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    Thursday, March 19, 2020 2:11 PM
    A number of businesses are of course wrestling with the best ways to help employees who are struggling with child care.

    Wednesday, March 18, 2020 8:00 AM

  • Tuesday, March 17, 2020 4:42 PM

    Public Health and Government
    The city of Waukee closed City Hall and the Development Services building to the public. Payments, permit applications, inspection scheduling and more can be done without visiting in person. More information and ongoing updates are available online


    The city of Johnson is closing all offices, including Public Works, City Hall and Crown Point Community Center from March 18 to April 12. The Johnston Public Library remains open for “hold” pick-up from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on March 18, and will officially close March 19-April 12. A full statement and ongoing updates are available online


    The city of Des Moines closed public access to its City Hall, Armory, Municipal Service Center, Public Works and the office location for the Civil & Human Rights Department from March 18 to April 12. All deadlines have been suspended indefinitely for permits, licenses, certifications and fines. Ongoing updates are available online


    Facebook is launching a new Small Business Grant Program to provide $100 million in grants to more than 30,000 business owners in local communities, including Altoona, where the social media corporation has a data center campus. Facebook will begin taking applications in the next few weeks and will announce more details about the program in Altoona next week. More information about the grant program is available online.

  • Tuesday, March 17, 2020 4:02 PM
    Public Health and Government
    Corteva worker in Johnston confirmed positive for COVID-19
    An employee at Corteva Agriscience’s Johnston campus tested positive for COVID-19 this week, the Iowa Capital Dispatch reported. Many employees were told to work at home beginning this week. “We can confirm that an employee at our Johnston office has tested positive for COVID-19,” said company spokesman Gregg Schmidt, via email from company headquarters in Wilmington, Del. Corteva has quarantined the employee and alerted state health officials, as required. Crews are deep-cleaning the complex. Many workers are stationed at home.

    The city of 
    Pleasant Hill closed City Hall to members of the public beginning at noon today, city staff announced this morning. City business can be done online at www.pleasanthilliowa.org or by phone at 515-262-9368. 

    The city of Ankeny closed all facilities to the public this afternoon. All public and private events at Ankeny Kirkendall Public Library, Prairie Ridge Sports Complex, Ankeny Market & Pavilion, Lakeside Center, Outdoor Education Center, Pinnacle Club and shelter houses are canceled. All parks and recreation youth and adult sports, classes and programs are canceled. The Ankeny Fire Department has suspended commercial building inspections; the Ankeny Policy Department has suspended fingerprinting services and building tours. The entrance of City Hall is open for business that cannot be completed online or over the phone. A full list of changes and ongoing updates are available online

    Story County Conservation is modifying all public programs and facility rentals, but parks and trails will remain open, the organization announced today. A full statement is available online

    U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced new contacts for community members to reach the USDA for assistance in feeding children and strengthening the U.S. food supply chain during the COVID-19 outbreak. Perdue announced a collaboration with the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, McLane Global, PepsiCo and others to deliver nearly 1 million meals per week to students in a limited number of rural school districts closed; last week, Perdue waived a rule requiring schools who provide outside-school-day meals to students to serve the meal in a group setting. Those interested in learning more about the USDA’s meal delivery system to rural districts may email feedingkids@usda.gov. Those interested in initiatives impacting the U.S. food supply chain may email foodsupplychain@usda.gov

    The United States Postal Service is continuing operations as normal with minor operational impacts in the U.S., the USPS announced today. The USPS is considered an essential service enabling compliance of social distancing requirements, and the surgeon general, the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization have indicated there is no evidence of COVID-19 being spread through the mail. A temporary suspension of Priority Mail Express International to China and Hong Kong remains in effect due to widespread airline cancellations and restrictions. 

    Fareway announced new hours for all stores until further notice. Beginning Wednesday, all Fareway stores and meat markets will reserve the first hour of business from 8 to 9 a.m. for customers 65 and older, expecting mothers, those living with a serious chronic medical condition, and anyone with an underlying medical condition that increases the susceptibility to serious illness from COVID-19. Fareway asks for cooperation from customers in respecting the hour reserved for higher-risk customers. All stores will also be closing an hour earlier at 7 p.m. to allow staff time for additional cleaning, sanitation and restocking inventory. Ongoing updates will be available online

    FemCity Des Moines has canceled all March and April events except for the March Around Town Social on March 26, which will be held virtually via Zoom. More information is available in a statement by President Erin Huiatt

    Iowa Legal Aid is suspending walk-in intakes in all offices through April 3 and postponing its March 26 fundraiser Equal Justice After Hours, but services are still fully operational for clients, the organization announced today. Clients can access services by calling 800-532-1275 or online at www.iowalegalaid.org

    Health Care
    Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield announced it has begun waiving cost share payments for members’ virtual health care visits. “To avoid the spread of COVID-19, we encourage our members to take advantage of virtual visits with their current primary care physician, if they have this capability,” the Des Moines-based insurer said on its website. Wellmark members who don’t currently have a primary care physician should use an in-network provider or its Doctor on Demand virtual visit site. The cost share for such visits, including those for mental health reasons, is waived for the next 90 days for all fully insured and self-funded plans. Wellmark said it will also waive prior authorization processes for covered services related to COVID-19, and that members will have no cost-share for appropriate testing to establish the diagnosis of COVID-19. Updates are available on Wellmark’s COVID-19 page.

    Arts and Culture
    Local artists Tony Bohnenkamp and Jerry Lorenson of Pianopalooza will be hosting a St. Patrick’s Day Facebook Live broadcast. The online broadcast started at noon. Find out more information on their Facebook pageView the live video on Facebook.

    The Des Moines Symphony is postponing all concerts and events through May 3. Ticketholders will be directly notified of postponed events, and the Symphony is working to reschedule concerts into the summer and fall of 2020. Ongoing updates will be available online

    Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is canceling all events through April 4. 

    Pi515 is postponing the Future of Work Youth Summit until this fall. Updates will be available on Facebook

  • Tuesday, March 17, 2020 3:37 PM
    U.S. postpones April 15 tax payments for 90 days for most Americans
    Wall Street Journal: The U.S. government will postpone the April 15 tax payment deadline for millions of individuals, giving Americans another 90 days to pay their 2019 income tax bills in an unprecedented move. The IRS, using authority under President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration, will waive interest and penalties as well, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said today. The delay is available to people who owe $1 million or less and corporations that owe $10 million or less, Mnuchin said.

    Fed unveils emergency lending program to shore up credit markets
    New York Times: The Federal Reserve today  took another step to try to prop up the American economy, saying it would begin buying up a type of short-term debt companies use for funding, known as commercial paper, to help keep credit flowing to households and businesses.

    Uber, Lyft suspend pooled rides to limit spread of coronavirus
    Reuters: Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. today began suspending shared rides on their ride-hailing platforms in the United States and Canada to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The pooled option, which allows riders to book trips at lower prices by sharing the car with up to three other passengers traveling in the same direction, has been disabled for users opening the apps.

    Amazon warehouses receive only vital supplies in U.S., Europe amid coronavirus
    Reuters: Amazon.com Inc. will only receive vital supplies at its U.S. and UK and other European warehouses until April 5, its latest move to free up inventory space for medical and household goods in high demand as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. The change does not mean that Amazon will stop selling nonessential items like phone cases and toys for now, only that products may be more likely to run out of stock in the next few weeks or sellers have to ship the products directly to consumers themselves.

    - The Dow Jones industrial average finished up 1,049 points, or 5.2%. (CNN Business
    - Mall of America will shut down for at least 2 weeks (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
    - Marriott begins furloughing tens of thousands of employees (Wall Street Journal)
    - UAW seeks U.S. auto plant shutdowns as COVID-19 crisis deepens (Reuters)
    - Trump says U.S. government will provide assistance to Boeing (Reuters)
    Retail sales post biggest drop in a year; coronavirus drag coming (Reuters) 

    Tuesday, March 17, 2020 3:35 PM
    Iowa Workforce Development, responding to an anticipated surge in unemployed Iowans because of temporary business closures due to the coronavirus, has loosened its guidelines for qualifying for unemployment benefits.

    In addition, the state is waiving unemployment insurance fees that are charged to businesses when workers file unemployment claims. The charge is being waived only in instances related to COVID-19. 

    “We are loosening things as far as we can,” said Nick Olivencia, an Iowa Workforce Development attorney.
    • Workers who stay home to self-isolate or to care for family members will be eligible to receive unemployment benefits as long as they meet other eligibility requirements. This includes caring for children because of school or day care closures. In addition, full- or part-time workers whose employers close businesses because of COVID-19 will also be eligible for unemployment benefits.
    • The agency is temporarily dropping the requirement for unemployed Iowans to search for work while receiving benefits.
    • Iowa Workforce development will look for ways to address instances in which employees – mostly those new to working at a business  don’t meet the minimum qualifying wages requirement to receive benefits but might if previous employment is included.

    Olivencia said Iowa Workforce Development is bracing for a surge of new unemployment claim applications because of the temporary closure of restaurants, bars, retail shops and other businesses. 

    While some businesses provide paid time off to hourly-wage workers, many others do not, particularly for part-time workers, he said. It’s workers without paid time off or who work part time who will be applying for unemployment.

    Currently the state has more than $1 billion in its unemployment fund, which is financed by payroll taxes paid by businesses.

    “We are in a position where we are not concerned right now about the solvency of the trust fund,” Olivencia said. “We are in a healthy position to pay out unemployment benefits.”

    Iowa’s January unemployment rate was 2.8%. The state had about 49,500 unemployed workers in January, up slightly from the 49,300 who were unemployed in December.

    The state’s unemployment rate for February is expected to be released in late March. 

    The spike in unemployed Iowans due to the virus will likely start to be seen in the March data.
    On Tuesday, Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered the closure of the state’s bars, fitness centers, theaters, gaming facilities, senior citizen centers and adult day care facilities through March 31. While the mandate requires restaurants to close, it allows the businesses to provide food through drive-through, carryout and delivery.

    For more information about filing unemployment claims or how unemployment claims will affect employers’ unemployment taxes, click here.

    Tuesday, March 17, 2020 3:35 PM
    During the next few days, 80,000 or more of Iowa’s restaurant and bar workers will likely file for unemployment benefits, predicted the CEO and president of the Iowa Restaurant Association.

    The prediction comes after Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Tuesday ordered bars, gyms and theaters closed in an effort to stem the outbreak of the coronavirus. Restaurants can stay open but cannot offer dine-in service. Instead, they can offer carryout, drive-thru or delivery service. The closures are in effect through March 31.

    Jessica Dunker of the restaurant association said her members had been bracing for the order. In anticipation of the move, some restaurant owners had begun informing customers of curbside and delivery services.

    However, Dunker said many restaurants will likely opt to close. About 155,000 people are employed by restaurants and bars and more than half will likely file unemployment claims, she said. If her predictions are correct, the number of people collecting unemployment in Iowa will more than double.

    In January, 49,500 people collected unemployment benefits, according to the most current Iowa Workforce Development data. Iowa’s unemployment rate in January was 2.8%.

    Dunker said while she’s concerned about workers, she’s equally worried about how the suspension of on-premise dining will affect businesses. Iowa has more than 6,000 restaurants and bars.

    “If we don’t receive aid packages – not just tax cuts or [Small Business Administration] loans – I think we will lose thousands of our restaurants and bars permanently,” Dunker said. 

    Takeout and delivery options will help generate some revenue for the restaurants but likely won’t cover fixed costs such as mortgage or lease payments and utility and other bills, insurance premiums and tax payments, she said. “The chances of seeing our operators be able financially to open on the other side of this are low. 

    “It is a tough day today.”

    Carl Wertzberger, who is part of a group that operates Gilroy’s, Court Avenue Restaurant and Brewing Co. and Americana, sent a letter to customers pleading with them to buy gift cards to help the businesses survive.

    “Our governor made the difficult decision to shut our industry down to help the greater good,” Wertzberger wrote. “I pray that it works. Unfortunately, that puts my work family and our livelihoods in an extremely difficult position.”

    Dunker said the group of restaurants with which Wertzberger is affiliated is a “financially viable operation.”

    “Imagine what our rural Iowa places are feeling right now,” she said. “It could be a death blow if we can’t figure out some relief.”

    RELATED STORY: Restaurant association CEO worried pandemic ‘will cause permanent closures’

    Tuesday, March 17, 2020 3:09 PM
    With the public health disaster order issued by Gov. Kim Reynolds today, the Iowa Department of Public Health is authorized to begin mobilizing “as many public health response teams as are necessary to supplement and support disrupted or overburdened local medical and public health personnel, hospitals, and resources” as allowed under state statutes. Under the guidelines of the state’s emergency operations plan, the members of those teams shall be considered state employees. 

    What will the governor’s order mean for Greater Des Moines’ health systems and the Polk County Health Department? 

    “All of our health partners continue to focus on the most urgent needs,” said Nola Aigner Davis, public information officer with the Polk County Health Department, in an email response coordinated with MercyOne Des Moines, UnityPoint Health-Des Moines, Broadlawns Medical Center and the Iowa Clinic. Davis said that more updated information will be provided after medical teams meet later this afternoon. 

    The health systems in Polk County have established a medical coordination center. Through this center, they established the 211 medical call line. This line is staffed by trained nurses who will answer medical COVID-19 questions Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. “This center is continuously coming up with new ideas to better serve our patients who visit our hospitals and clinics,” Davis said. 

    During a livestreamed update on Monday afternoon, Broadlawns’ chief medical officer, Dr. Yogesh Shah, said the local hospitals are in “very short supply” of materials such as coronavirus test kits and respirator masks. Additionally, there are a limited number of intensive care unit beds among the Des Moines hospitals that are equipped with negative airflow to properly handle COVID-19 patients, he said. 

    Shah emphasized that people who suspect they may have the COVID-19 virus should call 211 to determine whether they need to be tested, and to not go to the hospital or a clinic unless they are directed to by the provider through 211. 

    Davis said the benefit of the governor’s public health emergency declaration is that it removes regulatory burdens that could hinder accessing more resources. 

    Currently, admissions at Broadlawns, MercyOne and UnityPoint Health hospitals in Des Moines and West Des Moines have been at normal volume, with the addition of screening for COVID-19, according to the Polk County Health Department. There is capacity at all hospitals right now, Davis said.

    Tuesday, March 17, 2020 3:07 PM
    U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, spoke with the Business Record over the phone about federal resources in combating the impact of coronavirus on U.S. citizens’ health and the economy. As of this morning, a bill had passed the House, but the emergency aid and economic stimulus package was still being discussed by the Senate and the Trump administration. 

    Here’s what Axne had to say. 

    I know there's been some back and forth, but what would you feel needs to be included in an economic stimulus package for you to support it?
    The House has passed our recent coronavirus 2.0, which was the Families First Act, which does include a lot of economic stimulus, specifically for small businesses under 500 people. As you're probably aware, [it] ensures that they are able to pay two weeks of paid sick leave and then an additional 10 weeks of paid FMLA, and then get reimbursed; ... if they pay their taxes, they get a tax credit. So if they haven't paid their taxes yet, that's one major piece that we put in place. I hope that gets included in the final package. …

    I am concerned that we have large corporations that do not pay family leave -- they may provide it but it's not paid for. And so that's one of the things that I'm continuing to work on in my office to ensure that everybody across this country gets paid family leave as we continue to see schools closed down. ... Obviously, additional funding for expanded unemployment insurance is incredibly important. Right now we've got some funding for that and I'd like to see us relax some of our requirements like work search requirements, etc., when it comes to providing unemployment. 

    I just sent a letter to the [U.S. Small Business Administration] … asking that they provide businesses with more guidance on how to apply for new low-interest loans that we authorized in our first package of last week of nearly $7 billion. My concern with that is that with our small businesses … [there is] red tape that people have to get through. So I'm asking that the SBA remove any barriers to getting these loans including excessive paperwork, duplicative requirements, etc., and ensure that any verification requirements won't be an undue burden on the IRS or other local state or federal agencies who need to spend their time focused on more pressing concerns. ... So I'm asking for them to expedite approvals for assistance as much as possible. And then overall, we as an Iowa congressional delegation are going to be asking the IRS to delay the filing deadline by a month. …

    This morning there was some talk about relief for the airlines. What sort of stance would you take on that?
    We're probably going to have to look at relief packages in travel areas, that's for sure. ... I want to make sure that anything that we do to support, for instance, our airlines, that they're actually putting that effort into ensuring that they're staying afloat and that they're going to be able to provide the appropriate services that are necessary during this time. I don't know exactly what that looks like. My big concern is that we just don't provide funding without strings attached that ensure that they provide the services that are necessary for this country.

    Yesterday Sen. Mitt Romney proposed giving every adult $1,000 to boost spending in the economy. Is that something that you would support?
    The overall philosophy of a cash infusion for every American is something I absolutely support. I want to make sure we look at things holistically. The other thing we need to do is, as I mentioned, I want to make sure that those folks ... get paid family leave. The bill that we put forth with small businesses helps folks who work in those capacities. But if you work in a company over 500 people and you don't have paid family leave, you don't get that support. So $1,000 will help. But it also doesn't take care of four weeks of being without a job. If that's the case where you need to stay home with your kid, for instance, then ... it's going to be tough to cover that with $1,000.

    What kind of stipulations are you allowed to put on that? Because what if you did that and then the families just decided that they wanted to save that money or put it toward some of the expenses that are already there, not new things?
    That's absolutely one of the questions, which I don't have an answer for at this point. Obviously, we need it for economic stimulus and to keep those families out purchasing the goods that they need. But to your point, for folks who might not need that and they stock the thousand dollars away – that's not helping our country. So we would have to think about what does a package like that look like? … And I know that there's already discussions on it to determine what those parameters might look like.

    In terms of business leaders, business owners, what sort of advice are you giving to them right now, and what kinds of things do you want to see them doing?
    I had a conversation in particular with a lot of local Des Moines businesses. … Some of the things that I'm throwing out there -- landlord rent reprieve, overriding business interruption insurance. Making sure that businesses can stay afloat by looking at those types of regulations and seeing how we can adjust those to reflect the current state of this and the environment that we're in right now. I think there's a lot of things that we can be looking at in regard to how business operates and relaxing some of those regulations or tax burdens … and I'm going to be looking at every single opportunity we can.

    Is there anything else that we didn't go over that you think the business community should be thinking about?
    The one thing [business leaders] really need to think of is safety first. I understand that sometimes that means a real concern on your bottom line. But if we don’t contain this, it’s going to be worse for everybody – in particular, our businesses who will feel the greatest impact for the longest period of time.

  • Tuesday, March 17, 2020 12:02 PM
    Iowa lawmakers grant Reynolds expanded power as they suspend legislative session
    Des Moines Register: The Iowa Legislature has suspended its session for 30 days after passing legislation early Tuesday morning to keep the government running and grant Gov. Kim Reynolds expanded powers to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. Top Republicans in the House and Senate announced the decision to suspend the session on Sunday — a dramatic move intended to prevent the spread of the virus by halting the influx of hundreds of people who gather at the Iowa Capitol every day. The announcement set off a scramble to agree on legislative language that would address the state's need to combat the virus. The bill, unanimously passed by lawmakers just after midnight, grants Reynolds, a Republican, increased ability to transfer spending between state agencies and departments, giving her flexibility to allocate funds where needed. It also allows her to tap 10% of the state's $200 million Economic Emergency Fund to deal with the coronavirus.

    Mnuchin pitches Senate Republicans to approve $850 billion economic package
    CNN: Senior Trump administration officials urgently pressed GOP senators to approve a House-passed bill to deal with the coronavirus pandemic -- and quickly act on a major economic stimulus package amid growing fears that the outbreak could send the country into recession. In a closed-door meeting Monday night, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin urged GOP senators to get behind the House bill, which had prompted growing Republican concerns in recent days, with top officials warning the economic situation is too precarious and the threat to public health too severe to let the measure hang in limbo for days. The cost of the new package will be roughly $850 billion, a source briefed on the matter said, and will include aid to small businesses and airlines. It's expected to include the White House's request for a payroll tax holiday, something that could cause a fight on Capitol Hill.

    Coronavirus is hiding in plain sight
    New York Times: Scientists tracking the spread of the coronavirus reported on Monday that, for every confirmed case, there are most likely another five to 10 people in the community with undetected infections. These often-milder cases are, on average, about half as infectious as confirmed ones, but are responsible for nearly 80% of new cases, according to the report, which was based on data from China. “If we have 3,500 confirmed cases in the U.S., you might be looking at 35,000 in reality,” said Jeffrey Shaman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University and the senior author of the new report, which was posted by the journal Science.

    - The Dow Jones industrial average as of 11:45 a.m. Iowa time: Up 596, or 3% (Reuters)
    - These retailers are closing stores to slow coronavirus outbreak (CNBC)

  • Tuesday, March 17, 2020 12:00 PM
    When the news of COVID-19 contagion broke and zombie apocalypse-level panic ensued, I hoped that the masses were washing their hands. As so many people dismissed the illness as a mild cold, I hoped that people in public were wearing masks if they had any symptoms.
    When the news of COVID-19 contagion broke and zombie apocalypse-level panic ensued, I hoped that the masse

  • Tuesday, March 17, 2020 11:58 AM
    Public Health and Government

    Des Moines Water Works is operating under a four-phase Contagious Disease Response Plan, closing the general office building to walk-in customers, suspending in-home customer services visits except for emergencies and suspending service termination for delinquent accounts, the organization announced Monday afternoon. The organization is stockpiling chemicals, repair parts and other supplies to ensure continued production and distribution of safe drinking water. A full statement and more information on payment and service options is available online

    The Iowa Department of Transportation is requiring that individuals make an appointment for services at Iowa DOT driver and identification service centers, the department announced Monday evening. Appointments can be made online or by calling 515-244-8725. 

    Cybersecurity firm PC Matic is offering free cybersecurity protection services for Iowa companies implementing work-from-home policies in response to the spread of COVID-19. The platform PC Matic Pro will be offered free of charge to Iowa businesses with 10 or more remote workstations, and all onboarding and support services will be available at no charge. Businesses will have access to this service until June 30. Access and more information is available online

    Dollar General will be dedicating the first hour of every shopping day to senior shoppers at all national stores, the company headquarters announced late Monday. The change allows customers vulnerable to COVID-19 to complete their shopping trips while avoiding crowds. Other customers are encourage to plan around this time. All stores will also close one hour earlier than normal hours to allow cleaning and restocking. A company statement is available online

    The Greater Des Moines Partnership is asking metro businesses to complete a survey and report how organizations are being affected, how they are addressing organizational needs and what the Partnership can offer. The organization is also planning virtual events, including a Wednesday seminar on remote selling practices from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.

    Hy-Vee is reassigning employees in stores to meet increased demands in Hy-Vee Aisles Online orders just weeks after the company announced it intended to permanently end filing online grocery orders at its four fulfillment centers, laying off about 300 people in the process. In a statement emailed to customers on Monday, Hy-Vee said it is working with third-party partners to meet increased demand. Although the store is restocking daily, Hy-Vee also reported that some items are being sold out in between online orders and the actual delivery, and customers will not be charged for sold-out items they ordered online. The company had announced plans to end online grocery orders at fulfillment centers earlier this month, saying that customers preferred same-day pickup requiring grocery stores to fulfill online orders. 

    Health Care
    The American Red Cross and LifeServe Blood Center are facing severe shortages in donations due to the number of blood drives being canceled during the COVID-19 spread, the organizations announced this week. The American Red Cross reports that in Iowa and Wisconsin, 67 blood drives have been canceled, resulting in 2,596 fewer blood donations by Tuesday. Nationally, cancellations have resulted in 86,000 fewer blood donations. The Red Cross is adding appointment slots at donation centers as they expect the number of blood drive cancellations to continue to increase, and asks donors to make appointments online. LifeServe has had nearly 4,000 blood drives canceled nationally, resulting in approximately 130,000 fewer donations than expected; around 500 of those lost donations come from drives planned in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. LifeServe is extending donor center hours in Des Moines, Urbandale and four other Iowa centers and asks donors to make appointments online. There is no data or evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted by blood transfusion, and patients battling cancer, trauma, premature babies or mothers in delivery will continue to need blood during the COVID-19 pandemic, the organizations said separately. 

    The YMCA of Greater Des Moines is closed until March 31, affecting six membership branches and Y-Camp Days. The Y asks members who are able to continue paying their membership dues to ensure services continue following reopening. A full statement is available online

    The Young Women’s Resource Center office in Des Moines will be closed for four weeks and all groups and programs for this duration have been canceled through Monday, April 13, the organization posted on its website. YWRC staff will continue to provide critical resources and support and will be coordinating these efforts directly with participants to ensure that safety precautions are observed. Staff will also continue to work remotely during this time. These cancellations include the Empowerment Workshops originally scheduled for March 18 and 19. In lieu of hosting these workshops, YWRC will be providing take-home DIY kits to those who had registered. Counseling during the closure will be offered via phone or video chat as set up by YWRC providers. The YWRC will not be receiving any in-kind donations during the time of closure. The YWRC Gala has been rescheduled from April 18 to June 27. More information regarding this decision and the Gala can be found at ywrc.org/gala.

    Arts and Culture
    The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden and Trellis Cafe are closed through March 31, the organization announced Monday afternoon. All events and programs will be postponed or canceled. The Botanical Garden plans to reopen on April 1 but will continue to follow recommendations from state and federal public health authorities, the organization said. Ongoing updates will be available online

    The Norman E. Borlaug Hall of Laureates in Des Moines will discontinue public tours and will close the facility to the public until at least April 15, the World Food Prize Foundation announced. “The health and safety of Hall of Laureates visitors, staff and volunteers is a top priority. Due to the rapidly changing nature of the situation, we will carefully monitor and follow national, state and city restrictions and recommendations, announcing a date to reopen as soon as prudent. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause,” the organization said. The Hall of Laureates’ online resources are available on its website at www.halloflaureates.org

    United Way of Central Iowa’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) free tax preparation service is closed for the 2020 tax season.?Residents who qualify for free tax filing services can consider using these online resources: IRS Free File Online or H&R Block’s MyFreeTaxes. Individuals without access to the internet are encouraged to call the Internal Revenue Service toll free at 800-829-1040 for advice.

    The Des Moines Playhouse is closing through at least April 12, the organization announced today. All performances of "Singin’ in the Rain" are suspended and new dates will be announced in the coming weeks; tickets for performances originally scheduled for March 15-April 4 will be honored at the new shows. All other programming, including spring break workshops, children’s performances, rehearsals and volunteer opportunities, is canceled or suspended. More information on specific programming is available online.

    Mercy College closes campus amid spread of COVID-19
    Mercy College of Health Sciences in Des Moines announced that beginning Wednesday, the college will no longer permit faculty, staff, students or visitors on campus. Due to positive cases at MercyOne and around Central Iowa, all clinical and preceptor experiences have also been canceled. This precaution will continue until further notice. All classes will return fully online on March 30. The change extends spring break by an additional week. During this time, Mercy College has made investments in technology resources to ensure staff and faculty can continue to provide support to all current and prospective students remotely, the college said in a news release. All classes and support services will be made available online for free. Students are encouraged to contact their instructors, academic adviser, admissions department, or other areas of the College as appropriate. More information and future updates are available on the college’s website. 

    The Urbandale Community School district has closed all classes and programming until further notice. Ongoing updates will be available online. The district confirmed Monday evening that a district employee at Karen Acres Elementary tested positive for COVID-19 and is currently in quarantine, reported KCCI

    Tuesday, March 17, 2020 10:34 AM
    Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, in an unprecedented move, issued a state of public health disaster emergency declaration today mandating the closure of the state’s bars, restaurants, fitness centers, theaters, gaming facilities, senior citizen centers and adult daycare facilities.

    The mandate is effective at noon today and continues through March 31. The move comes after the Iowa Legislature earlier today granted Reynolds expanded powers to stem the spread of the coronavirus, a highly contagious respiratory disease. 

    The bill, among other things, also increases Reynolds' ability to transfer spending between state agencies and allows the governor to allocate up to 10% of the state’s $200 million Economic Emergency Fund to deal with efforts to combat coronavirus.

    In the U.S., there are 4,661 cases of COVID-19 and 85 people have died. Iowa has 23 cases of COVID-19 and 199 people are being monitored, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

    “These are unprecedented times and the state of Iowa will do whatever is necessary to address this public health disaster,” Reynolds said in a prepared statement. “I have authorized all available state resources, supplies, equipment and materials to combat the spread of COVID-19. The actions taken today are necessary to protect the health and safety of all Iowans and are critical to mitigating the spread of the virus.” 

    Specifically, Reynolds’ move closes bars, fitness centers, theaters, casinos and senior citizen centers. While the mandate requires restaurants to close, it allows the businesses to provide food through drive-through, carryout and delivery. 

    The proclamation also bans the gathering of 10 or more people at social gatherings like religious services and community events. Health officials believe banning gatherings will slow the spread of COVID-19.

    Reynolds’ declaration follows what has already occurred in numerous other states. To date, orders similar to Reynolds’ proclamation have been issued in about 20 states.

    Reynolds’ move comes less than 18 hours after a Monday news conference in which she said she wasn’t ordering the closure of restaurants, bars and other businesses. At the news conference, Reynolds said that while state officials were daily assessing the situation businesses “can address this without me ordering” closures.

    Some restaurants and businesses had already taken steps to offer only takeout or delivery. For example, Exile Brewing Co. and Latin King Restaurant, announced on their websites that their dining areas were closed but patrons could order food through delivery or takeout. Gusto Pizza is offering frozen takeout pizzas. 

    On Monday, the Iowa Restaurant Association’s President and CEO Jessica Dunker said there was concern that restaurant closures would cause some businesses to close permanently.

    “We’re very worried about the potential catastrophic effect on independent restaurant owners that have less ability to absorb these declines in traffic and business,” Dunker told the Business Record.

    Reynolds’ proclamation did not address regional malls or other retail stores. Some national retail stores, however, have already announced that their stores are closed. Bath and Body Works, for instance, issued a statement that all of their retail outlets were closed. The email urged patrons to buy their products online.

    “The one thing [business leaders] really need to think of is safety first,” U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne told the Business Record. “I understand that sometimes that means a real concern on your bottom line. But if we don’t contain this, it’s going to be worse for everybody – in particular, our businesses who will feel the greatest impact for the longest period of time.”

    Associate Editor Emily Barske contributed to this article.

    Monday, March 16, 2020 5:33 PM

    The Iowa Department of Public Health confirmed one additional case of COVID-19 in Dallas County and the State Hygienic Lab has added an additional shift to expand testing capabilities, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced at a news conference Monday afternoon. The additional shift means the lab will be capable of running 108 tests per day instead of 54 per day, and the lab is ready to add a third shift if necessary, Reynolds said. 

    National laboratories are also running COVID-19 diagnostics tests for the state of Iowa and are required to report positive results to the State Hygienic Lab, but the state will not know how many negative cases national labs tested that come from Iowa, Reynolds added. The state lab is able to report a test’s results within 24 hours, but the national labs are taking longer to report results -- the goals for those laboratories are to report results in 48 hours, which is not yet occuring. 

    Also announced Monday: 

    - The state of Iowa has received a USDA waiver to allow schools to continue providing meals to families despite district-announced closures. Districts may now organize drive-through meal pickup stations or grab-and-go stations to feed students. Information on those initiatives will come from school districts. The governor also announced intent to sign legislation that would waive a state requirement for schools to fulfill a certain number of school days in the academic year. 

    - The Department of Human Services is working with existing child care providers and school district superintendents to provide alternative sites for child care for essential workers who can’t afford to be away from work. “Grandparents are not a good option right now,” noted agency director Kelly Garcia. 

    - Reynolds and state agencies continue to evaluate best practices around COVID-19 but are not ordering businesses, restaurants and bars to close at this time, a step taken by several other of the nation’s governors. But, she added during Monday afternoon’s news conference, “we are reassessing it daily.” “You can address this without me ordering businesses to close. Practice social distancing,” Reynolds said. 

    - State agencies are contacting health care equipment vendors to ask if the state can place orders for medical equipment, and the state is also contacting the Strategic National Stockpile about potential orders. 

    - The Department of Human Services has moved 500 employees to work from home, and by the end of the week expects 2,500 employees to work from home. Other state agencies are assessing abilities to work remotely. 

  • Monday, March 16, 2020 5:24 PM

    Public Health and Government

    Pleasant Hill announced changes in public services Monday afternoon. The Pleasant Hill City Hall will remain open during business hours but the public is advised to call 515-262-9368 instead of visiting in person. The Pleasant Hill Public Library will be closed until further notice beginning March 17; no late fees or penalties will be added during this time. Online resources and upcoming online activities will be available at www.pleasanthilliowa.org/library. The Doanes Park Youth Center and reservations for outdoor facilities will be closed beginning March 17; all recreational programming is canceled. A newsletter to receive ongoing updates is available online

    Clive is closing all city buildings to the public from March 18 to April 12, city staff announced Monday afternoon. Effective March 18, Clive public meetings -- except City Council meetings -- will be postponed or conducted by telephone or video conference, which members of the public will have access to. The City Council meeting scheduled March 26 is expected to take place face-to-face, though the council is evaluating options. Information on accessing meetings and materials will be posted to www.cityofclive.org. The Clive Public Library will be closed to the public March 18-April 12, with online resources still available; due dates will not be enforced through at least April 12. All city facility rentals are canceled or postponed until further notice, and all library and recreational events through April 12 are canceled or postponed. 

    Health Care

    Delta Dental of Iowa begins working remotely 

    Delta Dental of Iowa began implementing a work-from-home strategy on Monday in an effort to minimize the potential risks of community spread of COVID-19. “We have planned and prepared for situations that allow us to be remote while continuing to provide our customers with exceptional quality service,” the dental and vision insurer said in a release. “Our teams have the tools and resources to meet our customers’ needs. We believe there will be little to no business disruption during this time. This is an unprecedented situation and we appreciate your patience.” The company may be reached at 877-983-3582 for any questions.   

    Tips for Delta Delta Dental members going to dentist or eye doctor

    During the coronavirus emergency, Delta Dental of Iowa has provided these reminders for those with dental or eye appointments: 

    • If you or your family members are not feeling well, you should stay at home. Be sure to contact your provider to cancel and reschedule your appointment. 

    • If you have any questions about an upcoming appointment and the safety of keeping that appointment, you should contact your provider.   

    • Many providers are asking additional screening questions related to COVID-19, such as whether you have traveled overseas or whether you have any respiratory symptoms. Your provider may also take your temperature.  

    • As a reminder, health professionals including dentists and vision providers follow infection control procedures in their practice as required by state law and as currently directed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Iowa Department of Public Health.  

    Arts and Culture

    The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden and Trellis Cafe are closed beginning Tuesday through March 31, the organization announced Monday afternoon. All events and programs will be postponed or canceled. The Botanical Garden plans to reopen on April 1 but will continue to follow recommendations from state and federal public health authorities, the organization said. Ongoing updates will be available online


    Mercy College closes campus amid spread of COVID-19

    Mercy College of Health Sciences in Des Moines announced that beginning Wednesday, March 18, the college will no longer permit faculty, staff, students or visitors on campus. Due to positive cases at MercyOne and around Central Iowa, all clinical and preceptor experiences have also been canceled. This precaution will continue until further notice. All classes will return fully online on March 30. The change extends spring break by an additional week. During this time, Mercy College has made investments in technology resources to ensure staff and faculty can continue to provide support to all current and prospective students remotely, the college said in a news release. All classes and support services will be made available online for free. Students are encouraged to contact their instructors, academic adviser, admissions department, or other areas of the College as appropriate. More information and future updates are available on the college’s website.

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