Another Linn County resident tests positive for COVID-19; Cedar Rapids closes its playgrounds

2019 novel coronavirus — CDC

On Wednesday morning, the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) reported 21 new cases of COVID-19 in the state, including six in Johnson County and one in Linn County. The new cases bring the state’s total number of Iowans who have tested positive for the disease to 145.

The new case in Linn County means seven of the county’s residents have tested positive since the county’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 was reported on Saturday.

Two nursing home employees are among those who have tested positive, the Gazette reported on Tuesday. The two work at Heritage Specialty Care, a facility in Cedar Rapids.

According to a spokesperson for West Des Moines-based Care Initiatives, which owns the nursing home, neither employee has been at work since Friday, and neither showed symptoms of the virus while on the property.

IDPH is working to identify anyone who has had contact with the two infected workers, and whether they were involved in direct patient care at the facility.

County and city officials continue discussion of a local shelter-in-place order

Linn County and Cedar Rapids officials have been weighing a local shelter-in-place order, and it’s possible a decision could come within a week.

On Tuesday, Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart told the Gazette he was not in favor of a local order and wanted Gov. Kim Reynolds to take statewide action. A day later, Hart said he’d prefer a statewide order, but has not ruled out supporting a local shelter-in-place.

“If we are going to make that decision, we have to make it in the next several days to have the biggest impact,” Hart told the Gazette’s Brian Morelli. “Time is urgent.”

Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker favors a local shelter-in-place order, and Cedar Rapids City Manager Jeff Pomeranz has said such an order “makes a lot of sense for our area.”

Hart sent Reynolds a letter on Tuesday afternoon asking her to reconsider her stance on the issue. Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague has also called for a statewide order.

During her Tuesday afternoon press conference on the state’s response to COVID-19, Gov. Reynolds said she takes the concerns of those calling for a statewide shelter-in-place order “very seriously,” but the governor claimed current data about the spread of the virus doesn’t indicate the need for it.

“I don’t want Iowans to think that I’m making these decisions lightly,” Reynolds said during her Tuesday press conference. “But I have to be consistent in using the data that I’m using to make the decision that I’m making.”

Mount Trashmore in Cedar Rapids — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Cedar Rapids playgrounds are temporarily closed, but parks and trails remain open

The City of Cedar Rapids is temporarily closing playgrounds and outdoor exercise stations due to COVID-19, but parks, trails and dog parks will remain open.

For individuals using park facilities that are still open, the city recommends following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and the state.

These recommendations include staying at least six feet away from other park users, avoiding areas with more than 10 people and staying home if sick. People who are 60 years old or older, or have underlying health conditions, are encouraged to stay home to avoid exposure.

Since park restrooms are closed and water is not turned on, the city suggest people bring hand sanitizer with them. The CDC recommends a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.

Earlier this week, Des Moines announced their public playgrounds are closed, but people are still encouraged to use public parks. The playground closures in Des Moines rely on voluntary compliance. No citations will be issued to anyone who violates the new rule.

To continue practicing social distancing, Cedar Rapids is encouraging the public to explore smaller parks around the city. A map of park locations can be found online.