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Community spread of COVID-19 detected in Johnson County, Gov. Reynolds recommends closing schools in the state

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An aerial view of downtown Iowa City. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Update: Following Gov. Reynolds’ announcement, the Cedar Rapids Community School District announced it would follow the governor’s recommendation that schools “close for 4 weeks in response to community spread of COVID-19.” According to CRCSD Superintendent Noreen Bush, following the governor’s Monday press conference, “we will communicate with families again… with details regarding how we will move forward together in the coming weeks.

Earlier on Sunday, the Iowa City Community School District announced it was suspending all extracurricular activities and athletics, as well as all community use of school buildings, until April 13.

Community spread of COVID-19 has been detected in Johnson County and Polk County, the governor’s office announced in a press release on Sunday night. In both cases, the individuals are between the ages of 41 and 60.

A case of community spread COVID-19 had already been reported on Saturday in Dallas County, which borders Polk County.

Two individuals in Allamakee County — located in the extreme northeastern corner of Iowa — also tested positive for the disease on Sunday. One of the infected individuals is between the ages 41 and 60, the other is a child. Both cases appear to be travel-related.

The four new cases bring the number of known COVID-19 cases in Iowa to 22.

The press release noted that one of the positive cases was identified by the first test run by a national laboratory on an Iowan suspected of being infected.

“With testing options now expanding, Iowa expects the numbers of positive cases to increase,” the statement explained.

The press released quoted Gov. Reynolds as saying, “Based on new information today from the Iowa Department of Public Health, now is the time to move to the next level of response.”

The continued spread of COVID-19 in Iowa has led the governor to change her position on school closures.

At her Saturday night press conference, she said she didn’t recommend taking that step if there was no infected person at the school. Now, Reynolds advises preventative closures.

“I am now recommending that all Iowa schools close for a period of four weeks to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19” she said.

According to the press release the governor also signed a “Proclamation of Disaster Emergency” allowing, but not mandating, “retailers that sell liquor, beer, wine, carbonated beverages, and other beverages with an Iowa beverage container deposit to stop accepting empty cans and bottles for the duration of this disaster emergency.”

Also on Sunday, the Iowa Legislature took its first actions to stop the spread on COVID-19. The legislature suspended its current session for 30 days, and ordered the capitol building closed.

In Des Moines, the mayor declared a state of emergency on Sunday, banning any gatherings of 250 or more people on public property. Earlier this week, Des Moines Public Schools had already suspended classes until the end of the month.

Although there was no declaration of emergency, the City of Iowa City announced the closure of several public facilities early on Sunday.

Iowa City Public Library

• Along with the closure of the Library, the ICPL Bookmobile has also been suspended.
• All programs, events, and classes are postponed.
• Due dates will be extended and fines will be suspended on Library materials.
• Online resources are still available.
• Follow the ICPL website and social media outlets for activity suggestions during the closure.

Iowa City Parks and Recreation Department

• Closures includes Robert A. Lee Recreation Center, Mercer Park Aquatic Center/Scanlon Gym, Terry Trueblood Lodge, and Ned Ashton House.
• Spring Break Camp will be canceled. All participants will be refunded.
• All recreation programing canceled through at least April 5, 2020, including swim lessons.
• Outdoor park restrooms will remain closed.
• Follow the Parks and Rec website and social media outlets for activity suggestions during the closure.

Iowa City/Johnson County Senior Center

• The closure will impact all members of the community, including members of the Center.
• Follow the Center website and social media outlets for activity suggestions during the closure.
• Alternative options will be provided for those that use the meal service.

Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center

• The Iowa City animal shelter will be closed to the public, including volunteers.
• Please call ahead of time if you plan to bring an animal in, so that we can prepare ahead of time. The number is 319-356-5295.

The closures will remain in effect until at least April 5.

In Cedar Rapids, the Parks and Recreation Department announced it would cancel all recreation programs and close facilities, excluding Gardner Golf Course and administrative offices, beginning Monday, March 16. On Sunday night, the Cedar Rapids Public Library announced it would be closed until further notice.

In addition to all of these changes, the Centers for Disease Control has also updated its advice regarding public gatherings. Previously, the CDC had recommended the closure or postponement of any gathering involving more than 250 people. On Sunday, the agency lowered that threshold to 50 people.


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