COVID-19: Prevent the Spread, Protect Iowans
As we continue to take precautions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, now more than ever it’s important to remember some of the guidelines that have been put in place. Two main guidelines include practicing social distancing and staying home as much as possible. Limiting contact with others is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Here are a few more reminders:
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Avoid close contact with others including those that are sick. Put distance between yourself and others as much as possible, remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread the virus.
Limit time outside the home and only go out for essential items such as food and prescriptions.
Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others. In light of new data about how COVID-19 spreads, along with evidence of widespread COVID-19 illness in communities across the country, the CDC recommends that people wear a cloth face covering to cover their nose and mouth in the community settings. This is to protect people around you if you are infected but do not have symptoms.
If you wish to help with the production of protective masks, please be sure to reach out to your local hospitals and health care facilities to ensure they are accepting donations. For more guidance go to: https://idph.iowa.gov/Portals/1/userfiles/7/Homemade%20Mask%20Design%20Guidance%203_28_20.pdf
Cover coughs and sneezes with the inside of your elbow or a tissue. Then immediately throw the tissue away and wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
Many lawmakers are continuing to urge Governor Reynolds to implement a statewide shelter-in-place order. State leaders believe it’s important to send a clearer message to Iowans to stay home and prevent the spread of COVID-19. This is the right step to flatten the curve, save lives, and get Iowans back to work quickly.
Iowa Businesses Closed Until April 30
Another public health proclamation was announced last week to extend a variety of closures until April 30. New closures also now include: malls, entertainment stores, tobacco/vaping stores, race tracks, amusement parks, playgrounds, campgrounds, social/fraternal clubs, and door-to-door sales.
Here is a list of all businesses currently closed:
- Restaurants and bars (carry-out and delivery only);
- Fitness centers, health clubs, health spas, gyms, and aquatic centers;
- Swimming pools and spas, wading pools, water slides, wave pools, spray pads, and bathhouses;
- Salons, including all establishments providing the services of cosmetology, electrology, esthetics, nail technology, manicuring, and pedicuring;
- Medical spas;
- Tattoo establishments;
- Tanning facilities;
- Massage therapy establishments;
- Theaters at which live performances or motion pictures are shown;
- Casinos and other facilities conducting pari-mutuel wagering or gaming operations;
- Clothing stores;
- Shoe stores;
- Jewelry stores;
- Luggage stores;
- Cosmetic, beauty, or perfume stores;
- Furniture and home furnishing stores;
- Senior citizen centers and adult daycare facilities;
- Tobacco, cigarette, cigar, or vaping stores;
- Enclosed malls, including interior common areas and any retail establishment that only accessible to the public from the interior common areas;
- Social and fraternal clubs, including but not limited to American Legion or VFW posts, elk clubs, country clubs, and golf course clubhouses;
- Bingo halls, bowling alleys, pool halls, arcades, and amusement parks;
- Museums, aquariums, and zoos;
- Race tracks and speedways;
- Indoor or outdoor roller- or ice-skating rinks and skate parks;
- Outdoor or indoor playgrounds or children’s play centers, not including playgrounds in private residences or childcare facilities;
- Public and private campgrounds; and
- Door-to-door sales.
Social, community, spiritual, religious, recreational, leisure, and sporting gatherings and events of more than 10 people, including but not limited to parades, festivals, conventions, and fundraisers are being asked to be postponed or cancelled.
Help for Small Businesses
A new website has been set up with information for small businesses with helpful links on where to apply for assistance by the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA). The website, www.iowabusinessrecovery.com has helpful links to both state and federal assistance. Small businesses can apply for a sales tax deferment through April 30th.
In an effort to help small businesses in Iowa, IEDA awarded $24 million in grants to small businesses all across the state last week. IEDA received 13,745 applications from restaurants, bars, retail stores, and other small businesses in every county in Iowa. The grant program was meant to be a short term stop-gap measure while waiting for federal money for small businesses.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) has several programs to help businesses that have experienced loss of income due to COVID-19. Details about all the programs can be found here, https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options One of the programs is the Paycheck Protection Program. The program is a forgivable loan that gives eight weeks of payroll and overhead expenses to businesses. The loan is only forgivable if employees continue to be paid.
Vote by Mail in June Primary Election
As Iowans are continually encouraged to stay at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, participating in the June 2 primary election is not only more difficult but also more dangerous. In order to make sure voting is easier for everyone, the state of Iowa will mail all 2 million registered voters an vote by mail request.
The state will also expand the early voting period to what it was in previous elections to 40 days, giving Iowans more days to make plans to vote. This will allow Iowans to cast their vote as early as April 23 for the June 2 primary election.
Iowans can expect to receive their request for an absentee ballot in mid to late April. You can also request an absentee ballot on the Iowa Secretary of State’s website at: https://sos.iowa.gov/elections/electioninfo/absenteeinfo.html.
Historic Number of Iowans Applying for Unemployment
Another 67,334 workers filed for unemployment in Iowa last week, the largest number in state history. It’s the third straight week of record setting unemployment claims.
Nationally, 6.6 million people filed initial claims for unemployment last week. Over the last three weeks, 16.8 million American workers, roughly 10% of the workforce, have filed for unemployment benefits after losing their job. This level of job loss is unprecedented. During the previous economic recession in the late 2000’s, 8.6 million people lost their jobs over two years.
Unemployment benefits have been extended to individuals who are self-employed, independent contractors, non-profit employees or gig economy workers and gave an additional 13 weeks, helping those who had previously exhausted their benefits.
To file for unemployment, individuals should visit: https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/file-claim-unemployment-insurance-benefits
Iowa School Districts Set to Decide Continued Learning Plan
As schools continue to be closed, the Governor and the Iowa Department of Education are calling on Iowa School Districts and nonpublic schools to decide how to proceed during the COVID-19 crisis. Schools have three options with a deadline Friday, April 10 to indicate what they will do. This is a local decision and they are able to change their decision later.
- Required Continuous Learning: Attendance will be taken, lessons offered and grades administered. Exactly how the school will administer the required distance learning — whether online, paper packets, etc. — is up to them and will be based on the needs of the students in your school. School hours/days requirement currently waived through April 30. Application is required for this option.
- Provide Resources for Voluntary Learning: School will be offering programs that further students’ learning, but student participation is voluntary. Schools cannot give grades or take attendance. School hours/days requirement currently waived through April 30. No application is required for this option.
- Nothing – If a district chooses neither option, they will have to make up the hours/days. No application is required for this option.
On Friday April 10th, the first of two surveys will be sent out to districts and nonpublic schools. The first is an assessment of needs including how many computers do students have, WiFi capabilities, hot spots, private sector partners, etc. The second is an assessment of needs on instructors capable of online learning instruction. The Department of Education is planning on assisting school districts and nonpublic schools with either of these needs.
Look for announcements from your local school districts on how they plan to proceed. Contact your school should you have any questions.
Iowa National Guard to Help Combat COVID-19
Last week, the Iowa National Guard announced it is providing facilities and personnel to support six Regional Medical Coordination Centers across the state as part of an Iowa Department of Public Health and Iowa Health Care Coalition initiative to pool resources and aid in the sharing of critical information across multiple agencies to combat the spread of COVID-19. The Iowa National Guard is also helping with the distribution of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) across the state.
State Parks Open, Campgrounds Closed
Iowans are encouraged to take advantage of the outdoors to get exercise and many state park trails are still open. However, please be sure to abide by proper social distancing, including not gathering in groups larger than 10 and keeping 6 feet of distance between you and other individuals. Bathroom facilities are closed, so Iowans are asked to bring their own hand sanitizer.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is working to allow individuals currently staying in campgrounds to remain if they are there due to contract work in the area or because they are in the healthcare field and are distancing themselves from family at their primary residence.
Visit the state park announcement page and the wildlife management announcement page for specific information on services available at these locations during the health emergency.
COVID-19 and Your Mental Health
Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations, and throughout this COVID-19 outbreak it’s required social distancing, quarantine, and some isolation. Feelings of anxiety, loneliness, and stress are completely normal. Here are a few strategies from the Iowa Department of Human Resources on how to cope with these emotions:
STAY CALM It’s important to not pass along or spread misinformation. Recognize when other people’s fears and anxieties are influencing your own emotional or mental health. Take a deep breath and reach out to your support system.
KEEP UP-TO-DATE For topics that cause significant anxiety, people find themselves better able to cope if they feel knowledgeable about the topic. Use trusted resources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov or the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) at https://idph.iowa.gov/.
UNPLUG Information, real or rumor, is a constant in today’s society because of social media platforms. It’s important to have the facts and stay up-to-date, but when information creates a barrier to daily functioning, it can increase fear and anxiety.
CONNECT WITH OTHERS Reaching out is one of the best ways to reduce anxiety, depression, loneliness and boredom during social distancing, quarantine, and isolation. Use any resource that works for you such as the telephone, email, text, chat, video conferences, and social media.
PRACTICE SELF-CARE AND STICK TO A ROUTINE Self-care practices are personal and can include reading a book, listening to music, walking the dog, working on a project or eating healthy. During stressful times, try to stick to your routine to maintain a sense of normalcy and to manage stress. Wake up and eat meals at your regular time, and get dressed even while you are staying at home.
WHEN DO YOU NEED HELP? When symptoms associated with your anxiety have affected your ability to function in some part of your life, it’s time to reach out. Reach out to your healthcare provider and discuss your concerns. Many insurers are covering telehealth for mental health services at this time. To find a counselor to go: https://feelgoodiowa.com/ or https://yourlifeiowa.org/. You can also connect by live chat, text (855-895-8398) or call (855-581-8111).
Help for Iowans Facing Food Insecurity
A task force has recently been created to help Iowans facing food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Feeding Iowans Taskforce is made up of various organizations including local food banks, the Iowa Department of Public Health, the Iowa Department of Education, and the Iowa Department of Human Resources (DHS). These organizations are working together to make sure food banks are full and that Iowans have access to quality, nutritious food.
Along with the Feeding Iowans Taskforce, Iowa is currently one of four states participating in a pilot project to allow online grocery shopping with an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. Currently the pilot project only allows for online shopping at Walmart and Amazon, but DHS is requesting an exemption from its federal partners to allow online grocery shopping from any grocery store that wishes to participate.
Finally, federal legislation increased SNAP benefits for current and newly eligible applicants. DHS will automatically increase these benefits to the maximum allowable amount based on the number of people in the household for both April and May. To see the increased amounts and other information related to food security, please visit: https://dhs.iowa.gov/COVID19/FoodSecurity.
To see what other agencies are doing to make sure Iowans have access to food, please visit: https://coronavirus.iowa.gov/. To apply for food assistance, please visit: https://dhs.iowa.gov/food-assistance.
Iowa COVID-19 Resources