CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus in Iowa, live updates for March 25: Cedar Rapids playgrounds closed

Aiden Babka, 12, laughs with his parents, Beth and Jim Babka of North Liberty, as they play on the new all-inclusive pla
Aiden Babka, 12, laughs with his parents, Beth and Jim Babka of North Liberty, as they play on the new all-inclusive playground at Noelridge Park in Cedar Rapids on Oct. 19, 2017. Aiden has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair or a special bike to get around. The inclusive playground is the first in Cedar Rapids and features play elements that accessible to children and adults with varying levels of physical ability. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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3:02 p.m. Marion Temporarily Closes Playgrounds

MARION — Consistent with neighboring cities, the City of Marion will temporarily close playgrounds and outdoor exercise equipment in parks to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Parks and trails will remain open.

“Decisions like this are not made lightly,” Marion Mayor Nicolas AbouAssaly, in a statement, said. “We have a personal responsibility to observe these closures and contribute to the well-being of our community.”

Residents are reminded to follow CDC guidelines and state recommendations pertaining to COVID-19 when using park facilities:

-Follow social distancing standards of a minimum of six feet between individuals.

-Avoid areas where 10 or more people are gathered.

-Do not use park amenities where social distancing cannot be followed.

-If anyone has been sick in the last two weeks or has a cough, fever or other flu like symptoms, stay home for safety of others.

-Individuals 60 years of age and older, or those with underlying conditions, should stay at home to avoid potential exposures.

“Fresh air and physical activity are important to individual well-being, especially in times like these,” AbouAssaly said. “Please observe these guidelines to ensure that our community parks can remain open during these challenging times.”

Marion has over 21 parks and 8 trails on more than 600 acres of land.

2:54 p.m. Financial Relief for Parkers Cedar Rapids

CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids downtown parking system has enacted “sweeping” changes in response to the Covid-19 crisis to provide relief and assistance to downtown workers and businesses, officials announced Wednesday. The Downtown Management Board, in working with the city and Park Cedar Rapids, have taken the following steps, effective immediately:

-Monthly permit parking fees are waived for April.

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-On-street parking regulations remain in effect for safety and control purposes only, with enforcement limited to public safety concerns and situations in which violators are significantly impeding businesses or city services.

-Remaining ParkCR staff are being redirected to monitoring facilities for safety purposes, cleaning and disinfecting public use areas and performing maintenance that’s more effectively done during periods of low use. Their focus will be on creating solutions for these unique circumstances, such as helping downtown restaurants how to safely set up pickup services.

The fee waiver amounts to more than $220,000 in financial relief for April. For workers who pay for their own parking, the average savings is about $60 depending on which facility is used. For companies that pay for parking for all of their employees, the waiver could amount to several thousand dollars of financial assistance. Additional relief may be considered for future months based on business resumption and parking facility use in coming weeks.

2:40 p.m. Gov. Reynolds Waives in Person Requirement for Notarizing Documents

DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds has temporarily waived the in-person requirement for notarizing documents during the COVID-19 emergency. The requirements are subject to guidance provided by Iowa Secretary of State of State Paul Pate.

A new law allowing remote notarization in Iowa was scheduled to take effect on July 1, so Reynolds declaration accelerates the timeline.

“I’ve been a longtime advocate for remote notarization as long as the integrity measures are kept in place,” Pate, in a statement, said. “During this crisis, waiving the in-person requirement is a necessity. We want to help Iowans

conduct important business and other vital transactions while maintaining social distancing. Remote notarization will help commerce continue.”

The temporary guidelines that apply during the emergency waiver of the in-person requirement are below:

The new remote notary law is currently scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2020. Notaries are advised that as that date approaches, it will re-evaluate what the changeover will look like and issue further guidance at that time. Questions may be emailed to the Secretary of State’s Office at notary@sos.iowa.gov.

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-Under the emergency declaration, remote notarial acts must conform to all the provisions in Iowa Administrative Code 721-43, Iowa Code chapter 9B, and every provision of Section 6 of Senate File 475.

-Section 6 requires the use a software service designed for the purpose of facilitating remote online notarization, as opposed to services that primarily offer videoconferencing ability-Online notarization services include the necessary identity-proofing, e-signing, and recording/storage capabilities.

-Even though the revised administrative rules are not yet in effect, the ARC 4997C draft is available online and will help notaries esure they will be in compliance when they do take effect: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/aco/bulletin/03-25-2020.pdf

-Section 6 requires notaries to register with our office before performing any remote notarial acts. A web application is available to complete and submit on our website -

-It is advised that notaries follow the training on how to use the remote online notarization service provided by the service they choose.

-Verification of the customer’s identity is of critical. Notaries are advised to be certain that the video resolution through the service they choose is sufficient to see identity-proofing documents clearly, and that the audio clarity is sufficient to understand everything the customer says.

-Notaries are reminded that they are professionally responsible for properly performing notarizations under the law, even in this emergency context.

1:15 p.m. University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Wants to Partner With Area Restaurant to Provide Food to Staff

IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is interested in partnering with an area restaurant that they could purchase food from to be sold to staff in retail areas operated by the Department of Food and Nutrition Services.

Requirements for participating:

-Food must be prepared in a restaurant or commercial kitchen licensed by the Johnson County Department of Public Health

-Must be able to provide 200 servings at a time

-Must be delivered ready to consume (hot food >135°F, cold food <41°F)

-Must be delivered at the following ties: Lunch — 10:30 a.m., dinner — 3:30 p.m.

and 3rd shift — midnight.

-Restaurants will be paid by university procurement credit card and all sales would be tax exempt.

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Officials ask if any business is interested in pursuing this, please fill out the following survey. If selected to participate, each item will be served in one of our retail cafeterias, along with other food prepared by hospital food service. There may be other opportunities to partner as they move forward. As those opportunities are identified, they will reach out with a new request.

12:37 p.m. Gov. Reynolds Response To Iowa’s Disaster Declaration Approved By President Trump

DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds received notification last night that President Donald Trump has approved her request for a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration for COVID-19, removing a $5 million cap on federal funds as well as making available the Community Disaster Loan program.

“I want to thank President Donald Trump for his quick response in approving Iowa’s disaster declaration because it will open up federal resources to Iowa as we combat the spread of COVID-19,” Reynolds said. “This outbreak is an unprecedented crisis for the entire nation and it’s going to take a whole-of-government approach to limit the spread of the virus and provide economic relief to all of those impacted.”

The declaration provides assistance for work and services to save lives and protect property, to include emergency protective measures.

Reynolds had also requested activation of the federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance and Crisis Counseling programs and statewide Hazard Mitigation Assistance funding. Those portions of her request are still under consideration.

Reynolds will hold a news conference 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. The news conference will be livestreamed and posted in full on Gov. Reynolds’ Facebook Page.

11:21 a.m. 2020 Cedar Rapids Downtown Farmers Market Dates Adjusted Due To Coronavirus Uncertainty

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance will delay the opening date of the Cedar Rapids Downtown Farmers Market, sponsored by Cedar Rapids Bank & Trust. The market was set to open May 23, but organizers are now planning the first market for June 6. The current plan is for all eight Saturday markets of the season to still occur with last one set for Sept. 5, over Labor Day weekend.

The new market dates are June 6, June 20, July 4, July 18, Aug. 1, Aug. 15, Sept. 5 and Sept. 19. All markets run from 7:30 a.m. to noon.

The spread of coronavirus and its impacts on public gatherings continue to evolve by the day. The decision to adjust market dates was made with knowledge that is available now. The Economic Alliance understands that future adjustments to the market may be necessary for the health and safety of all.

11:14 a.m. Miller Warns Online Marketplaces, Other Sellers Over Price Gouging

DES MOINES — Attorney General Tom Miller joined letters with more than 30 other attorneys general to urge Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Walmart, and Craigslist to more “rigorously monitor price-gouging practices “by online sellers using their services.

The action is among several that Miller is taking to address price gouging during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since Gov. Kim Reynolds declared a disaster emergency, Miller’s office has received about 50 formal and 200 informal complaints about excessive pricing at retail stores, online sites and social media platforms. The most frequent complaints involved medical masks and respirators, toilet paper or other paper products, hand sanitizer, and cleaning products.

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“It is illegal and unconscionable for sellers to raise prices excessively during this pandemic,” Miller, in a statement, said. “We will pursue anyone who persists in this practice, and that includes individual sellers on social media as well as retailers.”

Businesses or individuals found in violation could face civil penalties of up to $40,000 under the Iowa Consumer Fraud Act.

The Attorney General’s Office also advises consumers to be wary of scammers who prey upon fear over coronavirus in other ways, including selling bogus products and engaging in scams related to phishing, charity solicitations and investment offers.

11:00 a.m. Additional Covid-19 Cases In Iowa, Reynolds To Hold Press Conference Today

DES MOINES — The Iowa Department of Public Health has been notified of 21 additional positive cases of Iowans with COVID-19, for a total of 145 positive cases. There have been a total of 2,578 negative tests to date, which includes testing reported by the State Hygienic Lab and other labs.

According to department, 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)

A status report of monitoring and testing of COVID19 in Iowa is provided by IDPH and can be found here. In addition, a public hotline has been established for Iowans with questions about COVID-19. The line is available 24/7 by calling 2-1-1 or 1-800-244-7431. The state of Iowa has started sharing the number of negative tests conducted at outside labs, and is providing additional information on the conditions of those infected with COVID-19.

Gov. Reynolds will hold a news conference today at 2:30 p.m. The news conference will be livestreamed and posted in full on Gov. Reynolds’ Facebook Page.

10:10 A.M. Trump Approves Iowa Disaster Declaration

President Donald Trump has declared that a major disaster exists in the state of Iowa and has ordered federal assistance to supplement state, tribal, and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by the coronavirus pandemic that began on Jan. 20 and is continuing.

The president’s action Tuesday makes federal funding available to state, tribal, and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations for emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance for all areas of Iowa impacted by COVID-19.

Pete Gaynor, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, named Paul Taylor as the federal coordinating officer for federal recovery operations in the affected areas.

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Additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by Iowa officials and warranted by the results of further assessments by federal agencies, according to a White House news release.

Lucinda Parker, spokeswoman for the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said the presidential declaration grants Iowa public assistance program funding for emergency protective measures and direct federal assistance.

Public assistance for emergency protective measures is available now to eligible private non-profits and local and state governmental entities to offset costs related to COVID-19 response, she said. The assistance comes in the form of a grant that provides at least 75 percent federal funding.

In Iowa, the state also provides 10 percent non-federal matching funds to support these local grants that typically carry a local cost share of 15 percent.

Direct federal assistance is primarily a state request made through FEMA and/or HHS for materials, supplies, or equipment related to the COVID-19 response, Parker added, much of which is medically related items that would come from the Strategic National Stockpile.

9:46 a.m. Services Available From The Equity And Human Rights Office

IOWA CITY — Residents can still contact the Office of Equity and Human Rights online, by phone or email during the temporary closure of the office. For information or assistance, contact the office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at (319) 356-5015 and 356-5022, or by email at humanrights@iowa-city.org.

The Equity and Human Rights website can be accessed 24/7 and provides information and resources on unlawful discrimination, including Know Your Rights and Fair Housing brochures both available in English, Spanish, Arabic, French, Swahili, and Chinese.

If someone needs to file a complaint of discrimination, go to the website to submit it online, or contact the office for a hard-copy complaint. Staff can email residents a copy, or send one by mail along with a self-addressed stamped envelope to send it back.

Unlawful discrimination involves treating a person less favorably than another person, because of a protected characteristic. For example: age, sex, race, or marital status. Discrimination can happen when a person is individually treated less favorably than another because of one or more protected characteristics, or when a policy or practice puts a group of people at a disadvantage because of a protected characteristic.

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A person has 300 days from the last discriminatory incident to file a complaint of discrimination under the Iowa City Code.

9:34 a.m.Czech Village Association

CEDAR RAPIDS — The 43rd Annual Houby Day Festival set for May will be canceled based on the health concerns for the community, as well as visitors who travel to attend this event each year. Association officials said they are following the recommendations in place by the World Health Organization. They hope to plan some other fun events for later on in the year. Officials said they appreciate the community’s support at this time.

9:00 a.m. Cedar Rapids Playgrounds And Outdoor Exercise Stations Closed

CEDAR RAPIDS – The city is temporarily closing playgrounds and outdoor exercise stations in all parks for the health and safety of the public due to COVID-19. Parks, trails and dog parks will remain open. City officials ask the community to follow CDC guidelines and state recommendations pertaining to COVID-19 when using park facilities.

The following are a list of recommendations:

-Follow social distancing standards of a minimum of six feet between you and other park users.

-Avoid areas where 10 or more people are gathered.

-Do not use park amenities where social distancing cannot be followed.

-Be aware that park restrooms are currently closed and water is not turned on. Bring hand sanitizer with you.

-Please carry out any trash that is brought into the parks.

-If you have been sick in the last two weeks or have a cough, fever or other flu like symptoms, stay home for your health and the safety of others.

-Individuals 60 years of age and older, or those with underlying conditions, should stay at home to avoid potential exposures.

7:25 a.m. President Donald Trump Approves Iowa Disaster Declaration

President Donald Trump has declared that a major disaster exists in the state of Iowa and has ordered federal assistance to supplement state, tribal, and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by the coronavirus pandemic that began on Jan. 20 and is continuing.

The president’s action Tuesday makes federal funding available to state, tribal, and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations for emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance for all areas of Iowa impacted by COVID-19.

Pete Gaynor, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, named Paul Taylor as the federal coordinating officer for federal recovery operations in the affected areas.

Additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by Iowa officials and warranted by the results of further assessments by federal agencies, according to a White House news release.

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Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please donate. Your contribution will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.

All donations are tax-deductible.