March 17, 2020
Greetings to you all,
Important Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update
This week we learned the Coronavirus (COVID-19) reached a new phase, called community spread. Community spread occurs when individuals have been infected with the virus and cannot specifically identify the source of the infection, or do not know how or where they became infected. Not knowing the source of the infection, means it could spread quickly if we do not take proper precautions. As of Monday, March 16, 2020 there are 23 cases of COVID-19 in Iowa, with three cases of community spread and more cases expected.
On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) revised their guidelines and now recommends Iowans should avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. Because of this, the Iowa Legislature will be suspended for the next 30 days and the Governor recommends schools be closed for the next four weeks.
On Tuesday, the Governor issued a Public Health Disaster Emergency that closed down all bars and restaurants to the general public, except for carry-out or drive through. The disaster emergency also closes gyms, theaters, casinos, and adult/senior day care centers.
Before we suspended our work late Monday, we worked together to give the Governor more authority to handle the pandemic. This includes giving schools more flexibility when making up school days and providing additional dollars to the State Hygienic Lab for testing for COVID-19.
In the weeks ahead, I’ll be listening and working closely with local leaders to make sure the state is partnering with those in our community who need help and assistance. I’ll be sharing information I hear from you with the Governor and encouraging her to act on your ideas. I’ll also be working with my colleagues on issues that must be addressed in this crisis like:
- Making sure Iowans can get unemployment if they lose their job due to COVID-19
- Stopping foreclosures and evictions during this public health emergency
- Making sure health care providers can get paid for necessary telehealth services
- Supporting small businesses that may be forced to close
While I will not be at the Capitol for the next month, I will be in the district full-time and available by email, phone, and social media to answer questions and listen to your concerns.
Prevent the Spread & Social Distancing
The most important thing for Iowans to know is they should take additional precautions right away to slow the spread of the virus:
- Iowans 60+ with underlying conditions should stay home and avoid gatherings
- Do not hold or attend large gatherings of more than 10 people
- Stay home if you are sick
- Consider social distancing measures
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper arm/elbow
- Clean your hands frequently with soap and water
- Touch your face as little as possible
For more information on the coronavirus, call 2-1-1 or go to: https://idph.iowa.gov/Emerging-Health-Issues/Novel-Coronavirus
What the State of Iowa is Doing
Iowa Schools: While local school districts have the final say, the Governor has recommended that schools close for the next four weeks. The state of Iowa is developing policies to ensure continued access to child care during this time of emergency, including meals for low income students. Iowa has received a USDA waiver to allow schools to continue serving meals upon closure. This means schools will be able to activate their summer meal programs and provide meals in non-group settings through such means as drive-through pickup or grab and go. Before suspending session, we also gave the Governor power to waive instructional time requirements for schools closing to halt the spread of the Coronavirus. For more guidance and school information go to: https://educateiowa.gov/sites/files/ed/documents/REVISED%20PK-12%20Guidance%203-16-20.pdf
Restaurants and Bars: Beginning at noon on March 17, a public health emergency disaster was declared with temporary measures that include moving restaurants to drive-through, carry-out, and delivery only. Other closures due to the public health emergency include gyms, theaters, casinos, and adult/senior day care centers. The Restaurant Workers Relief Foundation has created as COVID-19 relief fund for workers impacted by COVID-19 information can be found here: https://www.restaurantworkerscf.org/news/2020/3/15/resources-for-restaurants-and-workers-coping-with-the-covid-19-emergency
Small Businesses: The Small Business Administration is offering loans to small businesses and nonprofits who have been impacted by COVID-19. Businesses and nonprofits can receive up to $2 million in a low-interest loan. For more information visit https://www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance/coronavirus-covid-19
Workers: If Iowans are laid off, have to stay home to self-isolate, care for family members, are ill due to COVID-19, you can receive unemployment benefits, provided you meet all other eligibility requirements. More specific explanations of benefit eligibility can be found at https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov
Nursing Homes: The Iowa Department of Public Health has encouraged long term care facilities to limit non-essential visitors to long term care facilities. To learn more visit: https://www.iowahealthcare.org/member-resources/emergency-preparedness/infection-control-resources/
Iowa Veterans Home: The Iowa Veterans Home announced it is restricting all visitors to both residents and staff.
Childcare Centers: The Department of Human Services (DHS) is putting policies in place to ensure access to childcare during this time, including financial and operational assistance. These include paying child care providers based on enrollment rather than attendance, and expediting licensing to enable increasing capacity. More info can be found at: https://dhs.iowa.gov/childcare-covid-19
Health Care: State officials in the Dept. of Human Services are applying for emergency waivers that include extended eligibility for Family Investment Program (FIP), SNAP (food assistance) and Medicaid, and lifting any co-pays and cost sharing for Hawk-I and the Iowa Health and Wellness program.
Heating & Electricity: The Iowa Utilities Board issued an emergency order directing all electric and natural gas utilities to cease residential service disconnection because of nonpayment until May 1st.
Driver’s License Stations: All services available at Iowa DOT driver and identification service centers will be available by appointment beginning Tuesday, March 17. Appointments can be made online at https://iowadot.gov/mvd/other-appointments or by calling 515-244-8725.