been told to vacate their dorms and are required to sign up for two-hour time slots to remove their belongings. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

6:00 p.m. Linn County Jail cancels visits, effective Sunday

From the Linn County Sheriff’s Office:

“Due to COVID-19 virus concerns, specifically as they apply to maintaining 6’ social distancing, inmate visitation at the Linn County Correctional Center will be CANCELED effective Sunday, March 22nd. Visitation will resume once precautionary measures have been lifted.

Because of this, we are allowing inmates to send out additional free letters and have worked with our phone vendor to provide inmates with free additional phone calls so that they can continue to stay in touch with family and friends.”

4:41 p.m. Kohl’s stores to close through April 1

National retailer Kohl’s said Friday it has closed all its stores thorugh April 1. and Kohl’s App will remain operating, the company said on its website.

4:24 p.m. Iowa DNR says drinking water is safe, asks public to please not flush odd things down the toilet

Two key announcements from a Iowa Department of Natural Resources this afternoon.

First: “COVID-19 as it relates to public drinking water to provide clarity to the public. The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water supplies. Based on current evidence, the risk to water supplies is very low. Disinfection methods used in drinking water treatment plants are effective for inactivation of coronaviruses and all other viruses. Iowans can continue to use and drink water from their tap as usual. The Iowa DNR recommends obtaining your potable water from your tap as much as possible to conserve bottled water for emergency situations if needed.”

And second: “The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is reminding Iowans of the importance of flushing ONLY toilet paper and human waste down toilets to avoid disruption of sewer systems.

The Department recognizes the temporary shortage of toilet paper products during the Covid-19 outbreak, but warns items such as flushable wipes, disinfecting wipes, surface cleaning wipes, baby wipes, even though advertised as flushable, are not recommended for disposal by flushing down a toilet. Diapers, paper towels, tissues and feminine hygiene products should also not be flushed down toilets.”

4:05 p.m. Calling all sewists, St. Luke’s Hospital wants You to sew some masks

The Cedar Rapids hospital is asking for the public’s assistance in sewing masks for healthcare workers. Read more at the St. Luke’s web page. And if you want to give it a go, here is the pattern:


“Cedar Rapids has an adequate supply of masks however – they remain in short supply nationwide due to COVID-19. The hospital is looking to be proactive in addressing the possibility of future supply challenges. Therefore, St. Luke’s is calling all sewers to help make masks. Our hope is that we won’t need them, but we must plan for the unknown.

Fabric masks offer the benefit of being able to be washed and re-used as each healthcare worker will need to change their mask several times during their shifts, as the mask becomes soiled or damp – for maximum protection.

A new modular mask, The Olson, named after 1930’s legendary maker nurse Lyla Mae Olson, was quickly developed by clinicians from UnityPoint Health and is being shared across the globe in the fight against COVID19. A group of clinicians teamed up in the hospital’s generate prototyping space to create a series of experimental designs rooted material science and easy fabrication. No special instruments are required for fabrication, and the pattern is compatible with common mask patterns being released around the country.”

3:48 p.m. Iowa City shares community resources, plans to keep updated

Here are economic resources for those struggling financially in Johnson County, including those whose jobs have been affected by the pandemic.

3:31 p.m. Iowa Senator Joni Ernst calls for assistance in helping Iowans stranded in other countries to get home

On Friday Sen. Joni Ernst called for assistance to help Iowans return home from other countries, particular several stranded in Peru:

“U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) is calling for immediate action to get the dozens of Iowans—and many more other Americans—stranded in Peru and elsewhere abroad home as soon as possible. Today, Senator Ernst sent a letter to State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo urging him to act quickly to ensure the health and safety of these Americans.

In her letter, Senator Ernst writes: “As the global situation continues to change, it becomes increasingly important to take immediate action to return American citizens to the United States. […] As you can imagine, in these situations, time is of the essence and we must act quickly to ensure the health and safety of these Americans.”

In the last few days, Ernst’s office has heard directly from Iowans who are currently in this situation—in Peru and elsewhere. Her staff is in direct contact with officials at the State Department and are working on solutions and supporting the Administration in its efforts to find ways to get these people home.

Click here for a PDF of the letter.”

2:48 p.m. United Way of East Central Iowa (UWECI) Launches CARE Fund

From the United Way: “United Way of East Central Iowa (UWECI) is launching the Community Agency Response Effort (CARE) Fund to raise dollars in support of nonprofits’ increasing needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARE Fund will be used to address and support the emerging needs of the most vulnerable individuals in our community through funding local nonprofits who have increased programs and services surrounding this pandemic. Some examples of those needs and services include unexpected childcare expenses, feeding neighbors or replacing the loss of income.

UWECI has committed $40,000 from reserves to support the effort. Alliant Energy came forth with the first external donation to the fund. “We are working to minimize the impact of the COVID-19 crisis for our employees, customers and the communities they live in while continuing safe and reliable operations,” said Terry Kouba, President of Alliant Energy’s Iowa energy company. “United Way’s relief fund will provide immediate support to help those in need during these unsettling times, especially those most vulnerable.” Donations from both individuals and organizations are accepted.”

2:22 p.m. Iowa Senator Joni Ernst calls for support of health care workers during discussion on financial relief package

“Right now, the Senate is working swiftly with the Trump Administration to deliver additional relief to Americans who are struggling in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator Ernst, a member of the Senate Small Business Committee. “As we work through this Phase 3 package, we must prioritize those who are on the front lines of this crisis: our hospitals, community health centers, rural health clinics, and the countless health workers who are, at this very moment, caring for and treating COVID-19 patients.


“I’ve heard from a number of health care providers across Iowa about their need for more relief. As we work through this next phase of the federal response, we must remember that we are only going to be as successful as our health efforts allow. Let’s come together – as Democrats and Republicans – and heed the call of our hospitals and health care workers who need additional personal protective equipment and direct financial assistance. They always have our back; let’s make sure we have theirs when they need it most.”

1:29 p.m. Cedar Rapids waste and recycling collection makes changes to prevent COVID-19 spread

Here are some changes to your solid waste and recycling collection in Cedar Rapids:

“The City of Cedar Rapids Solid Waste and Recycling division is working to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). The division has adjusted collection procedures to reduce the risk of worker exposure and to limit the need to exit the collection vehicle:

Garbage Collection

• Place extra garbage bags with the garbage sticker visible to the driver on top of your gray GARBY cart.

• Hold onto any extra garbage bags that don’t fit on top of your GARBY cart until the next collection period.

• Tip: Use small bags rather than full-sized so more garbage fits in your GARBY cart.

Recycling Collection

• Only recycling inside your blue CURBY cart will be collected. No extra recycling boxes for now.

• Tip: Flatten items to fit more in.

• Glass collection is suspended. Hold onto glass until collection resumes.

Yard Waste Collection

Collection of green YARDY (yard waste) carts continues.

Bulky Item & Special Haul Collection

Temporarily suspended until further notice.”

1:05 p.m. Senator Grassley pushes for disaster funding for COVID-19 response

A media release from the office of Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley:

“Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) today sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking that he promptly grant Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds’ request for an expedited review of the major disaster declaration for the State of Iowa as a result of multiple cases of COVID-19 detected in the state. On March 17, 2020, Governor Reynolds declared a State of Public Health Emergency and the confirmed cases continue to rise.

I’m pleased that Iowa is already receiving assistance under the National Emergency Declaration. However, this request for a Major Disaster Declaration can provide additional resources to the State of Iowa to help Iowans fight this virus,” Grassley said.


Reynolds also requested activation of Disaster Unemployment Assistance and Crisis Counseling under the Individual Assistance program statewide; debris removal and emergency protective measures (Category A and B), including Direct Federal Assistance under the Public Assistance program statewide and Hazard Mitigation statewide.”

1:01 p.m. Dunkin’ to the rescue?

From a Dunkin’ media release: “Dunkin’ offering Cedar Rapids area hunger and health relief organizations COVID-19 response grants

The Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation is activating $1.25 million in emergency funding to support organizations on the frontlines of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) response. Emergency grants from the Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation are meant to provide flexible funding for organizations so they can apply for the support they need.

Cedar Rapids organizations are eligible to apply for immediate relief funding to assist the communities they serve amid the crisis. To apply, organizations must be a verified 501(c)3 nonprofit and can submit an application at

12:20 p.m. One additional COVID-19 Case Confirmed, Gov. Reynolds holding press conference at 2:30 p.m.

The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) has been notified of one additional positive case of Iowans with COVID-19, for a total of 45 positive cases. 765 negative tests have been conducted at the State Hygienic Lab. According to IDPH, this individual resides in Allamakee County and is a middle-aged adult (41-60). Gov. Reynolds will hold a press conference today from the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in Johnston, IA at 2:30 p.m. to provide an update to the state of Iowa on COVID-19.

12:13 p.m. New options for senior dining following coronavirus disruption

From Heritage Area Agency on Aging: “Older adults in the Cedar Rapids area have a new option for finding meals while senior centers are closed during the coronavirus pandemic. Encore Café – the award-winning pop-up café for older adults – will transition to offering frozen meal pickups starting next week.

Heritage Area Agency on Aging and partner organizations Horizons and HACAP are teaming up to fill the gap created by the mandatory closure of senior centers and congregate dining programs across the state. The Encore Café meal pickups will take place twice per week and provide each eligible senior (adults ages 60 and older) with five frozen meals produced at Horizons.

Shelf-stable food boxes provided by HACAP will also be available at the meal pickups. The program starts March 24, 2020, and will run until normal Encore Café operations can resume.

Reservations are required. Call (319) 398-2585 by 1 p.m. the day before pickup to make a reservation. The pickup details are:

Tuesdays at St Marks UMC, 4700 Johnson Ave NW. Participants should enter via Johnson Ave.

Thursdays at Marion Public Library’s vacant lot across 11th St. Participants should enter via 11th St.

Pickup times are assigned by the first letter of the participant’s last name

• A – F from 11:30 am – 11:50 am

• G – M from 11:50 am – 12:10 pm

• N – Z from 12:20 pm – 12:30 pm”

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.