Coronavirus in Iowa, live updates for March 19: Hy-Vee adding protective windows at checkouts, disallowing reusable bags

Kelly Bream, a nurse in the Surgical and Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit (SNICU) at the University of Iowa Hospitals an
Kelly Bream, a nurse in the Surgical and Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit (SNICU) at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, models personal protective equipment during a press conference to address ebola preparations in the Clasen Board Roomat UIHC in Iowa City on Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014. An impermeable hood, mask and shield are part of the PPE. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

5:19 p.m. Iowa’s COVID-19 total up to 44 testing positive

From the Iowa Department of Public Health:

“The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) has been notified of 6 additional positive cases of Iowans with COVID-19, for a total of 44 positive cases. 642 negative tests have been conducted at the State Hygienic Lab.

According to IDPH, three individuals reside in Polk County, one adult 19-40, one middle aged adult 41-60, and one older adult 61-80. One adult 19-40 living in Muscatine County, one middle aged adult 41-60 living in Dubuque County; and one adult 19-40 living in Johnson

County is an adult in. Two additional non-residents of Iowa tested positive at Iowa healthcare facilities for COVID-19.”

4:47 p.m. Hy-Vee adding protective windows at checkouts, disallowing reusable bags

From Hy-Vee:

“Hy-Vee, Inc. announces today additional changes to its operations in response to the evolving coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Effective Friday, March 20, customers will no longer be allowed to bring in reusable bags until further notice since it is difficult to monitor their cleanliness. Because it is not always easy to know the sanitization procedures customers are taking at their homes to keep the bags clean, this is one more way the grocer is helping prevent the spread of the virus.

Customers also will start seeing temporary window panels installed at checkouts to help provide an additional layer of protection for both our employees and customers.”

4:38 p.m. Brucemore stops programming through April 16

From a news release:


Brucemore will temporarily cease public programming to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19). The health and safety of visitors, staff, volunteers, and the community is a top priority. Beginning March 17 through April 16, 2020, all tours, programs, and events will be postponed, and the Visitor Center will be closed.

3:15 p.m. Linn County declares local disaster emergency

Linn County Board of Supervisors declared a formal local state of disaster emergency in response to COVID-19 as recommended by the Linn County Emergency Management Agency.

The emergency declaration authorizes the use of all available municipal and county resources to assist in response to the virus, according to a news release. Each municipality in Linn County will be able to sign the declaration for their community.

Supervisor Stacey Walker said the county needs this declaration to be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency if expenses are reimbursable.


The Johnson County Sheriff’s office will not conduct evictions or serve civil papers during the COVID-19 crisis.

According to a press release annoucing the change, the sheriff’s office said they would continue to serve paperwork related to protective orders and emergency mental health orders.

Sheriff’s sales have also been postponed and all previously scheduled evictions have been postponed.


The City of Coralville announced plans Thursday to close City Hall at 5 p.m.

The closure will remain in effect until further notice, the city said in a press release. The city noted many municipal payments and services - including utility bills - could be completed online at Utility bill payments can also be placed in a drop box in the city hall parking lot.

Yard waste sticks can be purchased by mailing a check for $25,50 to Coralville City Hall, 1512 Seventh St. The city advised residents to include “annual yard waste sticker” in the memo, as well as the name and mailing address for the sticker.

Parking tickets can be paid by mail and job applications can also be completed online.

The police department will remain open to the public.


The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office is balancing the need to comply with Iowa laws governing gun permits and renewals with the new realities of the COVID-19 crisis.


The sheriff’s office announced Thursday that all weapon permit applications and renewals would be processed over the mail. The sheriff’s office is also looking into creating an online platform to allow citizens to handle their weapons permits remotely, a news release said.

8:55 a.m. UI hospitals stretching use of limited masks, shields, goggles; COVID-19 limits personal protective equipment

As the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics continues to treat more COVID-19 patients – and prepares for its coronavirus needs to continue amid national shortages in personal protective equipment – it’s implementing new practices around masks, face shields, and goggles.

Effective immediately – according to a staff email Wednesday afternoon from UIHC CEO Suresh Gunasekaran – health care workers treating patients presumed not to be infected with coronavirus in the operating room or other procedural areas should use just one surgical mask a day.

That mask, according to the new guidance, should be used throughout the day unless it becomes visibly contaminated. In non-operating room or non-procedural areas, health care workers who don a surgical mask should wear that same mask “from patient to patient, until the mask needs to be removed.”

“The goal is to prolong the use of each mask,” according to Gunasekran’s message. “The mask should be discarded if visibly contaminated.”

Regarding face shields and goggles, they no longer will be considered “single use.” After each use, according to the message, staff should wipe them down and place them in a “face shield envelope with the worker’s full name on it.” Other lenses and masks will be treated similarly – wiped clean and returned to a designated envelope or paper bag.

Gowns and gloves, according to Gunasekaran, should continue to be discarded after each use.

The world – including the United States – is facing a shortage of personal protective equipment as it grapples with the spreading coronavirus. The shortage in the United States has led hospital workers in some states – like Washington – to start making their own out of office supplies and everyday materials, according to national news reports.

In acknowledging the shortage, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has issued guidance for optimizing face mask supplies – including “crisis capacity strategies” like implementing limited re-use of face masks and prioritizing face masks for select purposes.

If no masks are available, the CDC gives several recommendations – including using homemade masks like bandanas or scarfs. That, however, is a “last resort.”


“Homemade masks are not considered (personal protective equipment), since their capacity to protect … is unknown,” according to the CDC guidance. “Caution should be exercised when considering this option.”

Give us feedback

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.

Want to join the conversation?

Consider subscribing to and participate in discussing the important issues to our community with other Gazette subscribers.

Already a Gazette or subscriber? Just login here with your account email and password.

Give us feedback

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.