CORONAVIRUS

COVID-19 in Iowa, live updates for March 17: 6 New COVID-19 cases identified in Iowa

Attendees to an open house for the then-new Social Security Administration field office at 3165 Williams Blvd. SW enjoy
Attendees to an open house for the then-new Social Security Administration field office at 3165 Williams Blvd. SW enjoy refreshments in a training room on Oct. 30, 2007.
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7:12 p.m. 6 new cases of COVID-19 identified in Iowa

From the Iowa Department of Public Health: “The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) has been notified of six additional positive cases of Iowans with COVID-19, for a total of 29 positive cases. According to IDPH, three individuals are residents of Johnson County; the other three are residents of Adair, Blackhawk and Dallas Counties.

Earlier today, Gov. Reynolds issued a State of Public Health Disaster Emergency, activating the public health response and recovery aspects of the State Disaster Emergency Plan.”

4:50 p.m. Elective surgeries suspended in Cedar Rapids

Mercy Medical Center, UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s, Surgery Center Cedar Rapids and Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa have announced they are temporarily postponing non-life threatening, non-urgent surgeries and procedures. This will impact elective procedures at the Cedar Rapids hospitals and the Surgery Center, according to a news release.

“Care teams at each entity will begin the process of reaching out to affected patients to reschedule. This is a rapidly evolving situation and we will reassess on an ongoing basis,” the news release stated.

3:08 P.M. IOWA CITY CLOSES LANDFILL AND RECYCLING CENTER

The City of Iowa City announced that the Landfill and Recyling Center, 3900 Hebl Ave., would be closed to the public until at least April 5.

The landfill will remain open to commerical waste haulers and contractors, the city said in a news release. Citizens are encouraged to use curbside servcies and public recycling drop-off sites to dispose of waste during the closure, the city said.

2:05 P.M. JOHNSON COUNTY CLOSES MOST COUNTY BUILDINGS TO PUBLIC

All county buildings - with the exception of the courthouse - will be closed to the public beginning Tuesday, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors announced.

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County employees will continue to report to work and provide county services during the closure, the board said. Residents are encouraged to conduct county business online, over the phone or through mail and email.

12:09 P.M. NORTH LIBERTY CLOSES ALL CITY BUILDINGS

All city buildings will be closed until at least April 13, the City of North Liberty announced Tuesday.

During the closure, essential city services will be maintained - including water and wastewaster services, fire and police. Other city services will be provided remotely, the city said in a press release.

The press release states that utility bills can be paid online or over the phone and convenience fees will be waived. Drop boxes are still available at City Hall, 3 Quail Creek Circle; and outside of the fire station, 25 W. Cherry St.

Citizens are encouraged to use digital library resources - including books and movies - at northlibertylibrary.org/reference.

11:38 a.m. Social Security offices closed

From the SSA: On Monday, March 16 the Social Security Administration announced that ALL local Social Security offices will be closed to the public for in-person service starting Tuesday, March 17, 2020. This change with undoubtedly impact hundreds of thousands U.S. citizens who visit their local Social Security office each month to get help applying for and receiving their benefits.

This decision protects the population we serve—older Americans and people with underlying medical conditions—and our employees during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

More information here

10:28 a.m. IOWA CITY PUBLIC LIBRARY OFFERING REFERENCE SERVICES DURING CLOSURE

You’ve got questions, the Iowa City Public Library has answers. Even during a public health crisis.

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Although closed to the public due to COVID-19, the library announced Tuesday it will still offer telephone and online reference service from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Reference services can be accessed by calling the library at 319-356-5200 or usking the Ask Us link at icpl.org.

The library is also encouraging patrons to access digital library services. Some resources require a library card.

Those with materials checked out are still asked to keep those until the library reopens. Fines have been suspended and holds on items will not expire.

10:20 a.m. Wartburg College going with remote classes after today

From a news release:

“Dear Wartburg community,

In light of Governor Reynolds’ announcement regarding additional community spread of COVID-19 in Iowa, we will be completing our in-person, face-to-face instruction at the end of the day on Tuesday, March 17. Classes will continue by remote modalities after that date; faculty will communicate with students to arrange the continuation of each class. Campus will remain open.

Beginning on Wednesday, March 18, classes will transition to remote instruction, in keeping with individual faculty design. Winter Term will continue through April 17. May Term instruction will begin on April 27.”

8:55 a.m. Johnson County suspends Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program

IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa and Johnson County have suspended their Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program in response to COVID-19.

Body copy ragged right: The county’s VITA program uses students from the UI Tippie College of Business to prepare taxes for residents on a volunteer basis. The VITA program also uses the space provided by the Iowa City Public Library and Iowa City Community School District to meet with VITA participants.

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Body copy ragged right: With the UI, public library and school district closed due to COVID-19, the program does not have the resources to continue for the time being, the county said in a news release. VITA clinics are canceled until at least April 5.

Body copy ragged right: VITA volunteers will continue to work remotely to complete returns, answer taxpayer questions and file extensions for taxpayers who request that option, the news release said.

8:30 a.m. Archdiocese of Dubuque cancels all masses

From a news release yesterday:

Archbishop Michael Jackels has cancelled all Masses in the Archdiocese of Dubuque beginning on Thursday, March 19 until further notice. In a statement issued Monday afternoon, Archbishop Jackels said, “After consultation and considerable prayer, it has been decided – out of an abundance of caution and with devotion to the common good – to take steps aimed at slowing down the spread of the coronavirus, to flatten the curve, as they say, so as not to overburden the healthcare system.”

Beginning on March 19 and until further notice, provisions to be taken include:

All public celebrations of Holy Mass are cancelled. All Catholics in the Archdiocese of Dubuque are dispensed from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass.

During this time, the Archbishop will livestream a celebration of Holy Mass each Sunday at 9:00 AM.

Funerals, Weddings and Baptisms may be held, but limited to the immediate family, or at least no more than 50 people present, according to the current CDC guidelines.

Communal penance services should not be held. Private, one-on-one confession can be scheduled by appointment.

All archdiocesan-sponsored events where 50+ people are gathered are cancelled.

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8:00 a.m. DHS taking measures to protect workers, mitigate spread, continue services

From a news release sent late yesterday:

The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) has been working on multiple contingency plans to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic. DHS is gearing up to implement telework options for many on our team. As DHS has not historically promoted telework, we’ve moved quickly to mobilize this option and begin deploying in waves today based on risk and the nature of the team member’s work. Supervisors and IT support will reach out to team members to notify them of next steps and timing.

Much of our team members provide direct care support. We are working to further equip our social workers with tools to keep them safe. DHS created a supervisor toolkit, which we will update regularly as events unfold. For those at our facilities we’ve increased screening, suspended in-person visitation and are putting in place additional cleaning and sanitation. We will continue to provide options such as FaceTime and Skype for family members and guardians who wish to see and speak with their loved ones.

For those who need to be in the office to do their work, we’ve increased cleaning and sanitation. We are also exploring childcare options for our team in the event of further or prolonged school closures.

Those We Serve

The Department is working to ensure access to essential services while reducing our footprint at local offices to protect our team members and those we serve. We encourage the public to call ahead before visiting local offices for assistance by phone or visit www.dhs.iowa.gov for more information on the services we provide.

We are putting policies in place to ensure continued access to childcare during this emergency time. We understand that childcare plays a key role in supporting our state’s ability to continue essential functions – at the State level, within the healthcare system and for other critical infrastructure.

Financial Assistance for Child Care:

We will begin paying childcare providers, who receive childcare assistance (CCA), based on enrollment, not based on attendance, to ensure providers have a stable source of income.

We are also exploring ways to ramp-up childcare capacity, including expedited licensing, alternative site locations, and funding flexibilities.

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We will use Child Care Development Funds (CCDF) for Quality to provide ongoing financial assistance to providers to meet standards for health and safety, including additional cleaning measures, both preventative and responsive to illness.

Child Care Operational Assistance:

DHS’ childcare inspection and regulatory functions are shifting to a role of providing technical assistance focused on hygiene and sanitation. This also increases agility of DHS staff to move resources to respond to the emerging needs of the State.

The Department of Corrections is producing additional sanitizer and, at DHS’ request, has prioritized childcare settings to receive these resources.

In addition to ensuring access to childcare, we are putting strategies in place to protect Iowa’s children:

We know that emergency events like this may cause significant stress on families and requires a continued focus on child protective services.

We are developing strategies to identify children who may be at particular risk during this stressful time.

We are also providing our social workers tools to be more mobile and to adapt as the situation unfolds.

We are equipping our social workers with screening questions to avoid potential exposure to children and our staff.

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As the event continues to unfold, we anticipate an increased need to access social assistance programs. We are evaluating cash, food and medical assistance benefit packages to ensure Iowans have access to essential supports. We will share additional information in the coming days and weeks. We are all going to have to do our part to protect ourselves, and those around us.

7:45 a.m. Mount Mercy University’s Q&A for media about president-elect canceled

The media Q&A scheduled for Thursday, March 26 with Dr. Robert Beatty, Mount Mercy University’s president-elect, has been canceled. This event will be rescheduled on a future date.

7:30 a.m. Cedar Rapids Museum of Art closes

From a Facebook post yesterday:

Dear Friends of the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art,

It is with some sadness and out of an abundance of caution, that we announce the closure of the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art until further notice. Recent developments in the spread of the COVID-19 virus have led us to the difficult decision to close to the public. While we were reluctant to deny access to our current Impressionism and French exhibitions—at a time when people need the restorative power of art more than ever—we feel that we must do our part to help minimize the further spread of the virus.

We will, however, endeavor to bring art to you via social media, and encourage you to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You will also receive our weekly e-blast if you already do so. While we do not know how long this closure will last, we look forward to welcoming you back at some point (soon!) to continue the celebration of our 125th anniversary year!

Thank you for your understanding. Be healthy.

Sincerely,

Executive Director Sean Ulmer

7:15 a.m. Cedar Rapids Linn County Solid Waste Agency suspends drop-off services

Solid Waste Agency COVID-19 UPDATE from yesterday:

The Cedar Rapids Linn County Solid Waste Agency will be suspending all residential drop-off services at both locations. This includes all facilities located at 1954 County Home Road, Marion, and 2250 A Street SW, Cedar Rapids.

The Agency will remain open to commercial waste haulers. To dispose of waste during this time, the public is advised to use curbside services where available.

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The Agency expects impacts to hours of operations. Please visit our website or Facebook for updates as they occur or call 319-377-5290 for questions. www.solidwasteagency.org

7:00 a.m. City of Marion update (as of yesterday)

From the City of Marion:

Marion City Hall remains open. Public access will be restricted as of Friday. Only critical visits should be conducted. Most board/commission meetings will be postponed. Utility payments may be made online, by phone or through the payment drop boxes outside of Marion City Hall. Payment arrangements may be made by calling 319-743-6310.

The Marion City Council work session for Tuesday, March 17 has been cancelled. The City Council meeting scheduled for Thursday, March 19 will occur out of necessity to adopt the FY2021 Operating Budget and to fill the at large City Council vacancy.

All Parks and Recreation programming will be cancelled or postponed through April 4. This includes day camps, youth and adult recreation programs and activities. Every effort will be made to reschedule these activities. Senior activities and Encore Café at Lowe Park are also cancelled. Administrative offices at Thomas and Lowe Park remain open at this time, and will close on Friday, March 20. Facility rentals or usage will not be permitted. Staff will contact those directly impacted by this announcement.

Marion Public Library is closed to the public, effective Monday, March 16. Online and reference help will still be available during normal hours of operation.

The Public Services Department is suspending bulk item collection. The Recycling Drop-off Center is closed indefinitely. The Compost Facility remains open, and curbside garbage and recycling collection will continue as scheduled.

Marion’s first responders – police, fire and 911 dispatchers - are following the emergency response protocol as provided by Linn County Emergency Management and the CDC.

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Support our coverage

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.