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From classes to concerts, Iowans are hunkering down in the face of COVID-19, as the president shares misinformation (Updated)

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A mask appeared on the face of Irving Weber in downtown Iowa City, Thursday, March 12. — Izabela Zaluska/Little Village

Update: On Thursday evening, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported that two more Iowans have tested positive for COVID-19. Both newly diagnosed patients are between 61-80 years old. One lives in Johnson County, the other in Carroll County. Both are being treated at their homes.

The two new cases bring the total of diagnosed cases in Iowa to 16.

Earlier on Thursday, Des Moines Public Schools became the first school district in the state to cancel classes to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Classes are canceled through the end of March.

In a written statement posted on Thursday evening, Gov. Kim Reynolds said, “At this time, the Iowa Department of Public Health is not advising any school closures. We are finalizing key decision points needed to mitigate COVID19 to provide school districts with thorough guidance.”

Also on Thursday evening. Mission Creek Festival Executive Director Andre Perry announced this year’s festival has been canceled. Perry said in an emailed statement that organizers are working “to set up a special Mission Creek event in the late-summer/early-fall.”

Another Johnson County resident has tested positive for COVID-19, Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office announced Wednesday evening.

“According to the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), the new case is in an older adult (61 to 80 years) from Johnson County and was on the same Egyptian cruise as other positive cases,” the statement from the governor’s office said.

That brings the total number of diagnosed cases in Iowa to 14, and Johnson County residents account for all but one of those cases. All 13 were on a cruise in Egypt, between Feb. 17 to March 2, and returned to Iowa on March 3.

As of 6 p.m on Wednesday, the Iowa Department of Public Health was still waiting on the result of 24 more tests.

UI, ISU and UNI announce changes

Complying with an order from the Iowa Board of Regents, the state’s three public universities — University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa — are all canceling in-person instruction for at least two weeks after spring break. All three will offer online instruction instead.

“Following spring break, students may choose to stay home or return to their residence hall, off-campus housing, or another location,” UI said in a written statement. “Residence halls and dining services will remain open, and we urge all students to make the choice that is best for their own personal health and safety.”

“Our campus will remain open to serve those who rely on the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, library services, and recreation and athletics facilities.”

The UI offered more detailed information in its statement:

Specific information about instruction

Beginning March 23 through at least April 3, lectures, discussion sections, seminars, and other similar classroom settings will move to virtual instruction to the greatest extent possible. The university will continue to monitor the situation and communicate any changes to instruction moving forward.

We are evaluating how to provide classroom experiences, such as laboratory and performance classes, virtually and the academic units will provide specific guidance by March 20, 2020.

Following guidance from the Office of the Provost, colleges will share additional information with faculty regarding virtual instruction. Faculty will then communicate with students regarding their specific courses.

Telecommuting for faculty and staff

The university is preparing plans for telecommuting opportunities, when appropriate, for faculty and staff. Please direct your questions to your supervisor or local human resources representative or find additional information on the staff FAQ on the UI’s COVID-19 website.

UI Health Care, including Iowa River Landing, Dental Clinics, and Student Health Services, will communicate directly to their employees to ensure necessary staffing to maintain patient care and safety.

Travel

We continue to encourage members of the UI community to strongly consider deferring non-essential personal international travel during spring break and in the months ahead.

In addition, the Board of Regents suspended university-sponsored international travel for 30 days effective March 5, 2020, and will extend the suspension on a weekly basis as needed.

ISU and UNI are implementing similar policies.

ICCSD and CRCSD schools remain open

Both the Iowa City Community School District and the Cedar Rapids Community School District have said they are working on plans to provide online instruction, if there is a need to close schools to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

No schools have been closed in Iowa, and there are currently no plans to close any. According to Education Week, eight schools have closed in Nebraska in response to concerns about coronavirus, Illinois has closed five and Missouri has closed two.

Video still of President Donald Trump addressing the nation on COVID-19, March 11, 2020.

Trump addresses the nation; the White House immediately issues corrections

One day after dismissing concerns about the spread of COVID-19 in the United States by saying, “Just stay calm, it will go away,” President Trump spoke to the nation regarding what he called, “the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history.”

The most aggressive action the president announced was a ban on people and goods from Europe entering the U.S.

To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days. The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight. These restrictions will be adjusted subject to conditions on the ground.

There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings, and these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval. Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing. These restrictions will also not apply to the United Kingdom.

Almost everything Trump said in that part of his speech was wrong, as series of corrections immediately issued by the White House explained.

The ban begins at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, 24 hours later than Trump said. It also does not apply to “all travel from Europe,” just travel directly from the 26 countries that are part of the Schenegen Area, in which citizens may freely move among the different countries without passports.

The White House also explained that the new restrictions do not apply to cargo from Europe.

The travel restriction also does not apply to U.S. citizens, permanent legal residents and their families.

Another major claim Trump made was also the subject of an immediate correction.

“Earlier this week, I met with the leaders of the health insurance industry who have agreed to waive all co-payments for coronavirus treatments, extend insurance coverage to these treatments and to prevent surprise medical billing,” Trump said.

According to Kristine Crow, senior vice president of communications for America’s Health Insurance Plans, “The leaders at the White House for Tuesday’s industry meeting agreed to waive copays for testing, not for treatment. Treatment is being considered a covered benefit in accordance with a person’s plan.”

New study shows how long coronavirus survives on surfaces

New research from the National Institutes of Health shows that coronavirus can survive up to three days on some surfaces.

According to a summary by the MIT Technology Review, “Materials the virus liked best were stainless steel and plastic, where infectious germs could still be collected after three days and might endure quite a bit longer. It liked copper least: the virus was gone after just four hours. Swished around in the air chamber, the germs remained for about three hours.”

The summary noted that German researchers have demonstrated simply cleaning a surface is an effective means of countering the possible spread of the coronavirus: “[W]ithin a minute of cleaning a surface, a million viral particles can be reduced to 100, likely reducing the risk of infection.”

Coffee cups and concerts

Local business owners and organizations continue to weigh coronavirus risks. The Cedar Rapids Saint Patrick’s Day parade has been called off; Codfish Hollow has postponed the March 21 Jordan Sellergren Band show; The Iowa-Minnesota basketball game at Carver Hawkeye Arena was canceled Thursday night, as well as the larger Big 10 tournament; and Java House announced it was following Starbucks’ lead in refusing to fill customers’ travel mugs, sticking with disposable containers for both to-go and in-house orders.

Though Broadway will go dark tonight, the show must go on in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. Theatre Cedar Rapids, Riverside Theatre, Hancher, Iowa City Community Theatre, Mission Creek Festival and FilmScene are among the arts organizations that have issued safety guidelines to patrons in light of the coronavirus outbreak, but have not cleared their calendars.

For general information

The Iowa Department of Public Health has set up a hotline for people with questions and concerns about COVID-19, which can be reached by dialing 211. The department is also updating information as necessary on its site.

The World Health Organization has online “Myth busters” page, devoted to correcting common misinformation about COVID-19.


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