CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus in Iowa, live updates for March 30: Mercy shifts respiratory clinic to increase patient capacity

A health care worker sits in a screening area outside Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids on Friday, March 27, 2020. (R
A health care worker sits in a screening area outside Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids on Friday, March 27, 2020. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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11:17 a.m. State COVID-19 update

DES MOINES — The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced this morning that a pair of area residents with COVID-19 died last night.

Elderly adults (81+) from Linn County and Washington Counties passed away last night, according to the IDPH this morning.

IDPH has been notified of 88 additional positive cases of Iowans with COVID-19, for a total of 424 positive cases. There have been a total of 6,162 negative tests to date, which includes testing reported by the State Hygienic Lab and other labs.

Twenty-nine news cases were reported in Linn County, which now leads the state with 71 confirmed cases.

A status report of monitoring and testing of COVID-19 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.

12:34 p.m. Des Moines music fest canceled

Early Monday afternoon, the organizers of the 80/35 Music Festival announced they will cancel the event in 2020 because of COVID-19.

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This year’s 80/35 had been scheduled for July 10 and 11 at Western Gateway Park in Des Moines. It would have been the 13th year for the festival.

80/35 organizer’s emailed a statement.

“It’s with a sad song in our hearts to inform you, our friends, volunteers, artists and passionate music fans, that we have decided to cancel the 13th annual 80/35 festival originally scheduled for July 10 & 11,” the statement read. “As a small, nonprofit organization that relies on ticket sales, volunteers, community grants, and corporate sponsorships, the COVID-19 global pandemic has profoundly disrupted our ability to responsibly prepare and produce the festival in a manner that ensures its future success. A future without 80/35 was something we couldn’t risk.”

The email said the staff will focus on bringing 80/35 back for 2021.

Iowa also is home to the Hinterland Music Festival (St. Charles, just south of Des Moines). Hinterland is a three-day festival scheduled for July 31 to Aug. 2. No word on Hinterland’s status.

7:10 a.m. Jobless Benefits update

Officials with the Iowa Workforce Development say they have implemented updates to the leave policy for filing unemployment insurance benefits following the enactment of the federal CARES Act.

Effective immediately, IWD officials say employees who are or will be laid off, or are unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19, will no longer be required to use all paid leave before being eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. Also, the change is not retroactive and claim will not be backdated before the week of March 29 for new or existing claims by individuals who work for employers.

The IWD policy requiring claimants to use all available paid leave before filing for unemployment benefits was necessary to help sustain the Iowa Unemployment Trust Fund, which is funded entirely by employers doing business in Iowa and is the source of all benefit payments to claimants. But, the enactment of the CARES Act has provided a significant source of additional funding for claimants, and this policy change reflects the evolving situation.

The CARES Act benefit programs will expand the group of people eligible for unemployment benefits to include the self-employed, independent contractors, nonprofit employees, and gig economy workers as well as workers who have exhausted their benefits, according to the state agency.

IWD officials say they will share more information as guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor is received. But, they say, due to the complexity of program requirements, the process will take time.

As the programs become available, IWD officials will post updates on the department’s website, and share through media outlets and social media. For updates about COVID-19-related information, the agency recommends Iowans to the www.IowaWorkforceDevelopment.gov Web address.

10:17 a.m. Landfill announces schedule change

Beginning Saturday, Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center will be closed on Saturdays until further notice for all customers, including commercial haulers and contractors. Monday through Friday hours will continue normally (7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) for commercial waste haulers and contractors only.

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The Landfill has been closed to the general public since March 18. Despite this closure, it has remained open to commercial waste haulers and contractors.

In an effort to keep garbage and recycling workers safe during the COVID-19 outbreak, Iowa City is urging residents to limit the number of bags that workers must handle directly.

Other things you can do:

— The Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center, like other area landfills, is closed to the public, so it is particularly difficult to find a place to dispose of items right now. Please delay any spring cleaning, if possible, and only dispose of essential garbage at this time.

— Remember that many items can be recycled or composted through our curbside service. Find out what to put in your different carts on our website www.icgov.org/recycle and www.cgov.org/organics.

— If you do have an extra bag of trash, place it on top of your garbage container with the extra garbage sticker visible to the driver. If you absolutely need to dispose of more than one extra bag, please set it on the ground beside your cart.

— Make sure all your garbage bags are sealed and completely closed. The extra garbage sticker requirement remains enforced. This limits the need for collection workers to handle extra bags.

10:57 a.m. Johnson County extends building closures through April 16

Following the recommendation of Johnson County Public Health and as a precaution to protect those who are most vulnerable in our community, Johnson County will extend the closure its buildings to the public, excluding the Johnson County Courthouse, through 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, April 16, 2020. This is in line with Gov. Kim Reynolds earlier order to close other facilities to the general public.

Johnson County officials continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 situation in the community and follow the recommendations of Johnson County Public Health (JCPH), Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Johnson County continues to provide County services. Many Johnson County services are available online, by phone, or through mail or email. Contact information for all County departments and offices are available on the Johnson County website at www.johnson-county.com.

12:34 p.m. United Way of Johnson, Washington counties looking for laundry detergent

Laundromania, an Iowa City laundry chain, will provide free laundry services to those in need from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 1 at each of their five local locations.

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To support Laundromania’s Free Laundry Day, United Way of Johnson and Washington Counties is collecting donations of laundry detergent.

Donations can be left inside the door of the United Way office: 1150-5th Street Suite 290 Coralville, IA from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today Monday (3/30), Tuesday (3/31) and Wednesday (4/1).

For questions, call: (319) 338.7823. Remember to use social distancing guidelines when dropping off your donation.

United Way volunteers will begin helping with laundry at 8:30 a.m. with the last laundry loads being put into the washers at 3:30 p.m. Those using Laundromania’s “Free Laundry Day” are asked to:

— Remain in your car.

— Fold clothes at home.

— Be prompt to remove completed laundry.

— Please do not bring children.

— Limit of 120lbs of laundry per household-machines list weight capacity.

Participating locations for Laundromania’s Free Laundry Day include:

— 316 E Bloomington St, Iowa City

— 1845 Lower Muscatine Rd, Iowa City

— 737 Mormon Trek Blvd, Iowa City

— 204 1st Ave, Coralville

— 465 Hwy 965, North Liberty

To volunteer for Laundromania’s Free Laundry Day and review the volunteer shifts available visit United Way of Johnson & Washington Counties’ volunteer site at COVID19volunteers.org.

1:58 p.m. Iowa State parks reduce some amenities as part of COVID-19 response

Iowa state parks will continue to look at ways to help protect the health of visitors and staff during the COVID-19 health emergency.

Iowa state parks are still open. However, please be aware of the following operational changes, effectively immediately, before visiting a state park:

— All bathrooms, including pit latrines, are closed in Iowa state parks through April 15, 2020. Visitors should bring their own hand sanitizer, as no soap or sanitizer will be available in the park.

— Because bathrooms are not available, camping is limited to self-contained (enclosed) campers with their own bathrooms through April 15. Camping through April 15 will be available for walk-ins only on a first-come, first-served basis. More details can be found on the park alerts page.

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— Shelters, camping cabins, youth camps and lodges are closed and not available for rentals because of the lack of bathroom facilities available.

— Playgrounds are not advised to be used during this health emergency. Park staff are unable to keep them clean according to CDC guidelines. User discretion is advised.

— Please remember to keep physical distance of at least 6 feet between you and other visitors, and avoid areas in parks where people may congregate such as points of interest, scenic overlooks, buildings and busy trails.

Please visit the DNR’s COVID-19 Web page for more information about how COVID-19 is affecting DNR events, facilities and services.

2:05 p.m. Iowa Lottery announces changes to Powerball starting jackpot

CLIVE — The Iowa Lottery on Monday announced that the next time the Powerball lottery resets, it will be guarantee a $20 million annuity, rather than the game’s usual starting jackpot amount of $40 million.

The jackpot won’t reset until the current amount is awarded. It was $170 million on Monday.

Also the next time the jackpot is won, rather than growing by at least $10 million in between drawings as currently occurs in the game, the jackpot will grow by at least $2 million between drawings.

The amount of the Powerball jackpot is driven by ticket sales, which have been lagging in the game, according to a release from the Iowa Lottery. Normal consumer behavior has been largely disrupted nationwide by the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency. And the Powerball Product Group is making necessary adjustments.

It remains to be seen whether this change will be permanent. That decision rests with the directors of the U.S. lotteries that are members of the Powerball Product Group, which will continue to evaluate and monitor sales in the game.

5:26 p.m. Mercy shifts site of respiratory clinic to increase patient capacity

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mercy is shifting its respiratory clinic pilot site to MercyCare Marion at 3701 Katz Drive, effective Monday, March 30.

This change in location allows Mercy to serve additional members of the community with increased capacity. As a result of this change in location, Mercy is no longer sending patients with respiratory illnesses to the Hiawatha location, where they were being seen last week.

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“In anticipation of patient need in the weeks to come, Mercy physicians and staff developed the new clinic prototype at the Marion location over the weekend,” Dr. Timothy Quinn, Mercy’s executive vice president and chief of clinic operations, said. “This new model will allow efficient deployment to additional sites, if needed. We will continue to evaluate community need and respond accordingly.”

Using a respiratory-only clinic provides a centralized location to address the capacity for these types of patients and to safely direct them away from other clinics, limiting potential risk of exposure at other locations. Importantly, it also helps conserve important protective equipment.

How It Works:

— All patients with respiratory illnesses, including suspected COVID-19, will be sent (with a physician referral only) to MercyCare Marion Urgent Care. The hours of this clinic are 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The phone number at MercyCare Marion Urgent Care is (319) 373-3022.

— Primary care and urgent care patients needing appointments or testing for mild to moderate respiratory illness — such as a cough, difficulty breathing, fever and runny nose — should be directed by their medical provider to the respiratory illness-only site at MercyCare Marion Urgent Care. That site will only test for COVID-19 based on established criteria from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Patients who seek care for non-respiratory symptoms at MercyCare Marion can be seen as a walk-in appointment with family practice, which is isolated from the respiratory clinic. Those patients can also be sent to MercyCare North Urgent Care.

Patients who do not have a primary care provider can call Mercy’s Find-A-Doc line at (319) 369-4444 or go online to schedule an urgent care video visit.

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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.