The City of Cedar Rapids is asking all bars and restaurants to close tomorrow for St. Patrick’s Day to prevent people from gathering in large crowds, in which the risk of spreading coronavirus is higher.
Normal St. Patrick’s Day activities would cause a “public safety hazard,” city manager Jeff Pomeranz said during a press conference Monday evening. Last week, the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade Society of Cedar Rapids — SaPaDaPaSo — called off its parade.
While there are no reported cases of COVID-19 in Linn County, there are currently 23 confirmed cases in Iowa, with the majority being in neighboring Johnson County.
“As you may already know, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Linn County, but I want us to move away from that thinking and move to the assumption that it is here — there are confirmed cases and we are now dealing with the eventual community spread,” Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker said during the press conference.
Public health authorities around the country have been stressing that large public gatherings can facilitate the spread of the disease, commonly passed from person to person by respiratory droplets expelled when sneezing or coughing. The Centers for Disease Control recommends canceling or postponing events with more than 50 people.
During a White House press conference on Monday afternoon, Dr. Anthony Fauci announced a revision to the CDC recommendation, lowering the threshold to 10 people instead of 50. It was also recommended that governors in states with confirmed community transmission — such as Iowa — close bars, restaurants, gyms and other venues.
City officials want restaurants and bars in Cedar Rapids to “significantly limit” patron activity, starting on Monday:
• No more than 10 people may be present at the same time (The previous number was 25 but Pomeranz said this was changed after Trump’s recommendation.)
• Bar seating is suspended
• Standing patrons should not be served
• Individual tables may not seat more than six people
• Occupied tables and booths must be separated by at least six feet
• Waiting patrons should not congregate in lobby/waiting areas or outside entrances
• Encourage carry out and delivery food orders
“We understand this impact on our area businesses, and we’re very concerned about that, just as we also understand these impacts are significant on our community,” Pomeranz said. “But we must do everything, so we can safeguard the health of our residents, including those working in bars and restaurants. … It is so important right now that we all work together and that we have this recognition of this health situation, which our community faces.”
The city does not have the authority to close restaurants and bars. Mayor Brad Hart said the city briefly discussed the idea of a curfew to keep people out of bars late at night, but they are not currently intending to do that.
“We’re taking these other steps, so let’s see if these work,” Hart said. “If they’re not working, we may have to revisit that, but a curfew also seems like a very drastic step, so we’re hoping that we won’t have to take that step. We have thought about it, but we’re not intending to do that now.”
Property taxes, no water shutoffs and buses will keep driving
The Linn County Board of Supervisors is requesting that Gov. Kim Reynolds issue an executive order to delay the deadline for property tax payments to next month, according to Walker.
Cedar Rapids is suspending any water shutoffs “so no resident will be left without water service during this time,” Pomeranz said.
Cedar Rapids Transit will continue its services. But to limit interaction between patrons and drivers, fares will no longer be collected. Passengers are asked to maintain six-foot distances on buses and at bus stops. Standing on buses will no longer be allowed.
Hand sanitizer will be available on every bus and buses will be sanitized regularly.
Update on Cedar Rapids closures due to COVID-19
A number of city buildings will be closed to the general public, effective immediately. This includes City Hall, City Services Center, Cedar Rapids Water Administration, Central Fire Station, Animal Care and Control and Cedar Rapids Police Station.
Emergency services will continue and services to the public are still available.
County government buildings will likely be closed to the public but will remain open for employees, Walker said. The county is also canceling nonessential meetings and activities.
Board of Supervisor meetings are continuing as scheduled with only essential items on the agenda.
Two museums announced on Monday that they are closing. The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library is closed until April 17. The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art is as well, but they are unsure for how long.
Theatre Cedar Rapids is closing until May 15.
Over the weekend the Cedar Rapids Public Library announced they are closing until further notice. On Monday, the library said they will be offering curbside pickup of holds from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for a limited time. Those with holds should call the library when they arrive and provide their name and a description of their vehicle.
The library is asking people to refrain from returning materials since all due dates will be extended.